Early in 1964, when former cop-turned-television-producer Gene Roddenberry was developing the Science Fiction/Western-in-space series concept that would become Star Trek, he had an idea for a highly intelligent alien character, possibly green or reddish, and with pointed ears. He asked Gary Lockwood, star of Roddenberry’s short-lived series The Lieutenant (and who would appear in the second Star Trek pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”) who should play the role. Lockwood suggested Leonard Nimoy, someone they had both worked with on The Lieutenant series. Although actors Michael Dunn (The Wild, Wild, West), and Deforest Kelley (who would go to play Dr. Leonard McCoy in Star Trek) was briefly considered for the role, but it appeared that Nimoy was always Roddenberry’s first and only choice for the role of Mr. Spock.

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And what a great choice it was. Nimoy defined the complex character of the half-Vulcan, half-human Science Officer of the Starship Enterprise, compelled by his devotion to Vulcan logic yet struggling with human emotions, giving him such touches as the “Live Long and Prosper” hand gesture (drawn from his own Hebrew culture), the Spock nerve-pinch, and the Vulcan mind-meld. Initially a background character for the first episodes of the series, Spock was so popular that local television stations began asking the NBC network for “Spock-centric” episodes. This Spockmania, as it was called, provided the impetus for some of the best episodes the series ever produced and put Star Trek on the road to becoming the enduring franchise it is today.

10 “Dagger of the Mind”

Season 1, Episode 9

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On a routine supply run to Tanatalus V, a planet where the criminally insane are sent for “humane treatment” by renowned psychiatrist Dr. Tristan Adams (James Gregory), a man, boards the Enterprise demanding asylum. After subduing him with a Vulcan nerve pinch, Spock brings him to sickbay, where he reveals himself to be Dr. Adams’ assistant, Simon van Gelder. Adams claim that self-testing of an experimental treatment device known as a “neural neutralizer” is responsible for his assistant’s agitated state and sends Kirk down to the planet to investigate.

In sickbay, van Gelder warns Spock that Kirk and his landing crew are in danger. But when he tries to explain the dangers of the neural neutralizer, he convulses in pain, prompting Spock to mind-meld with van Gelder. Through his mind, Spock discovers that the device empties the mind of thoughts, leaving patients with an overwhelming sense of loneliness which Adams uses to control their minds. Spock assembles a security team to rescue Kirk and the crew. This episode marked the introduction of Spock’s mind-meld ability and, combined with the Vulcan neck pinch (introduced earlier in the season’s episode 5, “The Enemy Within”), clearly illustrates Spock’s formidable power.

9 “The Menagerie, Part One”

Season 1, Episode 11

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The only two-part episode of the original series, “The Menagerie” explored the earlier years of the U.S.S. Enterprise and Spock’s relationship with his former commanding officer Captain Christopher Pike (Jeffrey Hunter) by making extensive use of footage from the original Star Trek pilot, “The Cage” Roddenberry’s production team had been falling behind in delivering episodes of the show, so to catch up he decided to use the pilot footage and a framing story to create two episodes in the time it would take to produce one. The result provided a compelling backstory for both the U.S.S. Enterprise and Spock, which has resonated over the years and is the main plotline in Paramount Plus’s Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, where Ethan Peck as Spock and Anson Mount as Pike bring new insights into the characters.

In Part One, Spock convinces Kirk to travel to Starbase 11, claiming he’s received a message from Captain Pike who wishes to communicate with him. Paralyzed by a recent accident, Pike can only communicate with yes or no answers through a brainwave-controlled device, Revealing to Pike a plan he has made despite Pike’s repeated ‘no’ signals, Spock beams Pike up to the Enterprise, commandeers the ship, and sets it on a course for the planet Talos IV. When Kirk and Starbase 11 commander Mendez give chase in a shuttlecraft, he beams both officers aboard and turns himself in for mutiny, demanding an immediate court-martial hearing.

