When producer Gene Roddenberry envisioned Mr. Spock for his upcoming science fiction TV series Star Trek in 1966 he pictured him with red skin, a different hairstyle than most and pointed ears.
As a half-human, half-alien, Spock would have a different personality too. He wouldn’t be illogical and temperamental like most humans. This guy was cool and detached, downright intimidating at times. He was highly intelligent, used deductive logic masterfully and could mind-meld like only the most skilled Vulcan.
Even so, Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock, worried no one would take the reddish-skinned, pointed-eared character seriously.
Conflict is everything in storytelling and was also an important ingredient in Spock’s charm.
With the half-human, half-Vulcan gig he had going, Spock embodied conflict in spades. So, Nimoy accepted the role in spite of his concerns.
With no budget and not much time heading into preproduction the makeup artist came up with pointed ears for Spock that were laughable. The crude, papier-mâché models made Spock look like an “overgrown jackrabbit” or an “elf with a hyperactive thyroid,” he said.
“So there I was, in street clothes under hot lights wearing those ludicrous ears,” he said. “I know that piece of film has to be floating around in a vault somewhere; I still swear that if I ever find it, I’ll burn it.”
Spock’s skin ended up being a yellowish-green which looked a lot better on a black-and-white screen. The upward-slanting, yak-hair eyebrows, haircut and new $600 plaster cast, foam rubber ears worked too.
Spock, the devilish-looking alien, was born, a transformation from human to Vulcan right in front of everyone. When Spock’s character became popular no one was quite sure if it weren’t those monstrous ears that did it.
After a hard day on the playground sinking into an overstuffed chair and mind-melding with Star Trek and Spock made perfect sense to kids like me. The guy was so smooth.
When contract negotiations came around at the end of the first season the leverage the studio used to get Nimoy to sign again was to threaten to put those monstrous ears on someone else.
Wearing the pointed ears wasn’t painful for Spock, just uncomfortable. The jokes about the ears did hurt.
Headlines like “The Ears Have It,” “Ears to Leonard Nimoy” and “I didn’t recognize you without your ears” were hard to take.
One of the hardest things Nimoy had to do was convince the writers and production staff that Spock was committed to nonviolence. He saw it as his responsibility to look after the character.
Writers, directors and producers came and went on the series. Nimoy saw himself as “keeper of the flame.” He wasn’t interested in seeing his character deteriorate and drift into someone he wasn’t.
When NBC didn’t renew Star Trek after the third season Nimoy’s worries about defending Spock were needless.
Nimoy hypothetically asked Spock if he hoped the series might return.
“I would not use the term ‘hope.’ It was merely logical that Star Trek return,” he said. “When the demands of the fans reached critical mass, my rebirth was inevitable.”
The 79th and final episode of Star Trek, “Turnabout Intruder,” was filmed during December 1968 and January 1969.
On Dec. 15-16, Profiles in History featured its Drama, Action, Romance: The Hollywood Auction, in Calabasas, Calif. Here are some current values for Star Trek items:
Spock ears from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Paramount, 1979: $1,800.
Starfleet uniform tunic, Operations Duty, from Star Trek, the original series, season three, Paramount, 1966-1969: $3,600.
Jacket and tunic, Capt. Picard, from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Paramount, 1987-1994: $15,600.
Spock uniform from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Paramount, 1979: $24,000.
Spock tunic from Star Trek, the original series, Paramount TV, 1966-1969; $114,000.
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