Spock is one of the most beloved characters in science fiction (and pop-culture in general). The pointy-eared extraterrestrial was an early fan favorite on Star Trek, a man who fascinated viewers with his strict adherence to logical responses over emotionally fueled reactions.
Leonard Nimoy perfectly executed his character’s philosophy and bone-dry wit, a cool as a cucumber demeanor that stood in stark contrast to human compatriots like Captain James T. Kirk and Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (although we shouldn’t forget, he’s still half Homosapien. He just doesn’t flaunt it). We’ve become so used to Mr. Spock as the voice of reason on the Starship Enterprise, that whenever he deviates from the norm, it requires a double take. Those rare instances of his logical Vulcan demeanor cracking (usually from external forces) are both disquieting and deeply entertaining.
With that in mind. here’s our list of the 15 most WTF Spock moments in Star Trek history, encompassing both television, film (including performances from both Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto), and comics. Live weird and prosper, fellow Trekkies.
15. Acts Like A Lovestruck Teenager
Spock’s pragmatic, logical nature doesn’t allow for hedonism. That’s what makes TOS episode “This Side of Paradise” so memorable, showing a drastic change in his personality.
In the episode, the Enterprise visits the planet Omicron Ceti III after the Federation loses communications with its colony. The crew is relieved to find the colonists alive and well, but Kirk becomes concerned after he notices his shipmates exhibiting strange behavior. They are acting euphoric and rebellious.
Alien plant spores are responsible, of course, and their effect on Spock is particularly hilarious. After Kirk notices Spock gleefully swinging from a tree, he confronts him:”Are you out of your mind? You were told to report to me at once!” Spock replies with a grin, “I didn’t want to, Jim.”
Spock has fallen for colonist Leila Kalomi, who explains that the plants helped her people survive a disaster. Eventually, the crew is able to resist the spores’ effects and Spock and Kalomi part ways. This leads to a poignant finale, with Kirk saying, “We haven’t heard much from you about Omicron Ceti III, Mr. Spock.” Spock replies simply, “I have little to say about it, Captain. Except that…for the first time in my life… I was happy.” Awww.
14. Tickling the Ivories
In the original series episode “Requiem for Methuselah”, the Enterprise crew are stricken with deadly Rigellian Fever. In desperate need of treatment, they land on the remote planetoid Holberg 917-G in search of a mineral that can cure the condition. Once they transport to the planet, they discover the hostile inhabitant Flint (James Daly), and his ward Rayna Kapec (Louise Sorel).
This leads to an unforgettably strange scene, where Kirk dances with Rayna while Spock plays a waltz on the piano. Spock is no stranger to musical instrumentation, as he’s well-known for plucking the Vulcan lute, but seeing him playing a piece of classical music in such an ornate setting is rather surreal (especially if you were to catch it mid-episode on television).
Even stranger, Spock notes that the piece of music he’s performing is a composition by famed composer Johannes Brahms, but its existence has never been documented in recorded culture. That leads to an interesting plot reveal, but it pales in comparison to seeing Spock’s “renaissance man” abilities in action.
13. “You Gave Your Girlfriend a Tracking Device?”
The budding romance of Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) in the new Star Trek franchise was a big surprise for longtime fans, but audiences warmed to their relationship, one complicated by the traditional stressors of workplace romance.
In Star Trek Beyond, their relationship hits an impasse, and they part ways as friends. Understandably, Spock still becomes distressed after Uhura is captured by the evil alien Krall (Idris Elba). When Spock reveals to Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban) that he can trace her whereabouts via a necklace fitted with a tracking device, he raises his eyebrows. “You gave your girlfriend radioactive jewelry?” Spock replies in classic Vulcan fashion to the query, saying “The emission is harmless, Doctor, but its unique signature makes it very easy to identify.” This leads to Urban’s most comical quip to date: “You gave your girlfriend a tracking device?!”