8 “The Menagerie, Part Two”

Season 1, Episode 12

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Part Two mainly centers on the story told in “The Cage” pilot, which Spock provides as video evidence at his court-martial hearing. 11 years earlier, the Enterprise under Pike’s command arrives at Talos IV, where Pike, Spock and crew beam down in response to a distress call from a ship presumed lost many years ago. They find a beautiful woman named Vina, the only survivor of the crashed ship, and the Talosians, an alien race that can create reality distortion fields, turning reality into illusion. A Talosian named the Keeper kidnaps Pike, putting him in a cage and subjecting him to numerous illusory “experiments” with Vina in hopes that the two will breed and create a race of slaves that can repair the damaged surface of their planet. Through Pike’s actions, they discover that humans’ hatred of captivity makes them unsuitable for the plan, which the Talosians must abandon. Knowing that this will mean the end of their species, they beam Pike, Spock, and the crew back to the ship. Although Vina and Pike have developed a relationship, her beautiful appearance is another illusion created by the Talosians after crash-related injuries left her disfigured. She elects to stay among them and live her illusion.

Back at the court-martial, the video transmissions end and the Talosian Keeper appears on-screen, explaining that the court-martial was a plan Spock created to buy time to get PIke back to Talos IV. The Talosians have offered to provide him the illusion of a normal life with Vina. After getting approval from Starfleet, Kirk allows the transfer of Pike to the planet. Both episodes highlight Spock’s loyalty, his willingness to break the rules to help people he cares about, and his sense of self-sacrifice, all of which would continue to be major themes for the character throughout the series and the movies, notably in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.

7 “The Galileo Seven”

Season 1, Episode 16

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Spock’s leadership abilities and relationships with his fellow crew members are tested under extreme circumstances when he leads a scientific team (including Dr. McCoy and Chief Engineer Scotty) aboard the shuttlecraft Galileo on an ill-fated mission. Sent to investigate a mysterious star cluster known as Muraski 312, the shuttle is soon pulled off course. Spock makes an emergency landing on Taurus II, a dark planet in the center of the Muraski cluster. Two crew members scout the area and discover its inhabitants are a race of aggressive giants. After killing one of the crew members and sending the other racing back to the shuttle, the giants appear to be on the attack. Spock makes a rare miscalculation, deciding to try frightening the creatures away rather than killing them, which results in the other crew member’s death.

Spock’s mistake causes dissension among the ranks, fearing his Vulcan lack of emotion makes him incapable of having empathy for his crew. When Scotty finds a workaround to get the shuttle off the planet, Spock prepares them to leave, but his crew demands a proper burial for their fallen comrades. Logic suggests this is not a good idea, but Spock gives into their need to honor their friends. During the ceremony the giants attack, Spock is rescued from near-death and launches the shuttle in a hail-mary pass that gets them beamed back aboard the Enterprise before the Shuttle is destroyed. In this episode, Spock sees the consequences of a “logic-only” approach when leading emotional human crew members and becomes aware that a balance is needed to be an effective leader.

6 “This Side of Paradise”

Season 1, Episode 24

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This episode gives viewers a rare glimpse of Spock’s tender, romantic side.

The planet Omicron Ceti 3 has become bathed in Berthold rays, a kind of radiation that humans cannot survive for more than a week. Fear for the safety of a Federation colony living on the planet prompts Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and a landing crew to beam down and check in on them. They find the colonists alive and healthy thanks to a strange flower whose spores provide them with perfect health, protection from the radiation, and a sense of complete euphoria and joy.

An old flame of Spock’s, Leila Kalomi (Jill Ireland) is among the colonists and when exposed to the spores, he is able to show her the kind of love that he couldn’t when they met 8 years earlier on Earth. With the spores’ effects spreading through his crew and upending their ability to perform their duties and follow orders, Kirk finds a way to destroy the spores and restore order among his crew. When he does, of course, Spock’s romantic interlude comes to a bittersweet end. When Kirk asks about his experiences on the planet, he replies “I have little to say about it, except that for the first time in my life . . . I was happy”.

5 “The Devil in the Dark”

Season 1, Episode 25

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This episode showcases how Spock’s mind-meld ability allows him to break through communication barriers and establish empathetic connections with aliens and other species in a way that humans and other races might miss. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are sent to a mining colony that has requested help in finding and stopping a creature that has been killing mine workers and destroying mining equipment by secreting a corrosive substance.

