Personal Statement Character Count With Spaceship

This is a list of spacecraft found in the Culture novels and short stories by Iain M. Banks. Most ships in this list are members of The Culture, the hybrid society featured in many of these novels. In this setting, each Culture ship, and some others, is also an artificial intelligence with a distinctive personality. Many of these ships are significant characters in the novels.[1][2]


The machine intelligences called Minds (and, as a consequence, the Culture starships that they inhabit) usually bear names that do a little more than just identify them. The Minds choose their own names, and thus they usually express something about a particular Mind's attitude, character or aims in their personal life. Warship names are similar in retaining the whimsical nature, though the humour tends to be more cynical and threatening.

The classification of the ship types sometimes implies a degree of cultural embarrassment of the power they can potentially wield, for example their renaming of Demilitarised Rapid Offensive Units ((D)ROUs) as "Very Fast Pickets", whether or not they are actually "Demilitarised", while later the term "picket ship" is used to describe an Abominator-class General Offensive Unit, one of the most powerful front-line warship classes ever built by the Culture. "General Systems Vehicles" as a designation does not highlight the true potency of these craft, which could be hundreds of kilometres long.

Banks composed many of the Culture ships' names very carefully to express the attitude of the ship's Mind, and a few names contain puns where both meanings are appropriate to the ship's attitude. A few of the ship names, like variations on "gravitas", are also installments in running gags.

Some ships' names hint at their purpose, but in a way that is not clear until near the end of the book. For example, the Sleeper Service is a sleeper agent whose cover is a suspended animation"sleeper service", and the Grey Area indulges in the (from the Culture's perspective) moral grey-area of reading the brains ("grey matter") of organic entities to root out historical genocidal acts.

Common ship types[edit]

Common ship types in the Culture series include:

General Systems VehicleGSVMobile habitats and factory ships, largest and most capable Culture ship type. Build and host other ships, including smaller Systems Vehicles. May be home to billions of people. Some militarised and used as giant warships during the Idiran War. They are described in the books as holograms of the whole Culture, each one containing all the knowledge and productive capacity needed to reconstruct the civilization in case of catastrophe.
Medium Systems VehicleMSVSmaller versions of the above. Sometimes former GSVs downgraded as larger GSV classes were developed.
Limited Systems VehicleLSVSmaller versions of the above. Sometimes former GSVs or MSVs downgraded as larger GSV classes were developed.
General Contact VehicleGCVContact craft intermediate in size and function between Systems Vehicles and Contact Units. Capabilities include building other ships.
General Contact UnitGCUStandard Contact craft, used for exploration and for studying and interacting with other societies. Considerable combat capability, but less than dedicated warships.
Limited Contact UnitLCUSmaller, less capable versions of the above.
Rapid Offensive UnitROUDedicated fast warships.
General Offensive UnitGOUDedicated warships.
Limited Offensive UnitLOUDedicated warships, smaller and less capable than GOUs and ROUs
Demilitarised ROU(D)ROUROUs with main armament removed, used as courier ships.
Demilitarised GOU(D)GOUGOUs with main armament removed, used as courier ships.
Demilitarised LOU(D)LOULOUs with main armament removed, used as courier ships.
Very Fast PicketVFP[citation needed]Synonym for (D)ROU.
Fast PicketFP[citation needed]Synonym for (D)GOU or (D)LOU.
SuperlifterSL[citation needed]High-speed tugs, consisting largely of engine and used to accelerate or decelerate other ships. Some temporarily militarised as a stop-gap in the early stages of the Idiran War.