12. Horta Mindmeld
“The Devil in The Dark” is one of Star Trek‘s most poignant commentaries on prejudice. The story begins with a group of miners trying to kill a strange creature that has caused equipment damage and multiple fatalities. The Enterprise is dispatched to investigate, with Spock conjecturing that the culprit is a silicon-based organism.
Eventually, they discover the creature (known as the Horta), which resembles molten rock. Spock asks to spare the creature’s life so that he may communicate with it via mind-meld, which causes him severe mental strain in his attempt to decipher the Horta’s thoughts. The result is a scream worthy of a Life-Alert commercial: “AHH! PAIN! PAIN! PAIN!” Even though the meld gets broken, the Horta is still able to communicate, etching the words “No Kill I” into the rock.
Spock explains The Horta has been gravely injured, and it is the last of its kind, merely trying to survive to protect its eggs. McCoy is able to save the Horta, and the miners learn to not fear it or its offspring. Instead, they peacefully co-exist with the alien species, which helps lead them to discover new and valuable ore. Leave it to Spock to have a heart-to-heart with a pile of rocks.
11. Uses Profanity
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is one of the most enjoyable films of the original Star Trek film series, focusing on the humorous aspects of the U.S.S. Enterprise Crew going back in time to San Francisco in the ’80s.
One of the most memorable aspects of the film is seeing Spock, still acclimating from his rebirth in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (more on this shortly). His behavior is often childlike, as he’s still assimilating, making him feel more out-of-place than usual in attempting to understand human behavior.
When Kirk explains that using profanity was a hallmark of life in the 20th century, the Vulcan attempts to add it to his vernacular, resulting in lines like “They like you very much, but they are not the hell your whales,” “double dumbass on you,” and “One damn minute, Admiral.”
10. Knocks Out A Punk Rocker
Speaking of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home–another comedic highlight of the film sees Kirk and Spock taking a bus through downtown San Francisco.
While they engage in conversation (which involves Spock’s aforementioned observations about 20th century obscenities), Kirk grows increasingly annoyed with an obnoxious passenger sporting a mohawk and blaring punk rock from his boombox: “Excuse me. Would you mind stopping that noise? Excuse me! Would you mind stopping that damn noise?!?”
In response, the foolish punk rocker flips Kirk the bird, and Kirk gives an annoyed glance to Spock. The Vulcan promptly leans over, and his trusty Vulcan nerve pinch takes care of the rest. The music stops and he receives applause from the remaining, still-conscious passengers. While this scene may make any righteous fan of punk roll their eyes, it’s an undeniably funny moment. (Fun fact: Kirk Thatcher, the actor portraying the punk on the bus, was Nimoy’s personal assistant, and he also composed and performed the song blaring from the boombox).
9. Takes Out Wolverine
Yes, this actually happened: the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise did encounter Marvel’s Merry Mutants. The two groups collided in the pages of 1996’s Star Trek/X-Men, a one-shot issue (written by Scott Lobdell) that served as a launching pad for a variety of Star Trek based titles after Marvel acquired the rights to the property, all of which were produced in conjunction with Paramount Pictures.
The issue focuses on the Enterprise discovering a ship facing destruction by a rift in space. They unwittingly rescue the crew (which happen to be The X-Men), after Cyclops, Wolverine, Jean Grey, Beast, Storm, Gambit, and Bishop secretly beam aboard the Enterprise before their own ship explodes.
Spock discovers the stowaways, and is promptly attacked by Wolverine. But the ultimate mutant badass proves no threat to the wily Vulcan, who subdues him with a simple Vulcan nerve pinch. Eventually, both teams (in typical Marvel fashion) put aside their differences and team up to a face a shared threat.
8. Evil Spock
“Mirror, Mirror” plays off the classic sci-fi trope of an alternate dimension. In the episode, Kirk, McCoy, Scotty, and Uhura attempt to transport back to the Enterprise, but an ionic storm causes a malfunction and they beam aboard a ship that is a perfect replica, except the crew are cruel and malevolent doppelgängers of their teammates.
