Review by C.J. Bunce
A new in-universe book finds that famous Star Trek Vulcan and #1 identifiable character of the franchise, the great Mr. Spock, providing a first-hand account as an elder statesman from his vantage after he became the ambassador to Romulus in Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “Unification” arc and just before he attempts to take his jellyfish-inspired ship with Red Matter to create a black hole in J.J. Abrams’ 2009 movie, Star Trek. The Autobiography of Mr. Spock: The Life of a Federation Legend is edited by (actually written by) frequent Star Trek in-universe writer Una McCormack, just released by Titan Books. Readers will learn Spock intended this as a memoir for Jean-Luc Picard, with whom he melded after Picard’s meld with Spock’s father just before his death in the episode, “Sarek.”
At 200 pages, this hardcover is not quite the tome one would expect for a character who is the most-featured and influential of all of Gene Roddenberry’s creations, but McCormack provides a snapshot bookended by the destruction of Romulus that will appeal to fans of the in-universe biography series. How do you fill a book about the first Vulcan to captain a Starfleet ship–actually a half-Vulcan/half-human–who died and came back to life, traveled to the past to save the planet, to become an unparalleled ambassador and leader who would be featured in eighty original series episodes, 22 animated series episodes, two episodes from The Next Generation, nine movies, the ongoing Star Trek: Discovery series, and too many novels (hundreds) to count?
It’s not the book–but the title–that is overly ambitious; the result makes for a better letter to Picard than an autobiography–the size limitation is simply too restrictive, so it can’t possibly be complete. What lies inside the cover is focused in part on the new generation of fans, new story ideas about Spock’s relationship in his youth with Discovery’s Michael Burnham. So this is as much Ethan Peck’s Spock as opposed to only Leonard Nimoy’s. But it also takes some unexpected diversions: fleshed out is some insight of (Nimoy) Spock’s (to fans, a surprise) half-brother Sybok from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and Spock’s wife T’Pring, who we met in the original series episode “Amok Time,” and again in stories after the events of Star Trek Into Darkness. Plus some other familiar characters from his past.
In an added twist, neither is this Zachary Quinto’s Spock, and the events after both Nimoy’s Spock Prime and Quinto’s Kelvin timeline version are not explored here. To be clear: this is the Spock whose mother was not destroyed by Nero when Nero destroyed the planet Vulcan. Spock is truly a complex character. As McCormack asks through Spock in the book, “Which version of one’s life does one present?” Her answer is offering fans a splinter, a narrow window, into this massive character’s life.
Much of the book is as much about what makes one a Vulcan as opposed to what made Spock… Spock. McCormack pulls from across the Star Trek archive of Vulcan language, geography, and culture, creating some personal situations and conversations, forming a picture from Spock’s backstory both new to readers and some suggested from a variety of sources. If this is Spock’s “true” autobiography (again we’re talking in-universe stuff here), it’s interesting he applied the logic of keying his past in what he calls his “wisdom book” off those who, in hindsight, influenced (or affected…? or simply filled in his thoughts in his elder years…?) the most: Amanda (Spock’s mother), his sister (newfound, to old fans) Michael Burnham, his (brief) wife T’Pring, his half-brother Sybok, Surak (early influential Vulcan philosopher), Pike (his captain), McCoy (his friend), Saavik (also a friend), Valeris (his protégé), Pardek (his colleague), his father Sarek, Picard (another colleague), and finally, Kirk (his best friend?). Surprisingly, he gives most equal weight, barely their own chapter each, except Kirk, who one might think had a greater influence than his allotted… two pages. As a future historical document, it works. But we’re back to that title of this real world book; as an autobiography it feels like we’re missing the bulk–the key activities and world-changing actions–of his 161-year life.
The second part of the Autobiography introduces Christopher Pike, where Spock’s eleven years are highlighted in a chapter, followed by Spock’s attempt to achieve kolinahr disrupted by a space probe (see Star Trek: The Motion Picture). McCormack’s best creation might be a scene from Spock’s past in which Dr. McCoy (referred to as Bones in the book by Spock) says farewell to Spock after the original Enterprise five-year mission. The role of Spock’s early past with Saavik, who audiences first saw in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, is now blended with the Discovery character Michael Burnham, and, serving the new television story concepts McCormack introduces the idea Saavik is still alive and that Picard should watch for her. It’s unlikely we’d see Kirstie Alley return as Saavik in the Picard series, but perhaps Robin Curtis is available? With Star Trek you never know.
Note that Picard’s autobiography intersects with this autobiography at the point where Spock is ready to embark on the jellyfish ship. An internal photography section of the book provides some full-color images from Spock’s past (some modified photos of Nimoy as Spock in various phases of his life created by Russell Walks).
For fans of Titan Books’ series of Star Trek autobiographies, pick up a copy of The Autobiography of Mr. Spock: The Life of a Federation Legend for your favorite Star Trek fan co-worker for the holidays. It’s available now here at Amazon. In case you missed it, Titan Books also published earlier entries in their in-universe Star Trek autobiography series, The Autobiography of James T. Kirk, available here, The Autobiography of Kathryn Janeway here, The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard available here and reviewed here, and Star Trek Federation: The First 150 Years, available here.