Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Emotion, Leashed and Unleashed

In Emotion: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2003; originally published as Emotion: The Science of Sentiment, 2001), the author posits that, because they apparently have no emotions, Mr. Spock and the Vulcans would not have been able to survive for very long. There's a backstory, though, and the Vulcans of Star Trek do have emotions -- they just suppress them like those on-duty guards in full dress uniform marching around Buckingham Palace in London, rarely cracking a smile. Culturally, Vulcans tend to keep their emotions under wrap, even to themselves when possible, as if they're always on self guard duty. But sometimes it's not possible, such as during the seven-year "Pan-farr" mating cycle, going "deep in the Plak-tau." The Vulcans present a good, albeit fictional, case study of ritualized cultural response in keeping instinctive emotions from running amok most of the time.

"Amok Time" (1967) is the main episode of Star Trek referenced here. Thanks to Charles Gramlich for inspiring today's post header, derived from a comment he made on yesterday's: "Emotion is a hard dog to control once it gets hold of the leash."         

As for the evolution of the character of Mr. Spock, in the original pilot (The Cage, 1965), he is an excitable Martian, not an emotionally restrained Vulcan!

Interesting twist, considering how things turned out. 

Before Spock's reconception as a Vulcan, the character on Star Trek who displayed no emotional affect was Number One (shown here). A lot of science fiction stories play around with this idea, with characters ranging from gynoids to Invaders to Stepford Wives. 

Today's Rune: Strength.   


Sidney said...

It's a truly great moment when Spock smiles at the end of "Amok Time" when he realizes Kirk is still alive. I remember being amazed by it as a kid because I well remembered Spock's mother saying to him: "All of these years among humans, and you still haven't learned to smile."

jodi said...

Erik, never got into Star Trek. Don't know why cuz the girls got to wear very cool outfits...

Charles Gramlich said...

I never saw the original Trek pilot until long after I'd watched the regular series. To see the "excitable" Spock character was eye opening. Glad they went in the direction they did.