Romantic Moment of the Week: Spock and Uhura – “What Do You Need?
THE MOVIE: Star Trek (2009)
THE PAIRING: Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana)
THE MOMENT: Uhura comforts Spock after a tragedy
Most people are familiar with this classic, influential science fiction TV show which featured the adventures of Captain Kirk and his crew as they traveled the universe in the Starship Enterprise. The 2009 film adaptation of the show featured new actors in the iconic roles with some truly inspired casting. This and the new adventure, with some delightful surprises, inject a freshness to this modern mythology which delighted old and new fans.
This is one of my favourite Star Trek movies. The relationship between Spock and Uhura and their interactions were a big part of my enjoyment. Zoe Saldana and Zachary Quinto do marvelous jobs in their respective roles, and they have wonderful chemistry. In particular, Quinto is astonishingly good in his portrayal, hinting at the strong emotions of a character whose main philosophy is not to disclose them.
As the film opens, Commander Spock and Cadet Uhura are secretly in a relationship. Spock is particularly concerned that there are no complaints about favouritism since he is Uhura’s superior.
I don’t know how I managed to avoid this spoiler, but I knew nothing about them being together when I first went to see the film. Nothing! And for want of a better word… I freaked out in astonishment and delight when this scene took place. I was shocked and enraptured at the same time.
THE LEAD IN
In this adventure, the crew faces one of their greatest threats. In an act of revenge, a villain named Nero sets off several cataclysmic events which start the process of destroying the planet Vulcan.
Spock, who is in command of the ship at the time, beams down to the doomed planet to rescue some of the revered elders including his mother, Amanda. As the planet collapses around them, they are about to be beamed to safety. The ground gives way under Amanda, and she falls to her death before Spock’s eyes. He is beamed back onto the Enterprise, and the planet Vulcan is annihilated taking millions of Vulcans with it as well.
As a Vulcan, of course, Spock adheres to the philosophy of controlling emotions and not revealing how he feels, always maintaining calm. Spock is half human and has often been scrutinized by other Vulcans who think he is inferior to them because of his human heritage. Spock, therefore, feels particular that he must maintain his Vulcan reserve. As this romantic moment develops, he has experienced one of the most devastating moments in his life. He has lost his home planet and witnessed the death of millions of Vulcans including his mother who he loved almost more than anyone else.
He returns to the bridge where he updates the Captain’s Log. As he ends his reflections, he says, “While the essence of our culture has been saved in the elders who now reside upon this ship, I estimate no more than 10,000 have survived. I am now a member of an endangered species.” His voice is steady, embodying Vulcan calm, but we all know he is hurting. We the audience knows that deep inside Spock is passionately emotional. The minuscule pauses in his speech also suggest his inner turmoil.
Abruptly as if he cannot bear it any longer, he gets up and heads toward the lift to leave the bridge.
As he gets up, the camera shows Uhura sitting away to one side of his chair. Clearly, she’s been watching him with deep concern as he makes his log recording. As he heads for the lift, she follows him in and the door closes behind them.
THE ROMANTIC MOMENT
Spock’s expression is forbidding and cold as he looks at Uhura, but she is not someone who is easily intimidated. She knows him well and suspects his pain. She presses the lift button to stop it from moving, looking up into his face all the time. She’s studying his expression, something she probably has to do a lot to try to read such a stoic person.
While Spock is expressionless, Uhura is deeply moved and anxious to give him some comfort. “I’m sorry,’ she whispers over and over, as she kisses his lips then his cheek and then hugs him. (Probably standing on her toes to do so as he’s so much taller. I love their height difference!) Clearly, she hopes that her loving touch might bring him comfort.
We see Spock over her shoulder and for the first time, he betrays his hurt, burying his face momentarily in her shoulder, one hand is visible claw-like on her back. Alone with her and eaten inside with grief, he cannot hold himself back entirely.
Her embrace is strong and ardent. “What do you need?” she murmurs. “Tell me.” She pulls away though she still holds his head in her hands. “Tell me.”
Spock looks at her and then presses the button to unlock the lift. It begins moving again. Uhura never takes her eyes off his face.
“I need everyone to continue performing admirably,” he says. With a character like Spock, we need to be observant of every detail as Uhura is. Spock’s voice lacks his usual firmness. That and the pauses between his words, illustrates the feelings he is trying not to reveal.
She searches for words. Realizing that there is nothing further she can do for him, she nods, on the verge of tears. “Ok,” she says.
She kisses him again, and from this angle, we can see that he is kissing her back. He is not just tolerating her affection as one might expect but reciprocating, but now the lift is slowing to a halt and his gaze moves away from her. He’s retreating from her emotionally again.
The moment it stops, he immediately walks away without looking back, a lonely figure, leaving Uhura looking after him.
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Unlike most of my favourite romantic moments, this is a scene of deep sadness – not joy. It’s not only because of the terrible tragedy that occurred. While his reserve has many advantages for Spock, it can also isolate him from others – even from the woman he loves. So much is going on under the surface during this short moment when so little is said; it’s oddly one of the most emotional and powerful moments in the movie.
What did everyone think of this scene? Were you as astonished at this Spock/Uhura relationship as I was? I’d love to hear the thoughts of Star Trek fans as well.
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