They encounter a Horta, a creature with the appearance of molten rock, and phaser it, breaking off a piece of it before it burrows into a rock wall. An examination of it confirms that the secretion it uses to travel through rock is the same secretion that has killed the miners. They find the Horta inside a cave filled with thousands of silicon nodules. When the creature exhibits no aggression, Spock attempts a mind-meld which leads to an understanding that the silicon nodules are its eggs and that the Horla has been protecting them from destruction by the miners so that she can repopulate her dying species. This information allows Kirk and crew to show the miners how to live peacefully with the Horta and even engage them in digging tunnels for them. A very Star Trek message of co-existence and mutual understanding, exemplified by Spock.

4 “Amok Time”

Season 2, Episode 1

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Kicking off the second season of the series, this episode expands the Spock character by introducing his home planet Vulcan, and essential elements of their culture and mythology which will be revisited throughout the franchise, such as the mating ritual of pon farr. It also introduces the character of T’Pring, Spock’s betrothed, who becomes an important part of both the spin-off series Enterprise and Strange New Worlds.

Spock is exhibiting strange behavior onboard the enterprise as a result of biological urges related to pon farr. He explains the mating ritual to Kirk and tells him he needs to return to Vulcan and marry T’Pring, or he will die. Ignoring Starfleet orders, Kirk gets him to the church on time, only to find that T’Pring has found another love and no longer wishes to marry Spock. She invokes the Vulcan challenge of kal-if-fee in which Spock must battle a champion of her choosing. She chooses Kirk, and the two engage in a “fight to the death”. Widely considered to be one of the best episodes of the franchise, it also has the distinction of bringing the Vulcan salute, “Live Long and Prosper”, into the canon and pop culture.

3 “Journey to Babel”

Season 2, Episode 10

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The episode adds even more to the legend of Spock by bringing in his parents, Sarek (Mark Leonard) and Amanda (Jane Wyatt). Sarek represents Spock’s Vulcan side, and is cold and disapproving of Spock’s decision to ditch the Vulcan Science Academy to join Starfleet. Amanda represents Spock’s human side. Warm and caring, she hopes to heal the rift between father and son.

The Enterprise is escorting a tense group of Federation ambassadors to the planet Babel for a conference when one of them is assassinated. Sarek becomes the prime suspect and, under questioning, suffers a cardiovascular event, leading to him needing a blood transfusion from Spock. However, before the procedure can happen, Kirk is stabbed by one of the ambassadors, putting him out of commission and forcing Spock to take command of the Enterprise. Spock is torn between his duty as a Starfleet officer and helping to save his father’s life. Amanda begs him to put his father’s life first.

2 “The Enterprise Incident”

Season 3, Episode 2

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This episode explores Spock’s relationship with the Romulans, a mysterious race that shares a common ancestry with Vulcans but who are enemies of the Federation. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy engage in an elaborate ruse to gain access to a Romulan ship and steal a Romulan cloaking device, an instrument that allows any starship to fly undetected in space.

When Spock declares Kirk to be insane when they are confronted by a female Romulan commander, Kirk is hustled off to the brig. Impressed by and attracted to Spock, she tries to convince him that Starfleet humans have shown little regard for his abilities by not giving him command of his own ship, and that if he were to come to the Romulan side, he would be treated much better. Spock plays along, eventually being invited to dine with her in her quarters. As intimacy grows between them, Spock secretly uses his communicator to guide Kirk to the location of the cloaking device. The episode started a long connection between Spock and the Romulans, which would culminate with his appearance in a two-part episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called “Unification.”

1 “All Our Yesterdays”

Season 3, Episode 23

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In the penultimate episode of the original series, Leonard Nimoy gives perhaps his finest performance as Mr. Spock as he gradually succumbs to his emotional self. On the planet Sarpedion, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy encounter a time portal known as the Atavachron, When Kirk goes through the portal, Spock and McCoy follow and are transported back 5,000 years to Sarpedion’s ice age.

They are befriended by a beautiful woman named Zarabeth (Mariette Hartley). Spock increasingly begins to display uncharacteristic emotions, angered by McCoy and falling in love with Zarabeth. As it turns out, the trip back in time has caused him to revert to the ways of ancient Vulcans, who indulged in barbarism and were ruled by their emotions. Spock is forced to give up his relationship with Zarabeth when it’s discovered he will die if he doesn’t return to his own time. The beautiful relationship between Hartley and Nimoy tugs at the heartstrings, and hints at the depths of emotion Spock struggles with every day.

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