So to properly observe the passing of the unreplaceable Leonard Nimoy I rewatched both the original Star Trek the Motion Picture and Wrath of Khan this weekend.
The first one has a great scene in it when Spock joins the Enterprise after it has blown a gasket or something more warp drivey sounding. Spock has been trying to Transcendental Meditate his way out of his human half but hasn't succeeded. However he's still way vulcaned up and as the old Enterprise crew all excitedly welcome him back he doesn't acknowledge any of it, as though he's never met these people before.
There's a beautiful and heartbreaking line that Uhura says to him after all of their affection is met with stony silence "It's how we all feel."
Spock is hoping the implacable machine cloud VGer will teach him the depths of logic but instead it teaches him the limits, and he stays with his old crew at the end.
Then in Wrath of Khan our old Spock is back and I hardly have to even summarize what happens in that movie.
The thing that is still surprising to me about Wrath of Khan is how good it is. Almost the whole first half is just scenes of people talking and I'm engaged in all of them. It's a movie full of real, well written grown ups. It's hard to imagine a summer science fiction movie being made today with same sophistication and grace.
Granted, a huge advantage it has is the fact that it's characters were by that time cultural icons that needed little introduction, so the screenplay can just get right to working out how these well known people might age, and how their concerns might grow or change with age.
But still, it plays all of those notes plausibly and often beautifully.
It also gets the feel of the Genesis Project scientific team right, it gets the tension and necessary cooperation between government funded science and the military right in a mature way, and it makes a past romantic relationship that none of us even knew about beforehand feel obvious and lived in.
Even it's literary allusions in conflict work, something I never picked up on when I was younger.
The screenplay is Tale of Two Cities vs. Moby Dick... a contest to decide what is the source of more strength, the embrace of ego or the surrender of it.
(Khan quotes from Moby Dick a couple of times, and his story is modeled on Ahab. He even has his Starbuck in that kid who keeps urging him to just take Genesis and accept his victory. But Khan can't accept mere tactical and strategic victory, he must also have the victory of his will.
The book that Spock gives Kirk for his birthday is Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, which he reads from through the film, and closes the movie with a quote from: "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."
These two literary allusions circle each other through the movie like the Reliant and the Enterprise, testing each other.)
In Moby Dick Ahab is a spear of ego and the whale he is pointed at drowns him. In Tale of Two Cities Sydney Carton utterly surrenders his ego to switch places with Charles Darnay, who he resembles, and be executed in his place for the sake of Darnay's family, people he loves.
Surrender is the greater source of strength.
Kirk says of the closing lines from Tale of Two Cities that it was something Spock was trying to teach him on his birthday. That's the line that always chokes me up a little.
In the first movie Spock learned that his selfish pursuit of purity was a dead end and greater strength was to be found in surrendering to the needs of those around him. And that's what he, and the screenplay itself, teaches Kirk and us by the end of Wrath of Khan.
I think most people look at the run of Star Trek movies II, III and IV as a kind of thematic trilogy, but I really prefer just I and II as a complete, two book novel about Spock learning and then teaching surrender. The way getting older teaches surrender.
These are way better movies together than they mostly get credit for.