The Roddenberry Footnote

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The Roddenberry Footnote is a footnote in the novelization of the 1979 movie Star Trek: The Motion Picture by Gene Roddenberry that had an impact on slash fandom. In the book, Roddenberry coined a new word for the Kirk/Spock relationship, saying that Spock thought of Kirk as his t'hy'la, a Vulcan word that he tells us, can mean "friend," "brother" or "lover." K/S fans took it as canonical justification; after all Roddenberry didn't have to include "lover" in the definition.

Full Text of Roddenberry's Footnote

Editor's note: The human concept of friend is most nearly duplicated in Vulcan thought by the term t'hy'la, which can also mean brother and lover. Spock's recollection (from which this chapter has drawn) is that it was a most difficult moment for him since he did indeed consider Kirk to have become his brother. However, because t'hy'la can be used to mean lover, and since Kirk's and Spock's friendship was unusually close, this has led to some speculation over whether they had actually indeed become lovers. At our request, Admiral Kirk supplied the following comment on this subject:
"I was never aware of this lovers rumor, although I have been told that Spock encountered it several times. Apparently he had always dismissed it with his characteristic lifting of his right eyebrow which usually connoted some combination of surprise, disbelief, and/or annoyance. As for myself, although I have no moral or other objections to physical love in any of its many Earthly, alien, and mixed forms, I have always found my best gratification in that creature woman. Also, I would dislike being thought of as so foolish that I would select a love partner who came into sexual heat only once every seven years."

Reactions and Reviews

Fan reaction, as expected, was varied.

Prior to the release of the first ST movie, K/S was treated in a very private
 way by most of its aficianados, who felt that it was a possible alternate universe 
that should not be forced on those who found it objectionable, for whatever reasons.
 When K/S "came out of the closet" via page 22 of Roddenberry's novelization of
 ST:TMP, it seemed to become more acceptable in the mainstream of fandom—after a
 brief skirmish—and various developments followed. Now, when new people enter fandom
 they are introduced to K/S much earlier than before, and, we think, accept it with
less difficulty. [1]
Captain Bullshit indeed! After reading Kirk's comments on "the lovers rumor" in STTMP, I have reached the conclusion that ue have been treated to a contradictory, off-the-subject display of doubletalk which leaves fizzbin pale by comparison.

Our good admiral begins by saying he "Was never aware" of the rumor though he had been told that Spock had "encountered it several times." Is not a state of awareness brought on by knowledge of the subject in question? Kirk admits he did have that knowledge, apparently learned through Spock or through a person who had the opportunity to talk to both of then personally. Who made Kirk aware of the rumor is irrelevant, logic dictates that Kirk was/is "aware of it." It would be interesting to know about Spock's encounters with the rumor. It's difficult to imagine someone (even McCoy} walking up casually to Spock and asking if he and Kirk were indeed lovers. Spock's demeanor doesn't encourage one to make flippant out-of-place remarks about his sex life. I would have been less surprised if Kirk had encountered it in a spaceship bar. Ones past the "never aware" contradiction, Kirk tells us Spock "apparently had always dismissed it with his characteristic lifting of his right eyebrow." Since Kirk was apparently not there, we have to assume that Spock informed him of his standard reaction: "Jim, I raised my right eyebrow at that lovers rumor." Somehow, I suspect I've been told that the second card is turned up, except on Thursdays. Kirk continues his description of Spock's right eyebrow, saying it "usually connoted some combination of surprise, disbelief, and/or annoyance." The word "usually" and the handy and/or are nebulous in themselves, however, any STAR TREK fan knows that Spock's lifted eyebrow can also convey wonder, humor,acknowledgement, and even warmth. If the eyebrow did come up in annoyance, perhaps it was annoyance at the impudent person who askad the question instead of at the actual rumor. No doubt the admiral would be aware of this possibility also. Kirk's reference to "having found my best gratification in that creature woman" is grounds for annoyance in itself. The admiral is lucky that 23rd Century women's rights groups aren't picketing his plush Starfleet office. Be that as it may, gratification and love are two totally different subjects. No one has denied Kirk's galactic playboy reputation. However, to love another individual, to revel in the sharing of mental and physical joys with another person, is not a matter of mere gratification. The "serious" aspect of the "lovers rumor" is never addressed by Kirk; an actual answer is never given. The double-talk concludes with a "joke" about pon farr… Charming, but not convincing, Admiral. In regards to the seven year cycle, Kirk chortles, "I would dislike being thought so foolish… etc." Even here, the wording is double-talk, and denies nothing. Of course, several episodes of aired Trek conveyed the idea that Spock was not at all limited to a once-in-seven-year cycle.

All in all, Kirk's dissertation has proved nothing, other than that, in 1980, Earth is not ready to rejoice in the infinite diversity af love. To make a big profit, movie heroes must still be womanizing "he-men." There does seem to be a happy note: Kirk's response is so blatantly and totally illogical that perhaps someone still does believe there is intelligent life on tha audience-side of the movie screen — intelligent life which can recognize the admiral's words for what they may well have been intended to be: bullshit. [2]
Essentially, it comes across as if the editor tried to appease all segments of fandom with the deliberately vague wording but ended up appeasing no one — only adding more fuel for discussion and arguments. Also, when considered in the light of the total number of ST fans in the United States alone, it appears rather trivial to have included a lengthy "editor's note" which was obviously aimed at a very small segment of ST fendom: the "pro" K/S fans and the "anti" K/S fans. Statistically, the editor of ST:TMP has now informed all potential fans of the existence of the K/S premise. Logically, if the editor simply wanted to "disclaim" K/S, it would have infinitely more sense to simply ignore it, or to make an outright statement to the contrary. Or, more logically, he could have written a specifically phrased letter to a well-known zine such as WARPED SPACE in order to get his message through to those at which it was aimed.... And now we come to address Admiral Kirk's statements to the "lovers rumor." First of all it comes across that Kirk, or possibly the editor who played Kirk's part, is still the galactic womanizer of all times. His reference to "gratification" proves this quite well. The most accurate translation of the word "gratification" is self-indulgence, or simply indulgence. Add "my" to that, and it says plenty. Gratification can also ha used to mean comfort, happiness, pleasure, and many other things, but in this instance it is a modifier of "my." His gratification — not that of his partner. Masturbation? An inflatable "Judy-doll" would make as much sense as the "creature woman" here...It is my opinion that the editor was trying to have "something for everyone," and attempting to appease those who must tout of necessity, fear or bigotry} limit their views to 30th Century thinking alone. In other words, it doesn't appear as if the editor (or Kirk, for that matter) are trying to outright deny the accusation which is euphemised as a "rumor." They are merely skirting around the question in a very round about and confusing fashion. Careful analysis proves that the wording of the "editor's note" was deliberately nebulous, the "anti" K/S faction could interpret it one way, and the K/S faction is certainly capable of reading between those sparsely-phrased lines. That is, after all, how K/S developed in the first place, Cheers! [3]

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.

Further Reading

References

  1. from Not Tonight, Spock! Interview with Victoria Clark & Barbara Storey (1984)
  2. by Diane T. Jeffords, editorial in Naked Times #3
  3. from A Careful Analysis: The Roddenberry Footnote