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The horror of Mirror-universe Spock is that he is by far the least different from ‘regular’ Spock than all Mirror-universe crew counterparts. Logic is always operational inside a reference system which decides what is logical and what is not by determining consequences of actions. So, in a Nazi-like Terran Empire regime, it is logical to torture and to commit genocide because avoiding that leads to punishment, while doing that allows you to “live long and prosper”.

After a long(ish) detour into ASOIAF and Marvel analysis and speculation, I return to Star Trek: The Original Series. I’m coming back to TOS to discuss one of the aspects that bugged me about my possibly favourite episode of The Original Series, Mirror, Mirror. I am referring to the bit where Kirk calls Mirror-universe’s Spock’s allegiance to the fascist, imperialist and expansionist Terran Empire, as well as the Terran Empire itself “illogical”.

This is the exact bit:

KIRK: The illogic of waste, Mister Spock. The waste of lives, potential, resources, time. I submit to you that your Empire is illogical because it cannot endure. I submit that you are illogical to be a willing part of it.

TOS: Mirror, Mirror

Kirk, quite cunningly, tries to sell Spock on the idea of a more sustainable and durable Terran Empire, especially in the face of a more peaceful way of existing (that of the Federation) becoming apparent to Spock, and tells him to choose between “Past or future? Tyranny or freedom?” (Mirror, Mirror).

But why have the Vulcans become a part of the Terran Empire, a merciless genocidal war machine in the first place? Because it was “only logical” to join the stronger party?

I’ve always admired TOS’s guts to make the Terran Empire primarily (North) America based, as the Federation itself (or at least that of TOS) is arguably made upon some pretty great colonial America values, like democracy, freedom, exploration etc… It then makes sense that the Mirror-universe would be the darker part of those values – imperialism, expansionism, wars for profit… In later Star Treks this has been rectified (perhaps more dishonestly) to include also Western Europe more prominently (as well as… Africa?), the picture below being from Star Trek: Enterprise (2001-2005).
I think that for this they went for (Nazi) Germany kind of being the centerpiece of the Terran Empire, especially with the red and black colour scheme reminiscent of the ‘swastika-flag’.

In Star Trek community Spock is immensely popular as a character, most of all because of his logical approach to everything, which seems to lend all the answers to life difficulties to the perhaps less-socialized and less-emotionally savvy ‘geek’ culture. Just remember the ‘nerd-king’ Sheldon’s adoration of Spock in the Big Bang Theory, Spock being a character which Sheldon identifies with the most, because they are both intelligent, unemotional, and logical.

But Star Trek has actually always warned about this overly logical approach having great moral pitfalls, or perhaps better said, abysses, and it began, but not ended with Mr Spock and the Vulcans in general. Just remember TNG’s Commander Data, an android who is, similarly to the Vulcans, who are emotionally repressed, emotionally extremely limited, which makes him sometimes very vulnerable and manipulable. Or Seven-of-Nine, a former Borg, who shares some of the same difficulties as these two characters in Voyager.

Actually, much less than being a pillar of morality, Spock and the Vulcan species’ capacity for darkness is visible all over TOS and it derives exclusively from their overly logical approach to situations.

For example, in Journey to Babel, Spock states how “Vulcans do not approve of violence”, but only if it is illogical. If there is a “reason” for violence (then making it, presumably, ‘logical’) he thinks his own father “quite capable of killing. Logically and efficiently”. His almost two-decades long feud with his father is also because the two men are trying to out-logic one another, or as Spock’s mother Amanda says: “You don’t understand the Vulcan way, Captain. It’s logical. It’s a better way than ours. But it’s not easy. It has kept Spock and Sarek from speaking as father and son for eighteen years.” That same logic almost leads Spock to indirectly kill his father in the same episode, since he thinks that his father would not approve of his helping him, as it would be ‘illogical’.

SPOCK: I do not know. There is no logic in Thelev’s attack upon the captain. There is no logic in Gav’s murder.
SHRAS: Perhaps you should forget logic and devote yourself to motivations of passion or gain. Those are reasons for murder.

TOS: Journey to Babel

But that is not the only time Spock’s closest relationships suffer because of Vulcan’s obsession with logic. In Amok Time, he even gives T’Pring, his ‘arranged’ fiance, the highest Vulcan praise of “flawless logic” as she tells him how she would gladly kill him (and Captain Kirk) to stay with her lover Stonn.

SPOCK: I see no logic in preferring Stonn over me.
T’PRING: (…) If you were victor you would free me because I had dared to challenge, and again I would have Stonn. But if you did not free me, it would be the same. For you would be gone, and I would have your name and your property, and Stonn would still be there.
SPOCK: Logical. Flawlessly logical.
T’PRING: I am honoured.

TOS: Amok Time

But perhaps the most interesting for our current discussion of why Vulcans might have allied themselves with the Terran Empire and, in a way, the most disturbing and sinister, is Spock’s performance in The Galileo Seven, where he is forced to make life and death decisions in an emergency. Something he ends up doing with truly bone-chilling logic. The Galileo Seven Spock is given command in what becomes a very dangerous mission – the shuttle Galileo Seven crashes on an alien planet, with little chance of being found by the Enterprise or taking flight again. Spock’s overly logical approach to decision-making proves disastrous for morale and leads to mutiny as well as deaths of several crewmembers who (perhaps rightly) think Spock does not value their individual lives at all, and is poised to make Nazi-like decisions on who is “worth” to live or die.

SPOCK: Strange. Step by step, I have made the correct and logical decisions. And yet two men have died.
MCCOY: And you’ve brought our furry friends down on us.
SPOCK: I do seem to have miscalculated regarding them, and inculcated resentment on your parts. The sum of the parts cannot be greater than the whole.

TOS: The Galileo Seven

And you could imagine him, especially taking that episode into consideration, to make truly frightening, war-crime level decisions in a different system. And that is the point. Logic is always operational inside a reference system which decides what is logical and what is not by determining consequences of actions. So, in a Nazi-like Terran Empire regime, it is logical to torture and to commit genocide because avoiding that leads to punishment, while doing that allows you to “live long and prosper”, that is, to survive and be promoted.

In Mirror, Mirror, Spock is the most morally upright when he does not follow logic, when he procrastinates killing his Captain because he is fond of him, even though he knows this is the expected, ‘logical’ thing to do, and when he “considers” toppling the Terran Empire and changing its ways even though it might not lead him to “live long and prosper”.

While you might argue that regular-Kirk changed the system in which Spock’s logic operates, widening it – in the Mirror universe the Federation and its peaceful ideals are no more material than a vision, a dream, a very distant future which would not be logical to pursue, at least in line with the Vulcan ideals of individual survival and thriving – Kirk led Spock to act more in line with his human-half, or as Kirk says to Spock in this very same episode: “In every revolution, there’s one man with a vision”.

And as I wrote elsewhere, the humans of Star Trek (at least TOS and TNG) are actually much less emotional and much more rational than today’s humans. The inclusion of half-Vulcans, extremely human-like androids, and former-Borgs are therefore arguably not ideals to strive for, but cautionary tales of the possible effects of an overly logical approach in the ‘evolution’ of our civilization.


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