Ships mentioned in Consider Phlebas include:

CivilisationShip TypeNameClassComments
CultureGSVBora Horza GobuchulOcean, later RangeThe name chosen by the Mind at the centre of the events of the book, after its rescue and emplacement in a GSV.
CultureGSVDeterministSystemThe largest GSV class built by the Culture, composed of multiple separate hulls. Population 6 billion.
CultureGSVEschatologist (temporary name)OceanA comparatively small GSV class, designed for combat and military manufacturing.
CultureGSVIrregular Apocalypse
CultureGSVNo More Mr Nice Guy
CultureLSVProfit Margin
CultureGCUNervous EnergyMountain
CultureGCUProsthetic Conscience
CultureROUTrade SurplusKiller
Culture UlteriorGSVThe Ends Of InventionOfficially discharged from Culture service, with its Mind/s removed, and employed as a neutral vessel to evacuate Vavatch Orbital.
IdiranLight CruiserThe Hand of God 137
Non-aligned (Ex-Hronish)Armoured assaultClear Air Turbulence or "CAT" for shortA pirate ship, and one of the main settings of the book. Named by the author after the rock album Clear Air Turbulence by the Ian Gillan Band, the cover of which shows a yellow-striped spacecraft painted by the sci-fi artist Chris Foss.[3] The Clear Air Turbulence in the book is also described as having yellow stripes on its hull.
Non-alignedControl SurfaceThird ship of Ghalssel's Raiders, commanded by Jandraligeli, a former member of Kraiklyn's Free Company. This ship is mentioned only in the book's appendices.

The Player of Games[edit]

Ships mentioned in The Player of Games include:[4]

CivilisationShip TypeNameClassComments
CultureGSVCargo Cult
CultureGSVLittle RascalPlateFocused on 'throughput' (ship construction and crewing), rather than accommodation. Population 250 million. Plate class hull dimensions 53 x 22 x 4 km.
CultureGSVSo Much For SubtletyRange
CultureGSVUnfortunate Conflict Of Evidence
CultureGSVYouthful Indiscretion
CultureGCUFlexible Demeanour
CultureGCUJust Read The InstructionsElon Musk named two SpaceX autonomous spaceport drone ships after these ships.
CultureGCUOf Course I Still Love You
Culture(D)GOULimiting FactorMurdererJernau Morat Gurgeh's ship to Empire of Azad. Nominally demilitarised, but actually retains part of its main armament.
CultureLOUGunboat DiplomatAn allusion to the concept of gunboat diplomacy.
CultureSuperlifterKiss My AssRiver
CultureSuperlifterPrime MoverAn allusion to the Aristotelian philosophical concept of the prime mover, in humorous reference to the function of a Superlifter.
CultureClipperScrew Loose
AzadianBattlecruiserInvincibleFlagship of the Empire of Azad.

The State of the Art[edit]

Most of the Culture ship names in this collection come from the titles of the chapters in the titular novella. The narrator explains that it has used the names of ships produced by a manufactory of the Yinang Orbitals of the Dahass-Khree, birthplace of the Arbitrary and known for ships that are "a bit crazy."[5]

Ships mentioned in The State of the Art include:

CivilisationShip TypeNameClassComments
CultureGSVBad For Business
(middle series)
The only ship actually appearing in the book, and one of its main settings.
CultureGCUArrested Development*
CultureGCUA Series Of Unlikely Explanations
CultureGCUA Ship With A View*
CultureGCUBig Sexy Beast
CultureGCUCredibility Problem*
CultureGCUDramatic Exit*
CultureGCUExcuses And Accusations*
CultureGCUFunny, It Worked Last Time...
CultureGCUGod Told Me To Do It*
CultureGCUHalation Effect*
CultureGCUHappy Idiot Talk *
CultureGCUHelpless In The Face Of Your Beauty*
CultureGCUI Thought He Was With You
CultureGCUIt'll Be Over By Christmas
CultureGCUJust Another Victim Of The Ambient Morality*
CultureGCUMinority Report*
CultureGCUNever Talk To Strangers
CultureGCUNot Wanted On Voyage*
CultureGCUOnly Slightly Bent
CultureGCUSacrificial Victim*
CultureGCUSpace Monster
CultureGCUStranger Here Myself*
CultureGCUSynchronize Your Dogmas*
CultureGCUThank You And Goodnight*
CultureGCUThe Precise Nature Of The Catastrophe*
CultureGCUUltimate Ship The Second
CultureGCUUndesirable Alien*
CultureGCUUnwitting Accomplice*
CultureGCUWell I Was In The Neighbourhood*
CultureGCUYou'll Thank Me Later*
CultureGCUYou Would If You Really Loved Me*

*Names mentioned in the chapter names of the title novella only. All of them belong to ships produced by the Infracaninophile manufactury in Yinang Orbital.

