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Name: T'Pau
Fandom: Star Trek:TOS
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T'Pau, Vulcan leader and elder, is present during Spock and T'Pring's marriage ceremony in the episode Amok Time.


This is the Vulcan heart. This is the Vulcan soul. This is our way. --T'Pau from "Amok Time"

T'Pau greets Spock with the Vulcan hand salute, and he returns it. He kneels before her and she puts her hand on the side of his head, in what knowledgeable viewers would recognize as establishing mental contact. Fans speculate that this could be a simple mind-touch greeting or she could be seeing how far along he is in pon farr. She expresses doubt about the "outworlders"' presence, but accepts that they are his friends. She speaks of the ceremony's antiquity and importance.

When T'Pring issues her challenge, T'Pau takes this in stride and tells the earthmen what will happen. When they choose to stay, she says "Spock chose his friends well." Spock breaks through the silence of plak-tow for his friend's sake, and we see what T'Pau really thinks of earth people: It is said thy Vulcan blood is thin. Are thee Vulcan -- or are thee human? She cautions McCoy not to interfere in the ritual fight, but agrees to let him give Kirk a "tri-ox" injection. When Kirk apparently dies, she says "I grieve with thee", and when Spock leaves, she says "Live long and prosper, Spock".

Kirk described T'Pau as "all of Vulcan in one package", and felt he could not back out of the challenge in front of her. She had also contacted Starfleet Command to request diversion of the Enterprise to Vulcan. Admiral Komack, who had been extremely hard-assed with Kirk about staying on mission, instantly approved the request.

Celia Lovsky

Celia Lovsky in the 1930s.

T'Pau was played by veteran stage/film actress Celia Lovsky, who had worked many times with Fritz Lang.[1] Ms. Lovsky had previously played an Apache elder in the 1955 movie Foxfire[2], then the deaf-mute Emma Chaney opposite James Cagney in Man of a Thousand Faces (1957)[3] both directed by Joseph Pevney. Pevney recommended Lovsky for the role, saying she would be "perfect", after reading Theodore Sturgeon's script.[4] Leonard Nimoy agreed. He has told many times how he created the Vulcan salute out of a Jewish blessing gesture -- and how Celia couldn't do it, but kept her left hand in position ahead of time. Lovsky was actually the first person to give the Vulcan salute on television.

T'Pau was one of several characters which were added to the story of "Amok Time" by the episode's writer, Theodore Sturgeon, in an effort to address NBC's Stan Robertson feeling that more Vulcans than T'Pring had to be included in the episode. [5] In the first draft script for "Amok Time", T'Pau explains to the earth visitors why, on Vulcan, the Vulcans use English to communicate with them[6]. Other examples of T'Pau acting differently in the first draft script than she does in the episode's final version are tolerating numerous interferences during the fight between Kirk and Spock, such as Stonn throwing a rock at Spock[7] Not written into this first draft script is T'Pau's involvement in justifying Kirk's recent diversion to Vulcan. [8] "Amok Time"'s depiction of the matriarch T'Pau was one of numerous aspects which, though introduced by Sturgeon, were then refined in a script rewrite by D.C. Fontana. [5] In the final draft of the script, T'Pau is introduced with the following description: "Inside the sedan litter is T'Pau, an 'Elder,' a great force in the land. She is a woman of immense dignity, and her authority is obvious." [9]

T'Pau was described as the only person who ever turned down a seat on the Federation Council. Her officiating at Spock's wedding was an indication that his family was extremely important -- something he'd never mentioned even to his closest friends.

Ms. Lovsky played T'Pau as a leader of great dignity and power. In her few lines, her expressions and bearing, viewers saw her as protecting an ancient and proud tradition. "Amok Time" is still Star Trek fans' all-time favorite episode.

While this episode has a few clear drawbacks from a feminist POV, I greatly appreciate the character of T'Pau, as she is brought to life by Celia Lovsky. I am very glad that Sturgeon included this character, with all the indications of her stature on Vulcan and in the Federation. There’s no need for that character to be female. So Sturgeon gets extra “ahead of his time” points for that. Just consider, if the role of ceremonial presider had been filled by a male–we’d be left with a story where the female characters are coldly manipulative or hopelessly lovelorn, and either way emotionally focused on getting their man. The inclusion of T’Pau makes for a very different overall gender picture.[10]

Never mind age picture. Celia Lovsky's T'Pau remains one of the few elderly women with that much power ever seen in any media. In a television era and a culture and society where the focus was on youth, she had an incredibly resonating presence.

Topping it all off is the mythically good performance of Austrian actor Celia Lovsky as T'Pau, “the only person to ever refuse a seat on the Federation council”. Lovsky has a black hole level of gravity and utterly owns every single scene she's in. She, more than anyone else in the production, completely throws herself at the ancient, ritualistic pageantry of the setting and sells every iota of it. When William Shatner-as-Kirk expresses has awe at being in her presence, we believe it.

