Daily Archives: January 2, 2014



Character: Spock

Source Text:  Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek (1966-1969)

  • Roddenberry, Gene. Star Trek. 1966-1969. Streaming media.
  • “Journey to Babel.” Star Trek CBS. 17 Nov. 1967. Television.
  • “Spectre of the Gun.” Star Trek. CBS. 25 Oct. 1968. Television.
  • “Amok Time.” Star Trek. CBS. 15 Sept. 1967. Television.

Entry Author:  Erin O’Kelly

Sometimes first officer, sometimes captain, but always Mister, the half-Vulcan, half-Human Spock is an iconic figure in science fiction television. For the majority of his televised life he holds the post of science officer and second-in-command of the USS Enterprise. His self-chosen role as largely Vulcan is relied on in the show: he’s the science officer, their logical person, the one who comes up with the plans and double-checks other peoples’ ideas. Sometimes he is directly involved in a given episode’s conflict, as when he and Kirk are forced to fight for the favor of a Vulcan woman (“Amok Time”, 1967). Sometimes he is part of an intergalactic object lesson, as in the episode where the crew grows suspicious and mistrustful of Spock because of his topical resemblance to a Romulan. More often than not, though, Spock is a fixed part of the crew, more notable for his Vulcanic displays of dependable, logical nature and his interactions with his crewmates than anything specifically involving his mixed heritage.

His heritage, however, dogs him throughout the series. In general he prefers to embrace his Vulcan appearance and heritage, with its logic and lack of emotion; a query exploring his feelings or probing the true motive of some decision – which may be based in emotion, eh Spock? – is most often met with a raised eyebrow and bland response. He’s sparing with details about his life before the Enterprise, but the series does draw out details of his heritage over time. It comes out in the 1967 episode “Journey to Babel” that Spock fits a traditional neither-here-nor-there mixed-race trope: as a child he was bullied and harassed because of his heritage, because the other children saw him as failing to measure up to the Vulcan ideal of emotionless logic. He was raised on the Vulcan homeworld in the Vulcan tradition and enrolled in Starfleet against his father’s wishes (“Journey to Babel”, 1967), causing a rift in the family even though his judgment and competence are highly respected in Starfleet. Brought up with constant reminders of what he is not on planet Vulcan, yet unable to pass for human (more emotionally than physically, since on more than one occasion he dons a hat to hide his ears and goes unremarked among humans), he’s found a home in Starfleet where he can be judged as he is, not as he should be.

One of the more interesting aspects of Spock’s mixed heritage in the relatively judgment-free environment that is the Enterprise is the flexibility with which he emphasizes each side of his heritage, and when, and for what reason. While he generally pretends that he is entirely Vulcan in body and mind, it is accepted that this is a pretense – nearly every episode, someone on the crew asks with a smile whether he’s absolutely positive that there’s no emotional reason for a piece of behavior. Captain Kirk in particular asks these questions with a twinkle in his eye, and often receives cryptic or quietly telling answers.

Yet Spock wields his emotional, human half with remarkable dexterity when necessary. In the episode “Spectre of the Gun”, when mysterious aliens create a powerful illusion that traps the away team and appears to kill Chekov, he reminds his grieving crewmates that he is, in fact, half human – a rare display of solidarity indeed, given that the majority of his emotional interaction with the crew is conducted via poker face and subtle allusion. Conversely, in the episode “The Immunity Syndrome” he has a bonding moment of concern for Kirk with Dr. McCoy by emphasizing that “even [he], a half-Vulcan”, can be deeply concerned about a friend. He emphasizes halves of his heritage depending on the situation, if he emphasizes any at all – by doing so, Mr. Spock has made himself a place where he can choose how to present his identity and have that decision respected by his colleagues.

Golden Gray

jazz_coverCharacter: Golden GraySource Text:  Morrison, Toni. Jazz. New York: Vintage International, 2004.

Entry Author:  Shalyn Hopley

Golden Gray is the son of white Vera Louise Gray and black Henry LesTroy. Jazz is not really a story featuring Golden Gray, yet his presence in the story is potent. Golden Gray is the product of an illicit relationship between the daughter of a wealthy Colonel from Vesper County, Vera Louise, and “a Negro boy out from Vienna” (140). Golden Gray is conceived during one her rides with the boy out to the woods, and when Vera Louise tells her parents she is pregnant, wordlessly her family gives her money to “die, or live if you like, elsewhere”, disowning her and her child. Vera and one of the novel’s main character’s (Violet’s) grandmother, True Belle, a slave woman belonging to her family, go to Baltimore and raise the child.Golden Gray is an enigmatic presence in the novel, his real personality and significance hard to determine as he is described over and over by different characters, at times the narrator even restarting her tale of Golden Gray to rewrite what she has already written of him. Golden Gray is named Gray for his mother and the color of his eyes, and golden for his skin tone (139). He is raised as an adopted white child, rather than the son of a black slave and Vera, by Vera and True Belle and is said to be the “light of both their lives” (139). When Golden Gray is told the story of his mixed race heritage, he leaves home to meet and confront his father, Henry LesTroy. Yet on his way there, he happens upon a dark-skinned pregnant woman in the woods who he startles, her attempt to flee ending in her injury. He brings the unconscious woman to the house of his father, where she births the child she is carrying. When his father returns home, he helps Golden with the woman and quickly disarms Golden’s potentially murderous intentions, asking Golden Gray what he expected when he came to find his father (172). Instead, Golden Gray runs away with “Wild”, the woman. Wild is implied to be the mother of Joe Trace, Violet’s husband. Henry LesTroy becomes a father figure for Joe.

While the general content of Golden’s story remains the same, the narrator begins her tale of his venture to Virginia three times, only being satisfied the final time after berating herself for not seeing his motivations:

What was I thinking of? How could I have imagined him so poorly? Not noticed the hurt that was not linked to the color of his skin, or the blood that beat beneath it. But to some other thing that longed for authenticity, for a right to be in this place, effortlessly without needing to acquire a false face, a laughless grin, a talking posture. I have been careless and stupid and it infuriates me to discover (again) how unreliable I am. (160)

The narrator’s claims to know Golden Gray’s story are erased by this passage. She is unreliable, unable to know the true complexity of even this minor character.

Why is Golden Gray present in Jazz? He is connected to all these characters from the main plot, but his own story can at best be considered a supplement, and at worst a tangent. Yet his story is there, highlighting the complicated interwoven histories of the main characters and highlighting the unknowable nature of humanity and human love.