Use of Weapons[edit]

Ships mentioned in Use of Weapons include:

CivilisationShip TypeNameClassComments
CultureGSVCongenital Optimist
CultureGSVSize Isn't EverythingLength of over 80 kilometers. Parent ship of the Sweet and Full of Grace.
CultureGSVWhat Are The Civilian Applications?ContinentLimited edition Prompt subclass. Can outrun a Very Fast Picket.
CultureGCUJust Testing
CultureGCUSweet and Full of GraceChild ship of the Size Isn't Everything. Unusual insofar as being the only Culture ship mentioned in the series to not have its name in start case.
CultureGCUVery Little Gravitas IndeedPart of the "... Gravitas ..." running gag.[6]


Ships mentioned in Excession include:

CivilisationShip TypeNameClassComments
CultureGSVAnticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, ThePlate
CultureGSVDeath And GravityIts name is a play on the adage that only death and taxes are inevitable; "taxes" are replaced with gravity, since the Culture doesn't have taxes (or money).
CultureGSVEthics GradientRangeParent ship of the Fate Amenable To Change.
CultureGSVHonest MistakeParent ship of the Grey Area.
CultureGSVLimivorousOcean"of or relating to animals, usually worms or bivalves, that ingest earth or mud to extract the organic matter from it." Unflattering view of non-mind entities if this is how it sees its relationship with the ship's organic complement.
CultureGSVUninvited Guest
CultureGSVUse Psychology
CultureGSVWhat Is The Answer And Why?
CultureGSVWisdom Like SilenceContinentControlled by three Minds.
CultureGSVYawning AngelRangeTop speed 146,000 x light-speed.
CultureGSVZero GravitasPart of the "... Gravitas ..." running gag.[6]
CultureMSVNot Invented HereDesertThe Desert class was originally a GSV class that was demoted to MSV as Culture ship sizes grew. The Not Invented Here is usually termed an MSV, but is also referred to as an actual GSV twice (Genar-Hofoen is told that the NIH was a GSV by Tishlin, and he subsequently refers to it as a GSV even after knowing that it is now an MSV), while towards the end of the book it is referred to as an LSV by the Sleeper Service and in authorial narration. Accounts of its history are also contradictory: at one point, characters indicate that the NIH is generally believed (even within Special Circumstances) to have been destroyed five centuries earlier; at another, the narration states that it has always remained an apparently normal part of the Culture, with a very well-documented past.
CultureLSVMisophista Sophist is "a person who reasons with clever but false arguments." A Misophist is presumably simple and true.
CultureLSVSerious Callers OnlyTundra
CultureGCVSteely GlintPlainsParent ship of the Attitude Adjuster.
CultureGCUDifferent TanMountain
CultureGCUFate Amenable To ChangeEscarpmentChild ship of the Ethics Gradient.
CultureGCUGrey Area (aka Meatfucker)Ostracised for non-consensual mindreading of biological individuals, earning it the condemnation of other ships, who then ignored its chosen name in favor of Meatfucker. Child ship of the Honest Mistake. Also mentioned in Look to Windward.
CultureGCUIt's Character Forming
CultureGCUJaundiced OutlookRidgeChild ship of the Sleeper Service.
CultureGCUProblem ChildTroubadourEarly (vs Excession-contemporary) GCU, historical mention. Nominally captained by Zreyn Tramow.