The most glaring difference is Spock, who, in addition to sporting a goatee, is more sadistic and ruthless than the Vulcan we know and love. This is seen in an exchange with Captain Kirk in an attempt to gain information: “I shall not waste time with you. You’re too inflexible, too disciplined once you’re made up your mind, but Dr. McCoy has a plenitude of human weaknesses – sentimental, soft. You may not tell me what I want to know, but he will.”
Our Spock has his own issues to contend with after evil versions of Kirk, McCoy, Scotty and Uhura attack the Enterprise. In the end, it takes both the good and bad Spocks to sort things out and get the right individuals to their respective ships. Even “evil Spock” is quite logical.
7. Pon Farr
Spock’s logical and taciturn nature take a backseat to his hormones in the episode “Amok Time”. The plot shows him in such a distressed and agitated state that it keeps the viewer riveted and unsettled.
The reason for the Vulcan’s violent mood swings is the phenomenon of Ponn Farr, a physiological condition causing a “blood fever.” Its purpose is to propel Vulcans to mate, and if the need goes unfulfilled, it can be fatal to the afflicted.
This leads Spock to violent outbursts to his Enterprise crewmates (“Let me alone!”) and a trip to Vulcan to see his beloved T’Ping. He learns that she has selected another potential suitor, resulting in koon-ut-kal-if-fee, a Vulcan custom where two suitors battle for their mate. In a strange turn of events, Spock is pitted against Captain Kirk, and Kirk appears to die in battle.
Once Spock’s condition subsides, he learns that Kirk has actually survived and he gleefully (and uncharacteristically) exclaims “Jim!” when the two reunite. Seeing Spock overjoyed is just as weird as seeing him lose his cool, as it turns out.
6. Giggles, Cries, Sings, and Dances
“Plato’s Stepchildren” is one of the most famous episodes of the original series, notable for its iconic and groundbreaking interracial kiss between William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols, which proved deeply controversial in the late ’60s.
The plot revolves around a group of aliens known as Platonians, who base their culture off ancient Greece. The aliens capture Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, and Nurse Chapel, using their telekinetic powers to force the crew into performing humiliating acts for their own amusement.
No one gets off easy, but seeing Spock’s torture is especially awkward. They make him run through the gamut of emotions, turning both himself and Kirk into court jesters. Witnessing our favorite Vulcan dance uncontrollably like a marionette around a motionless Captain Kirk is strange enough, but seeing him burst into laughter and sobbing afterwards? Unforgettable.
And we haven’t even gotten to Spock’s song “Maiden Wine” (also known as “Bitter Dregs”), a harp-laden ballad where he waxes poetic in Greek garb. And if he seems way into it, that’s because Nimoy wrote the song himself. Did we mention the actor put out several albums as well? Apparently, William Shatner wasn’t the only Star Trek actor with delusions of musical grandeur.
5. Mind Melds With a Whale
Our final entry from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home centers on the central plot-point: the crew go back in time to Earth to bring back two humpback whales to avert a global catastrophe in 2286 (where the species has gone extinct). Why whales? It involves a space probe that’s evaporating Earth’s oceans and–well, you just have to see it for it to make sense. But the whales are super-important to stop the threat.
So how do they get the seafaring mammals in the first place? By visiting a local aquarium, of course. Kirk flirts with biologist Gillian Taylor (Catherine Hicks) to gain info on the animals, only to register surprise when he sees Spock swimming in the whale tank and performing a mind-meld with one of the creatures.
Needless to say, Taylor (and the aquarium attendees) freak out, setting the plot further into motion, and drawing her into their master plan. It’s yet another example of the recently resurrected Spock having moments of childlike curiosity, and a lack of decorum not normally associated with the character.
