I gather that there’s long been a vague association between the Vulcans and the Jews, based mostly on the Cohenic origins of the split-fingered Vulcan greeting. Watching this latest Star Trek picture over the weekend, I was struck by the extent to which those connections were reinforced. Perhaps I’m imagining things, and perhaps these two years at New Voices have left me unable to enjoy culture through anything but a Jewish lens. Let me know in the comments.
For starters – and, again, you probably should stop here if you haven’t seen the movie – the plot hinges on the destruction of the planet Vulcan, in which six billion Vulcans are killed. Even without resorting to numerology, the destruction of Vulcan offers plenty of opportunities for Holocaust allegory. Previous to the implosion of the planet, we’re introduced to Vulcan culture though a visit to a Vulcan schoolhouse filled with wan nerds with prominent ears who, like so many pre-war Yeshiva students, study in hevruta with their computerized rabbis. Instead of joining the militaristic Starfleet, the high achievers among them will attend the Vulcan Science Academy. Their elders are obsessed with the purity of the race, which leads to trouble for young Spock, whose mother is human. (It’s worth noting that the director, J.J. Abrams, told the L.A. Jewish Journal that he is intermarried.)
Spock’s character development hinges on his conflicting allegiance to Vulcan “logic” and human emotion, in the film’s terms. In earlier Star Trek products, it’s my understanding that Spock never swayed far in the direction of emotion. This time, however, precipitated in no small part by the genocide of all but a handful of his race, Spock gives in to emotion, resigning command and, later, making out with Uhura in the transporter room.
Is this a realization that the intellectualism and passivity of Vulcan life was insufficient? There’s no indication that the Vulcans could have done anything to prevent the destruction of their planet, and yet through Starfleet, Earth was able to save itself.
My prediction: in the inevitable sequel, the remaining Vulcans – led by Leonard Nimoy, who looks even more Jewish now then he did back in the day – colonize an apparently empty planet, only to discover that its previous inhabitants aren’t so extractable as they first appeared.