CultureGCUReasonable Excuse
CultureGCURecent Convert
CultureGCUTactical GraceEscarpment
CultureGCUUnacceptable BehaviourChild ship of the Quietly Confident (Sleeper Service).
CultureLOUAttitude AdjusterKillerNominally demilitarised, but in fact a fully armed warship. Child ship of the Steely Glint. Class possibly downgraded from ROU (designated as such in Consider Phlebas, set five centuries earlier).
CultureROUHeavy MessingGangsterAn allusion to a term from Glaswegian, or from Ned-ese. Generally if one is said to be "heavy messing" they are considered by an aggrieved party to be interfering or aggravating a situation in which they have little to no stake in.
CultureROUKilling TimeTorturerA pun on a saying that 99% of war is just killing time, while the rest is the killing time.
CultureROUFrank Exchange Of ViewsPsychopathNominally demilitarised, but in fact a fully armed warship.
CultureOUT3OU 4Type ThreeNon-standard design, based on Inquisitor-class prototype. Child ships of the Sleeper Service. Controlled by semi-slaved AIs rather than independent Minds.
CultureOUT3OU 118Type Three
CultureOUT3OU 736Type Three
CultureSuperlifterCharitable ViewCliffTop sprint speed 221,000 x light-speed (faster than contemporary ROUs).
CultureCruise ShipJust Passing Through
CultureI Blame My Mother
CultureI Blame Your Mother
Culture ConvertcraftMain Battle UnitFull Refund (formerly MBU 604)EmpireFormer Homomdan MBU, now Culture Convertcraft
Culture EccentricGSVQuietly Confident,
later Sleeper Service
PlateActs as a storage ship for biological persons in stasis. The name Sleeper Service is a pun on sleeping car (transport) and sleeper agent (espionage). It also secretly converts itself to be "mostly engine" so it can move unexpectedly quickly - a parallel to sleeper cars (racing). Standard Plate class top cruising speed is 104,000 x light-speed, increased by these modifications to 233,500. Originally controlled by three Minds, two of which were removed when the other became Eccentric. Parent ship of the Unacceptable Behaviour, Jaundiced Outlook, T3OU 4, T3OU 118 and T3OU 736.
Culture SabbaticalerGSVNo Fixed AbodeEx-EquatorNo fixed abode is a legal term for someone without a fixed address, such as a homeless person. Its name is an observation on itself as a moving starship inherently has no fixed abode.
Culture UlteriorHighpointPossibly not a ship (described only as an "Ulterior Entity").
Culture Ulterior (AhForgetIt Tendency), EccentricShoot Them Later
Culture Ulterior (Zetetic Elench)Explorer ShipAppeal To ReasonPart of the Stargazer Clan.
Culture Ulterior (Zetetic Elench)Explorer ShipBreak Even
Culture Ulterior (Zetetic Elench)Explorer ShipLong View
Culture Ulterior (Zetetic Elench)Explorer ShipPeace Makes Plenty
Culture Ulterior (Zetetic Elench)Explorer ShipSober Counsel
Culture Ulterior (Zetetic Elench)Explorer ShipWithin Reason
AffrontLight CruiserFurious PurposeMeteorite
AffrontKiss The Blade
AffrontSacSlicer II

Look to Windward[edit]

Most of the Culture ship names in Look to Windward are only mentioned in a humorous conversation about ship names in Chapter 11, Absence of Gravitas, and do not represent characters in the novel.

Ships mentioned in Look to Windward include:

