‘Strange New Worlds’ could change Spock in one huge, historic way

Star Trek’s most famous character is also the one who helped launch the phenomenon of fan fiction.

Specifically, the popularity of Mr. Spock helped usher in the notion of “slash fiction,” in which fans paired characters romantically and sexually. By most metrics, the dawn of “slash” fiction originated with Kirk/Spock (sometimes called “Spirk” these days), in which Kirk and Spock were depicted as being considerably more than friends.

Outside of fan fiction lies a bigger question. Is Spock canonically queer? For the first time, it’s possible Strange New Worlds could answer that question with a resounding yes.

Here are some hints as to when the next Trek series could deliver big news for Spock. Speculation follows.

Spock and Kirk in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.Paramount

Is Spock queer in canon?

Short answer: it depends on who you ask. Original Series writer D.C. Fontana once told me that Spock and Kirk were not in a romantic relationship offscreen. However, this answer doesn’t mean that Spock himself viewed his sexuality as strictly straight.

Furthermore, in his novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Gene Roddenberry went out of his way to have Kirk talking about his own in-universe awareness that Spock was his “love partner.” That said, this novelization also makes it clear that in Spock’s mind, he refers to Kirk with the Vulcan word t’hy’la, which loosely translates to “brother” or “lover.” So, in 1979, Roddenberry had Kirk say, on paper, that he wasn’t Spock’s lover, but in the same book, Spock refers to Kirk as his “lover.”

Finally, even though the J.J. Abrams films gave the Spock of that universe (Zachary Quinto) a heteronormative cis relationship with Uhura (Zoe Saldana), that doesn’t mean he didn’t have other relationships. Both in the Prime canon and the Kelvin canon, there’s a misconception that Spock is a robotic virgin with zero interest in sexuality.

The thing is, when you dig into The Original Series, Spock is a very sexual character. Yes, Vulcan biology compels them to mate every seven years, but Vulcans can (and do) “mate” outside of that cycle. The larger point is, there are plenty of indications in the existing Prime Universe canon and various Apocrypha that Spock has sex outside of Pon Farr cycles. And in terms of his partners and sexual identity, there’s almost nothing in canon to prove he’s not queer.

To put it another way, even if the romance between Kirk and Spock was never consummated, that doesn’t mean Spock is straight.

Spock, Number One, and Captain Pike as they appeared in Star Trek: Discovery and Short Treks.Paramount+

How Strange New Worlds hints all add up

During the Star Trek Day panel about Strange New Worlds, co-showrunner Akiva Goldsman said this:

“There were a few things that were really delightful to play with as we were kind of re-making it up…one was the hints of relationships we imagined we saw or knew we saw but were never quite fulfilled. Attractions. Potential. Connections made or missed. That was super-delightful because The Original Series was filled with those. And they never really played them through. So we were constantly imagining that we were responding to promises we thought were made in the original show.”

There are plenty of ways to interpret this. The presence of Nurse Chapel (Jess Bush) in the series could indicate that Spock’s romance with her goes back even further than TOS.

Ditto for Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding), who flirted with Spock openly in “The Man Trap” and “Charlie X.” In some ways, those are the obvious Spock relationships from TOS. When Goldsman says “hints we saw or knew we saw,” it feels like that could refer to Spock’s love for not only Kirk but occasionally Dr. McCoy, too.

Strange New Worlds could make Spock a much more sexual character in general than he ever has been before. Unlike Spock in The Original Series, this version of the character is younger and still figuring out who he is. In some ways, this might mean Spock will be more like himself in Strange New Worlds than he was in TOS, by which point he’d been more seasoned by Starfleet.

Elsewhere on the panel, Ethan Peck — Spock himself— said that the show will explore “Spock’s feelings of love and attraction.” If Strange New Worlds only reveals Spock’s feelings of love and attraction as exclusively heterosexual, it will be a huge missed opportunity.

We’ve already seen Spock crush on Nurse Chapel. We already knew about his old girlfriend Leila Kalomi in “This Side of Paradise.” We already saw what happened with him and Zarabeth in “All Our Yesterdays.” If Strange New Worlds is going to break new ground with Spock, the boldest and the best direction to go in is to make canon what fans have already known: to confirm that Spock is queer.

Strange New Worlds should make Spock queer, and it should do so with the support of the fans and the canon behind it. In fact, since we’re talking about Spock’s passion, it’s the only logical thing to do.

Strange New Worlds debuts on Paramount+ sometime in 2022.

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‘Strange New Worlds’ could change Spock in one huge, historic way