T'Pau became so iconic, in fact, she got her own 1980s electronica band and got to come back for three episodes on Enterprise in one of the better stories from that show's fourth season, this time played by Kara Zediker. It's safe to say that, other than Spock, T'Pau is the character who most embodies and defines the Vulcans as a species within Star Trek: Apart from her fourth season guest appearance, T'Pau's regal presence and reticence towards humans was used as the blueprint for the exploration of Vulcan society on Enterprise and indeed she was even intended to be a regular on Enterprise at first, though that character eventually became Subcommander T'Pol for legal reasons (although Jolene Blalock still cites Lovsky as her primary influence).[11]

Celia died of natural causes on October 12, 1979. She was 82.[12]


Fanon Characterization

Fans have speculated endlessly about what T'Pau would have done when she found out that Kirk's "death" was a fake. Some suggest that she knew all along,[13][14] while others believe that she did not and that she saw it as an example of how earth people didn't respect Vulcan traditions.

Another fanon speculation is that T'Pau is Spock's grandmother or great-grandmother.

In the Star Trek "reboot" movie, Irene Roseen plays an unnamed Vulcan elder. Because she looks something like Celia Lovsky and wore her hair in an upswept style, fans generally assume this was T'Pau.

Dorothy Jones Heydt only mentions T'Pau once in her "Dorothy and Myfanwy" stories. After Dorothy and Spock have been married and living on Vulcan for several months, she writes a long letter to Myfanwy. Speaking about the wedding, she says "Did you see the expression on T'Pau's face when the incense drifted out to her?" One can imagine the ironclad old lady looking briefly ethereal.

In Kraith, T'Pau does not appear often, but we learn a few things about her. Author Jacqueline Lichtenberg stated that T'Pau's family was directly descended from Surak and were connected to him in the First Realm. Lichtenberg invented the Daughters of Tradition because a woman as in charge of things as T'Pau should not go through the emotional instability of pon farr. Males with the "kataytikh" gene have the ability to create huge group mind melds, a trait vitally important to Vulcan society in its modern form, the "Affirmation of the Continuity" ceremony. Women with the gene are sterile, never have pon farr, and their lives are devoted to public service. In a later story, Lichtenberg stated that T'Pau was very young and uncertain when she first assumed the leadership role, apparently much earlier than she'd been prepared for. She wanted to raise the age of participation in the Affirmation.

Diane Duane deals fairly with T'Pau in Spock's World. Although she is not fond of Earth people or cultures, she realizes that Vulcan must be prepared for them and sends Sarek as ambassador to learn more of them. At the book's end, T'Pau is about to die, and surprisingly chooses Amanda as the recipient of her katra essence: You have the necessary training from Seleya to manage the Gift once I have left it to you and it will qualify you as Eldest Mother of the house, whatever others may say. She is able to make her thoughts known through Amanda after she dies. Three million people show up for her funeral.

Example Fanworks

Fan Fiction

  • T'Pau's Tale by TFT. In which T'Pau figures out for herself what happened in the Challenge fight.




  1. ^ "If she had been able to stay in Europe and continue to perform in German, she would have become a great star there -- the Helen Hayes of Europe." Lovsky's agent and friend Walter Kohner, speaking about her after her death in Los Angeles on October 12, 1979. He called her "one of the great character actresses, a wonderful face, a personality of great aplomb, magnetism and humor." Lovsky acted in a lot of stage plays at the Neue Weiner Buhne, playing many different roles. She worked with Leopold Jessner and Max Reihardt. She was considered "a gifted and versatile actress whose ability to 'form her parts out of her heart and her mind' ranked her alongside Maria Orska and Elisabeth Bergner. (Stephen D. Youngkin, The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre. University Press of Kentucky, 2005.) She fled Germany with her husband Peter Lorre in 1934 to escape the Nazis. In the U.S. she performed in more than 50 movies and about 200 television shows.
  2. ^ Kohner described her as vastly amused by being cast as Saba. He said she told him she must have been the only Indian woman in history with a Viennese accent.
  3. ^ All her lines are in sign language. "His deaf mother (played by Celia Lovsky) suspects the nature of the problem and follows him outside, signing 'You didn't tell her your parents were deaf?' When he responds that he expected Cleva to understand, his mother scolds him: 'You don't understand your responsibility.' Chaney tries to avert his eyes, and in a very typical deaf manner she grabs his chin and forces him to maintain eye contact, then tells him to go to Cleva." Hollywood Speaks: Deafness and the Film Entertainment Industry, John S. Schuchman. Illini Books, 1999.
  4. ^ Edward Gross & Mark A. Altman, Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages (Little, Brown, 1995), p. 53.
  5. ^ a b These Are the Voyages: TOS Season Two.
  6. ^ Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 11/12, p. 68.
  7. ^ Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 11/12, p. 97.
  8. ^ The Star Trek Compendium.
  9. ^ Star Trek Magazine issue 155, p. 36
  10. ^ Comment by Saavik, Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: "Amok Time" dated Wed Nov 11, 2015 9:29am.
  11. ^ Josh Marsfelder, "But what about sex?: Amok Time". Vaka Rangi, 2013-08-04.
  12. ^ Celia at Findagrave
  13. ^ T'Pau's Tale by fan writer TFT suggests that T'Pau did know what McCoy was doing and that her official request to Starfleet for diversion of the Enterprise to Vulcan was a response to this, saving Kirk's career.
  14. ^ What makes a great villain? Part 1: Star Trek’s T’Pring at The Agony Booth

She's the only person who's ever turned down a seat in the Federation Council, she's that important, I mean, she is so important she is a TOS woman allowed to wear pants! - SF Debris Review