CivilisationShip TypeNameClassComments
CultureGSVExperiencing A Significant Gravitas ShortfallEquatorPart of the "... Gravitas ..." running gag.[6] A GCU of the same name is mentioned in Matter. SpaceX's third drone ship is named A Shortfall of Gravitas, in reference to this ship.
CultureGSVLasting DamageA GSV built for combat on the eve of the Idiran-Culture War. After it was destroyed in battle, a recorded copy of its mind-state was embodied in a new Mind and incorporated into another GSV of the same class. Its original Mind was later found to have survived the ship's destruction, and was also incorporated into a new combat GSV.
CultureGSVLasting Damage IThe second ship incorporating the original Lasting Damage Mind, which had been assumed destroyed but eventually returned. This second ship was later itself destroyed, but its Mind again survived, and merged with the recorded mind-state of the Lasting Damage II, which was also destroyed, including its Mind, in the same battle. It became the Hub Mind of Masaq'Orbital.
CultureGSVLasting Damage IIThe ship incorporating the backup copy Mind of the Lasting Damage.
CultureGSVSanctioned Parts List
CultureGCUGrey Area (aka Meatfucker)Featured in Excession; mentioned here only as an illustration of the Culture's disapproval of machines reading the minds of biological individuals, an activity which led other Minds to disregard its chosen name in favour of the name Meatfucker.
CultureROUNuisance ValueTorturer
CultureVFP/(D)ROUResistance Is Character-FormingGangster
CultureSomeone Else's Problem
CultureLacking That Small Match Temperament
CultureGCUPoke It With A Stick
CultureOUI Said, I've Got A Big StickThe small print (spoken softly) is an allusion to the saying "Speak softly and carry a big stick."
CultureHand Me The Gun And Ask Me Again
CultureBut Who's Counting?LOU Me, I'm Counting provides the answer.
CultureGermane Riposte
CultureWe Haven't Met But You're A Great Fan Of Mine
CultureAll The Same, I Saw It First
CultureRavished By The Sheer Implausibility Of That Last Statement
CultureZero Credibility
CultureCharming But Irrational
CultureDemented But Determined
CultureYou May Not Be The Coolest Person Here
CultureLucid Nonsense
CultureAwkward Customer
CultureThorough But... Unreliable
CultureAdvanced Case Of Chronic Patheticism
CultureAnother Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory
CultureConventional Wisdom
CultureIn One EarPart of the expression "in one ear and out the other".
CultureFine Till You Came Along
CultureI Blame The Parents
CultureInappropriate Response
CultureA Momentary Lapse Of Sanity
CultureLapsed Pacifist
CultureReformed Nice Guy
CulturePride Comes Before A Fall
CultureInjury TimeA play on the sporting term "injury time" (i.e. time added on at the end of a match to make up for stoppages required to deal with injuries to players) and a notional appropriate time to inflict an injury (see also Killing Time).
CultureNow Look What You've Made Me Do
CultureKiss This Then
ChelgrianPrivateerWinter Storm
ChelgrianTemple shipPiety
ChelgrianTemple shipSoulhaven

Names mentioned in a humorous conversation about various Culture ships in Chapter 11 of the novel.[7]


Ships mentioned in Matter include:

CivilisationShip TypeNameClassComments
CultureGSVSeed DrillOcean
CultureMSVDon't Try This At HomeSteppe
CultureGCVSubtle Shift In EmphasisPlains
CultureGCUExperiencing A Significant Gravitas ShortfallPart of the "... Gravitas ..." running gag.[6] A GSV of the same name is mentioned in Look to Windward. SpaceX's third drone ship is named A Shortfall of Gravitas, in reference to this ship.
CultureGCUIt's My Party And I'll Sing If I Want ToEscarpmentAllusion to the song It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to.
CultureGCULightly Seared On The Reality Grill
CultureGCUPure Big Mad Boat ManAn inside joke based upon the language of Ned (Scottish) culture. It would be read/heard as "a pure big, mad boat, man" roughly meaning "a very large and deadly serious boat my good man".
CultureGCUTransient Atmospheric PhenomenonTransient Atmospheric Phenomenon has been suggested as an alternative name for a UFO
CultureGCUYou Naughty Monsters
CultureFP/(D)GOUEight Rounds RapidDelinquent
CultureVFP/(D)ROUYou'll Clean That Up Before You LeaveGangster
CultureNow We Try It My WayErraticAn ancient ship, originally an Interstellar-class ship of the now-obsolete General Transport Craft type.
Culture UlteriorSuperlifter (ex-GCU), militarisedLiveware ProblemStream (modified Delta-class GCU)Militarised during the Idiran War and nominally absconded after the conflict, probably for the purpose of acting as a deniable Special Circumstances operative. The phrase is a joke among computer engineers, suggesting that the problem lies with the user.[8]
MorthanveldCat.3 SlimHull“Now, Turning to Reason, & its Just Sweetness”The book's appendix capitalises the first letter of 'its', contrary to the two times the ship is named in the text.
MorthanveldCat.4 CleaveHull“On First Seeing Jhiriit”This ship is not mentioned in the story itself, only in the book's appendix.
MorthanveldCat.5 SwellHull“Fasilyce, Upon Waking”
MorthanveldGreat ShipInspiral, Coalescence, RingdownComparable to a GSV; the name refers to stages in the merger of two black holes.
NarisceneStar CruiserHence the FortressComet
NarisceneHundredth Idiot, TheWhite DwarfName derived from a Nariscene proverb.

