Care to Debate That? I Am Not Spock

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Title: Care to Debate That? I Am Not Spock
Creator: Johanna Cantor
Date(s): 1978
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS
Topic: Star Trek: TOS, separating the actor from the role
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Care to Debate That? I Am Not Spock is an essay intended to generate discussion. It is in R & R #6/7.

It is by Johanna Cantor.

The essay is an installment in a series of essays and their following discussions called Care to Debate That?.

The Essay


And how I wish people would take his word for it! He should know, after all. But so many fans seem to confuse the actor with the character; a process of adding apples and oranges.

I'm not talking about the movie, okay? I'm delighted that Leonard Nimoy will be playing Spock. But he is not now, never has been, and never will be, Spock.

The character Kirk is the captain of an imaginary starship. William Shatner is the actor who played the character. So what?

Well, so a couple of things. One is that meeting William Shatner will not be meeting Kirk. I've seen some fans go to an awful lot of trouble — only to be dreadfully disappointed by the popping of an illusion that really should have been thought through.

Second, the actors' (presumed) point of view is being brought, quite unjustifiably, into our work with the characters. A couple years ago a group of fans, then self-appointed watchdogs, threatened another group with a lawsuit by LN if one of the early K/Ss was printed. This idiocy seems to have been dropped, but we are still seeing Locs stating that the actors may be hurt, personally or professionally, by the stories we write about the characters. Or, to put it more accurately, "my stories" are okay. "Yours" will hurt."

But the actors themselves are the first to proclaim loudly that they are not the characters they play. Certain aspects of an actor go into a character. Other aspects of an actor are de-emphasized, on stage, in that particular part. And sometimes the actor must build only on imagination, creating something entirely outside his own personal experience.. There are always areas of contiguity. But the actor is not the character, and vice versa. I have sat on the edge of an amphitheater seat, gripped in fear for a Tosca who could, in reality, have knocked the Scarpia into the orchestra pit with one effortless backhand.

"LN says that Spock wouldn't survive Kirk...." Okay, that's his opinion. When Olivier filmed Hamlet he thought Hamlet's main problem was an Oedipal conflict — an opinion not shared by many actors and Shakespeare scholars. And though as I say, I'm delighted that LN will be playing Spock, it's not true that no other actor could play the character. There could be many Spocks, as there are many Hamlets.

"They can be hurt...." Did Shatner turn down his role on Columbo last year, fearing that if he played a murderer, that would injure William Shatner?

I'm a woman (and for those to whom it makes a difference, a wife and mother). Yet I've sung (with "heart wringing sincerity," according to one critic — bless him) an aria in which a man laments the rape of his wife.

Does anyone seriously think Leonard Nimoy is green blooded? Apples and oranges.