Trying something new: I needed something lighter today. In the past I’ve gushed about computer games. Today I’m talking about concepts in my card game Fleet & Federation
This comes from an odd convention in the in the original Star Trek series. Spock was raised in the Vulcan tradition to embrace logic and rationality, and avoid emotional considerations. This was interpreted by Star Trek writers as a character flaw and occasionally there would be an episode where Spock would decide that the obvious, best decision was illogical and the rest of the episode would be spent circumventing Spock’s mental block.*
In real life, Logic is the skill, and generally when logical action and emotional action are in conflict, it’s the logical one that preserves lives and resources, and the emotional one that causes problems, but makes for better television.
There are exceptions, of course. Sometimes the most logical course of action happens to be cruel, or offensive. And it’s curious — and disappointing — that none of them are really addressed in Star Trek as Spock tries to get along with a primarily human crew.
One of the rare exceptions, where humanity prevails over logic is the Prisoner’s Dilemma. It goes like this:
You and Guido were pulling a caper and got caught. Now you’re being interrogated by law enforcement. The detective makes you an offer: fess up and turn states so we can nail the other guy, and we’ll let you walk out. You’re cleverer than that. Here’s what’s really going to happen:
• If you squeal and Guido also squeals, you both are going to prison for a long time.
• If you blab and Guido holds silent, the detective will keep his word and let you go, and Guido goes to jail for life.
• If Guido blabs and you keep mum, then you’re the lifer, and Guido walks.
• If both of you keep your traps shut, they’ll hold you for a bit. Days, probably, but maybe months, but ultimately you walk.
In this particular situation, The (easy, possibly incorrect) math suggests that it’s the better gamble to tell all, yet as real-world police have discovered, suspects are inclined to cooperate with each other, even when they don’t much like each other. Maybe is that we have a tendency to cooperate with our collaborators, maybe it’s that we like the cops even less (or don’t trust their lies), maybe it’s a matter of personal honor.
Would Spock blab if playing flat odds? Uncertain. He might have more awareness of what Yeoman Guido might do. (Kirk makes it too easy.)
Since it’s distasteful to our (human) scriptwriters, Spock would let himself get imprisoned knowing he’d be underestimated and could nerve-pinch and mind-meld his way out. Or he could escape and then meld/pinch a rescue of Yeoman Guido.
Other ways that Spock might have difficulty with human culture:
• Nurse Chapel spends a day in the kitchen making Spock a special vulcan soup. When she asks how it is, Spock meticulously details the differences between Nurse Chapel’s soup and a perfect serving.
• The parents of recently-deceased Yeoman Blake ask how he died. Spock explains how Blake panicked and needlessly fired on the alien energy being, when the creature was unaffected Blake then ran and tripped into a tarpit and drowned.
• After the Mozart concert in the lounge, Spock is asked if he enjoyed the music, to which he is confused. When asked if he could appreciate the music, he replies affirmatively: He only counted one hundred and two errors, which is twenty six fewer than there were at their last performance, albeit averaging more per minute playing.
• Lieutenant Uhura asks if her shore-leave dress makes her look fat. Spock replies that she looks a quarter of a kilogram heavier than she did yesterday, because she is heavier by about a quarter of a kilogram, and, no the dress doesn’t impede his ability to assess her mass.
We humans feel feelings, and much of our culture takes those feelings into account, often checking in, or showing compassion (or asking for same) when the supertext is about trivialities (e.g. dresses and music). With time and experience and development, Spock would recognize these points of connection, probably providing a direct reply:
I am well.
I am still your friend.
I think you are valid.
* If, instead of a super-logical character it was a fanatically religious character with an esoteric blue-&-orange code, a mental block that prevents sensible action makes much more sense as a plot-device. Usually nifty psi / force / magical / divine powers are connected to this character’s need to adhere to her strange rules and customs. I may use this in Space Pirates