Surface Detail[edit]

Ships mentioned in Surface Detail include:

CivilisationShip TypeNameClassComments
CultureGSVDressed Up To Party
CultureGSVSense Amid Madness, Wit Amidst FollyPlate
CultureGSVTotal Internal ReflectionOne of the "Forgotten"/"Oubliettionaries": Systems Vehicles remaining indefinitely in secretive isolation, tasked with recreating the Culture in the event of its destruction.
CultureGCUArmchair TravellerMountain
CultureGCUBodhisattva, OAQSEscarpmentPart of Contact's Quietudinal Service (Quietus). Quietus ships added letters OAQS - On Active Quietudinal Service - to their names while they were so employed.
CultureGOU/PSFalling Outside The Normal Moral ConstraintsAbominatorClass publicly categorised as Picket Ship, to give the impression that they are equivalent in function to FPs and VFPs; in fact these are state-of-the-art warships, the most powerful to appear in the series.
CultureFP/(D)GOUNo One Knows What The Dead ThinkFormerly known as the GOU Obliterating Angel.
CultureFP/(D)LOUHylozoistKillerClass possibly downgraded from ROU (designated as such in Consider Phlebas, set fifteen centuries earlier). Name alludes to Hylozoism.
CultureFP/(D)ROUThe Usual But Etymologically UnsatisfactoryPsychopathClass possibly downgraded from VFP (designated as such in Excession, set ten centuries earlier, and in The Hydrogen Sonata, set five centuries earlier).
CultureBeastly To The Animals
CultureFixed Grin
CultureHidden IncomeType not mentioned in novel, but possibly General Transport Craft (see Matter).[why?]
CultureScar Glamour
Culture EccentricLabtebricolephileThis name appears to be derived from a misspelling of 'latebricole' (the misspelling in question likely originating from Stephen Chrisomalis's website "The Phrontistery"), which is an adjective meaning "living concealed in a hole".
Culture Ulterior, EccentricFP/(D)LOUMe, I'm CountingHooliganAnother ship in the Culture is called But Who's Counting?.
GFCFContact CraftMessenger Of TruthSuccour
GFCFMinor Destructor VesselFractious Person
GFCFMinor Destructor VesselRubric Of Ruin
GFCFAbundance Of OnslaughtDeepest RegretsDeepest Regrets-class ships are capital ships and the pride of the GFCF fleet.
GFCFVision Of Hope SurpassedDeepest Regrets
GFCFGOUJoiler Veppers (provisional name)Murderer (modified)Based on the Culture's obsolete Murderer-class GOU, with upgraded speed and modified weaponry, built by the GFCF as a bribe for the Sichultian plutocrat Joiler Veppers.
JhlupianHeavy CruiserUcalegonUcalegon means "a neighbor whose house is on fire". Ucalegon is also the name of a non-sentient Culture barge on Masaq' Orbital in Look to Windward.
Nauptre ReliquariaBismuth Category8401.00 Partial Photic Boundary

