Spock Must Die!

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Title: Spock Must Die!
Creator: James Blish
Date(s): 1970
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS
Language: English
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Spock Must Die! is a Star Trek pro 1970 novel written by James Blish.

It is the very first pro tie-in Trek novel.

Generally, it was very poorly received, but as Trek fiction was thin on the ground, widely consumed.

"Spock Must Die!" (1970) and Spock, Messiah! (1976) and "Vulcan!" (1978) were all tie-in books during what some fans refer to as "the Exclamation Years." [1]

Reactions and Reviews

Unknown Date

"Unlike the preceding three STAR TREK books, this one is not a set of adaptations of scripts which have already been shown on television, but an original novel built around the characters and background of the TV series conceived by Gene Rodenberry."

With these words, noted science fiction writer James Blish introduced his novel Spock Must Die!—a novel that led the way to more than a hundred others written by numerous authors and based on a television series that lasted only three seasons. And with a novel written by such a well-known science fiction writer and Hugo award winner, the series was off to a good start.

As the novel opens, the Enterprise and her crew are recording a navigation grid for an arm of the galaxy not previously visited by humans. The mission appears very routine until an alarming message reaches them: The long expected Klingon War has broken out, and Organia seems to have been destroyed. In addition, because of her current position, the Enterprise is totally cut off from the Federation by the Klingon forces. After much thought, Kirk decides to head for Organia in an attempt to determine what has happened there and to hopefully find a way to help the Federation. While in route to the last known position of the planet, Scotty comes up with a plan to use the transporter to send a tachyon image of Mr. Spock to Organia to gather information; however, something goes wrong and two Mr. Spocks are left in the transporter chamber.

It appears that both Spocks are identical in every conceivable way—even to insisting that his duplicate be destroyed. And even worse, one of them seems to be getting information to the Klingons about the location of the Enterprise. It soon becomes essential for Kirk to determine which Spock is the real one, but the question is how to do so.

While this is one of the shorter Star Trek novels (my copy has only 118 pages), it definitely does a good job of introducing the novels to come. The characters are very true to their television counterparts—even to McCoy’s arguments with Scotty over the safety of the transporter. The doctor is definitely sure he is not the same person who first had a transporter tear apart his atoms twenty years ago, but instead "a construct made by a machine after the image of a dead man."

Although the situation presented in the novel is a serious one, readers are bound to get a chuckle over the usual bickering between Spock and McCoy and especially over the doctor’s first suggestion on how to tell the duplicates apart: "Just order Yeoman Rand to kiss one of them. If he responds, shoot him." However, when all is said and done, it’s the good doctor who devises a very simple way to tell them apart. (Hint: Think back to your basic organic chemistry class.)

The story has several twists and turns and should intrigue both fans and non-fans alike. Readers will also take heart when they read Blish’s assessment of the cancellation of the television series: "I for one refuse to believe that an enterprise so well conceived, so scrupulously produced, and so widely loved can stay boneyarded for long." The almost forty years that have passed since then have proved him more than correct. [2]


Written in 1969 and published in 1970, this was the first Star Trek novel to be widely read. It proved immensely popular, going through numerous editions -- each with its own lousy cover. (A transporter accident creates a double of Spock -- but which one is the true Spock?) A truly horrible book. One of the first stpb novels published, it has gone through reprint after reprint, despite being stunningly mediocre. First there's Spock acting out of character. There's two of them, so one of them has to die? This from the guy who said "I'm frequently appalled by the low regard you Earthmen have for life?" Then there's silliness involving Organia. Okay, so Organia's the target, meaning impending war with the Klingons, whole galaxy in danger, that sort of thing, but the telepathic battle was was pretty pathetic, the Organians look like wimps . . . The writing is stylistically clumsy, and sections of the book drag. Finally there's the left-handed, right-handed enzyme business. It's based (loosely) on real science, but there's the nagging plausibility factor. Would you want to tamper with your fundamental chemistry just to shed a few pounds? I wouldn't. [3]


I just picked this book up and was struck by the level of racism and sexism in it. Blish even has a paragraph long description of why white women are attracted to Spock (it’s a stepping stone towards sex with other races which women find scary but also tititlating). Uhura at one point lets out a “fat african laugh.” [4]


By word of Frederic Pohl, who edited the Bantam novels, “I didn’t really pay much attention to Star Trek“. But James Blish had noticed that the biggest checks he had ever gotten came from his previous Star Trek novels. They were starting to collect some fan stories, which would later appear as “The New Voyages” series of anthologies, but Blish started on writing original novels, even if Bantam and the editores did not think they were anything warranting much attention.

The first adult-oriented original novel written, it tries to get into the later common habit of killing off Spock. (So much in fact, it was later a big plot point on a movie, and his “resurrection” the whole plot on another!)

Here, the Enterprise is sent ot monitor the Klingons, who was apparently seen breaking the “Organian” treaty. On trying to do some “experimental” use of the transporter, Spock is divided in two selves. This whole double self is not the same type that what was done in the “Evil Kirk” episode (“The Enemy Within”), but what I consider to be a very creative, and real good science fiction. That’s a breath of fresh air, as some other novels are just a bunch of tedious space opera. This part of the novel is actually quite enjoyable, where the crew tries to figure out the “mystery” of this double Spock.

It laters does pick up some adventure/action scenes, and to be honest, I was fairly bored and did not pay a lot of attention, but basically the whole thing is that “a Spock must die”. The Klingons are just there to be used as part of the scenery, and the novel breaks a big part of canon at the end (or at least, makes it impossible for a lot of other stuff to happen). This was readily ignored by every other writer. In fact, I think a big problems of the novels is that only the original author carries ‘canon’ between their novels: all others revert back to what was established by the TV episodes. I hope that later on, on more modern books, events are cross-pollinated between novels and authors; it would really enrich the Trek universe.

The last action scenes and the resolution are a bit anti-climactic, but I think the whole explanation of what happens to Spock is really nice and very well done.

Blish understands very well that personalities of the characters, and plays them well, even though some parts of the prose are a bit tedious he carries it off very well. There is an overly fascination with the Spock character, but this is only because of the attention people were giving to him.

This novel is quite nice to read, and some of the best in the early writings. This style of writing is easy to digest, low on description, high on action and not very challenging, but it covers it’s purpose: get a Star Trek novel out there with some good science fiction mixed in. I can easily recommend it, but I know there are a lot more that are much better. [5]


  1. comment by Michele Christian on Virgule-L, quoted with permission (November 16, 1995)
  2. by Carolyn Kaberline at Orion Press
  3. Pro Book Reviews, by Hypatica Kosh, 2000
  4. Julia: Reading Star Trek
  5. Sergio: Reading Star Trek