Star Trek: Discovery season 2 was full of action, mystery, and malevolent supercomputers that posed a threat to all life in the universe. It also featured a heartwarming storyline about Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and her adoptive brother Spock (Ethan Peck).
Spock was played by the late Leonard Nimoy in the original Star Trek series and movies, and by Zachary Quinto in the newest films. Ethan Peck was a bit awestruck to take on such a beloved and iconic role. “I was initially kind of in denial about it, because you never expect that kind of role to come around,” he told Ars Technica.
I had to overcome a lot of self-doubt. I wasn’t sure I was ready to take on that much responsibility. I knew it could change my life dramatically. On the one hand, I’d dreamed of something like this. On the other, when you get your dreams, that’s when the real work begins, and you have to figure out what you’re made of.
Peck turned to the portrayals of Spock from Nimoy and Quinto to get the right feel for the character. He also watched the 1984 sci-fi film Starman starring Jeff Bridges, where an alien has to get used to his new human body and all the emotions that come with it. “I realized Spock would never think this way,” Peck said. “With Spock I learned the importance of honing your own programming. There was a culling of thoughts that were bad for my preparation for the role. That really came from always thinking, ‘what would Spock do?’ As an actor, you have to weasel your way into minds that are not your own.”
Since Spock — who is half-human — constantly grapples with his human side, Peck had to learn to be both emotional when the script called for it and then turn those feelings off when it didn’t. Part of conveying Spock’s moods is the way his eyebrows arch in response to certain moments, and Peck had to learn to do that too.
“I had to make sure I raised my eyebrow enough every time I had to do that,” he said. “What makes Spock so compelling is the perpetual conflict within him. The conflict between logic and emotion, between Vulcan and human. I always saw in Nimoy’s eyes a depth of understanding of the emotion around him and an empathy with those around him. That wasn’t always communicated verbally. But you see it in the time he takes to consider moments or situations. That, I think, expresses his humanity very well.”
Part of Discovery season 2 dealt with Burnham and Spock learning to be siblings and actually feeling something for each other. A major roadblock in their relationship was Spock trying to be a cold and calculating Vulcan, which is something his human mother tried to change. That’s where Burnham came in.
“As I understood it, Spock had spent so much time compartmentalizing his humanity that it was now harming him,” said Peck. “I think Michael really teaches Spock about his humanity. Her childhood of abandonment of him is what forces him to close off his feelings, plus he’s raised on a planet that’s not accepting of emotion. So when they do reconnect, it’s a bit of a re-education that emotion and instinct give us something above pure logic.”
Having characters like Spock, Captain Pike (Anson Mount) and Number One (Rebecca Romijn) in Discovery really excited fans. Since CBS All Access is developing more Star Trek shows, some have wondered if there’s space for these characters to return. Anson Mount is down to return as Pike; what about Peck?
I would love to continue playing this character and being a part of this world. Sure, I am biased by now because I’m part of it, and I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid, but there’s almost something religious about Star Trek. Its ideology provides a hope that people can hold onto. Just look at the community it’s created. It celebrates what makes us special as human beings, illuminates what makes us great.
We need an Enterprise prequel show featuring Pike, Spock and Number One now, CBS. In the meantime, you can rewatch Star Trek: Discovery on CBS All Access.