Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Star Trek by the Minute 017: Proud Mama!

Previous: Sarek Lies to Young Spock

Amanda, human wife of Sarek and Spock's mother calls with a gentle smile: "Spock, c'mere. Let me see you", to which he says in a now adult voice and with a note of actual fear: "No." What? She's in the same room looking right at him and he's not going to walk over, but rather deny his mother's supportive request like a petulant human child? Quickly, she thinks of a logical rationale more compelling to the vulcan mind, and presents her reasoned justification for his consideration: "Spock," she repeats. Apparently, he has no response for such convincing and eloquent support for her request, so he walks over.

If we take Amanda's repetition as actual advocacy for Spock to meet with his mother, it would be classified as an "Ad nauseam" fallacy. Such arguments are based on the repetition of a single argument, usually ignoring other issues, like objections raised by critics. This tactic deliberately obfuscates in what wikipedia calls one where "logic and rationality is intentionally ignored in favour of preconceived (and ultimately subjective) modes of reasoning and rationality."

We see Spock is now an adult, and mom tells him: "There's no need to be anxious, you'll do fine." Naturally his reply is "I am hardly anxious, mother." One thing that was fabulous in this scene, as in most of film is the musical score: here a monastic chant background gives an ascetic feel appropriate for the vulcan aesthetic, with lighting, cinematography and sets of equally stunning quality. The quality of production is just incredible throughout, if only the story and activities depicted merited the care…

I cannot distinguish what Spock says next, but it sounds like something about "variable definitions" and "I find this unacceptable." In a very affectionate gesture, Spock takes his mother's hands in his own and looks into her eyes, "My I ask a personal query?" "Anything." "Should I choose to complete the vulcan discipline of kolinahr…" (what, is there a saurian version?) "…and purge all emotion, I trust you will not feel it reflects judgment upon you." Amanda bits her lip wistfully with "Oh Spock, as always: whatever you choose to be, you will have a proud mother." A sweet, romantic scene of family love, loyalty and happiness.

Next: Vulcan Racism?

5 comments:

Flashman85 said...

I know it was more of a side note in this post, but I think specifying that kolinahr is a Vulcan discipline was to make extra-sure that newcomers to Star Trek didn't get confused here. I've noticed a fair amount of movies and TV shows that explain something that the audience needs to know, but in a way that sounds funny in a real-life context.

BurntSynapse said...

Hi Flash,

That would be the most generous interpretation I've heard, but based on the overall writing and background of the production team, it seems far more likely that this was inserted by and for the benefit of people unfamiliar with the Trekverse, a characteristic which Abrams repeatedly extolled as an asset.

Honestly though, do we really think anyone confused by the "discipline of Kolinahr to purge all emotion" would be helped in the least by the "Vulcan discipline of Kolinahr to purge all emotion"?

If anything like the level of care, thought, and analysis had gone into the script as you suggest...well, IMO it would have been a very different script! :D

Flashman85 said...

Hi BurntSynapse,

I think your first paragraph just reiterated most of what I said in the first part of my paragraph, but maybe I missed some subtlety. ;)

It's funny; even though "Vulcan" is technically unnecessary here, and would sound odd in a real-life conversation, the sentence feels just a little naked without it. Maybe that's because there's also the addition of the "to purge all emotion" bit--it's sort of an all-or-nothing deal. Either you know what kolinahr is, or you need a full explanation.

I can even imagine a situation where somebody walked into the writers' room, took one look at a draft of the script that said, "...discipline of kolinahr to purge all emotion," and shouted, "We're catering to non-Trekkies. They'll think "kolinahr" is some SAT word. Make sure they know it's Star Trek!"

BurntSynapse said...

The subtle part was my implication that Orci & Kurtzman were dashing out the script without really being "in the Trekverse", so they wrote it as outsiders, the the characters act like intruding outsiders even in their own homes. Again, this is unavoidable when authors break the first rule of authorship: write what you know.

OTOH, there could be (probably are) lots of bits in the creation process which took place as you suggest, where someone just walks in and says "We're catering to non-Trekkies!" It would explain much. I felt this had to be the case for the dinner conversation in Undiscovered Country which was one inexplicable non-sequitur after another.

Flashman85 said...

I never watched the dinner scene of STVI with much of an eye of scrutiny; I always felt the disjointedness of the conversations was to help illustrate how awkward the meeting was, and how neither group really knew how to hold a conversation with the other on peaceful terms.