4. Emo Spock
You can’t make a list about WTF Spock moments and not talk about “Naked Time”. This fan favorite Trek episode saw the Enterprise crew overtaken by a virus that makes them lose all inhibitions. While its most famous for a shirtless, grinning George Takei brandishing a sword as Lieutenant Sulu, it’s also a pivotal and revealing look into Spock’s Vulcan psychology, and his code of strict disciplinary conduct.
Vulcans thrive on their adherence to logic and suppressing their emotions, so seeing a staggering, sobbing, inconsolable Spock proved to be a moment of powerful resonance. It also shows that in Vulcan society, losing composure is terribly disquieting, and you can see Spock’s turmoil at the thought of losing control, with him futilely proclaiming, “I’m in control of my emotions” before breaking down completely. In the end, this revealing moment of frailty did wonders for the character in the eyes of the public, and he received a considerable uptick in fan mail from female Trekkies.
3. Survives Without a Brain
“Spock’s Brain” is often viewed as one of the worst (if not the worse) episode of the TOS. And while it may not be great, it’s certainly unforgettable. In it, Spock’s gray-matter is removed and abducted by aliens. Shockingly, the Vulcan is still alive. His life remains in danger, however, and Kirk, McCoy, etc have just 24 hours to save him.
With the help of a special medical device that looks like a pair of shrunken headphones, McCoy can remote control Spock’s body, and the group set out to discover how (and why) his brain was removed, and most importantly, how to get it back.
It gets weirder: it’s revealed that his brain is being used by an alien civilization to power a planetoid life-support system. Eventually, McCoy is able to re-implant Spock’s brain, thanks to the help of some advanced alien knowledge and some assistance from the Vulcan himself. Yes, Spock gives Bones advice during brain surgery. It’s definitely best to switch off your own brain to appreciate the charms of “Spock’s Brain.” It’s about as WTF as it gets.
2. Spock Meets Spock
There was some initial skepticism over J.J. Abram’s cinematic Star Trek reboot, but by most accounts, the 2009 film that relaunched the franchise was well-received. And one of the most talked about and positive aspects was Zachary Quinto’s portrayal of Spock; he managed to stay true to the essence of the character, while also adding new wrinkles to the personality.
His character was also responsible for the most WTF moment in the film, when he bumped into Leonard Nimoy, with a Spock on Spock moment that was as unexpected as it was delightful.
It’s the most pivotal plot point as well: it was Nimoy’s Spock, who, in trying to stop a deadly supernova created a singularity, one which which provided the alternate timeline for the new Star Trek universe, allowing it to exist in its own creative arc and separate it from classic Star Trek continuity. Yep: his goof changed the history of Gene Roddenberry’s creative universe forever. It’s also really confusing and will make your head hurt if you think about it too long. Seriously, we advise against it.
1. Death and Resurrection
The most shocking moment in Trek history was the death of Spock in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. And the second most shocking was his rebirth in the sequel, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.
It’s hard to say which part of that film is most WTF, except that both revolve around his resurrection. Let’s start with Dr. McCoy, who Spock (unbeknownst to the Doctor) infused with his “katra“, or his Vulcan spirit. This causes a change in his personality and makes him gravely ill, and influences Kirk and his teammates to venture towards Genesis, the planet that was established in Wrath of Khan.
They learn that the Genesis device that helped birth the planet has also brought Spock back to life as an infant. Another byproduct of the device causes him to age rapidly, while also making the planet unstable and doomed to self-destruct. The Enterprise crew manage to rescue Spock, destroy the Enterprise, save McCoy from certain death (that was kind of a dick move, Spock), and reunite Spock with his “katra.” Whew! It doesn’t get more WTF than that.
Well, that wraps up our list of most WTF Spock moments. Which one’s your favorite, and what other crazy Spock scenes would you add to the list? Tell us in the comments! And be sure to check out our list of most WTF Captain Kirk moments too! They’re a pretty odd duo.