The Hydrogen Sonata[edit]

Ships mentioned in The Hydrogen Sonata include:

CivilisationShip TypeNameClassComments
CultureGSVA Fine Disregard For Awkward Facts
CultureGSVContents May DifferAtmosphere
CultureGSVEmpiricistSystemA big ship, even by the standards of System-class vessels, which are the largest built by the Culture (being composed of multiple separate hulls, ships of this class are easily expanded, leading to great variations in size). Controlled by seven Minds. Population over 13 billion.
CultureGSVJust The Washing Instruction Chip In Life's Rich Tapestry
CultureGSVKakistocratHome GSV of Mistake Not… "Kakistocrat" is Ancient Greek, meaning "worst ruler", a humorous inversion of "aristocrat".
CultureGSVTeething Problems
CultureGSVUnreliable WitnessParent ship of the Smile Tolerantly.
CultureMSVPassing By And Thought I'd Drop InDesert
CultureMSVPressure DropShelf
CultureLSVYou Call This Clean?Blue
CultureGCUDisplacement ActivityRiverClass name previously used for a Superlifter class in The Player of Games.
CultureGCUWarm, ConsideringDelta
CultureLCUAnything Legal ConsideredRidgeClass possibly downgraded from GCU (designated as such in Excession, set five centuries earlier).
CultureLCUBeats WorkingScreeThe smallest class of Contact Unit: 80m long, with a human crew of five.
CultureGOUQuestionable Ethics
CultureLOUCaconymTroublemakerAlthough categorised as LOUs, the Troublemaker class are referred to as "nominatively camouflaged", outclassing earlier GOUs. "Caconym" is Ancient Greek, meaning "bad name", probably in reference to the English idiom meaning "bad reputation".
CultureLOUNew Toy
CultureVFP/(D)LOURapid Random Response UnitTroublemaker
CultureROULearned Response
CultureVFP/(D)ROUOutstanding Contribution To The Historical ProcessPsychopath
CultureFP/(D)ROURefreshingly Unconcerned With The Vulgar Exigencies Of VeracityThugSome confusion as to type: described as a demilitarised ROU, but also as an FP, a designation otherwise applied to demilitarised GOUs and LOUs, whereas demilitarised ROUs are VFPs. Also referred to as an ROU class in Excession, but in that book the Thug-class-based Type Five OUs are lower in the fleet hierarchy than the Type Four, based on the Killer class, which is described in the same book as an LOU, implying that the Thug class should also be LOUs.
CultureFP/(D)ROUValue JudgementThugSee above.
Culture EccentricOU/eMistake Not…A one-off design of indeterminate classification, whose capabilities remain secret but which is a highly capable warship. It identifies itself as Ue, for Unit (eccentric/erratic); less coyly designated in the book's appendix as OU/e. Its full name, which is a private joke amongst other Culture Minds and almost never used, is the Mistake Not My Current State Of Joshing Gentle Peevishness For The Awesome And Terrible Majesty Of The Towering Seas Of Ire That Are Themselves The Mere Milquetoast Shallows Fringing My Vast Oceans Of Wrath.
Culture-Zihdren-Remnanter hybrid(ex-)GCUSmile TolerantlyFormerly an ancient GCU, has hybridised its Mind with the technology of another civilisation, the Zihdren-Remnanter, and describes itself as having "enhanced loyalties" (i.e. divided loyalties). Child ship of the Unreliable Witness.
GziltIR-HAS cruiser5*Gelish-OpluleIndefinite Range, High Acceleration/Speed
GziltIR-HVW battlecruiser7*UagrenIndefinite Range, High Velocity/Weapon-load
GziltIR-FWS battleship8*ChurkunIndefinite Range, Full Weapon Spectrum
IwenickSpace-Capable Inter-Element Transportation ComponentIberrePrivate yacht, named after the owner's father-mother.
IwenickStrategic Outreach ElementCH2OH.(CHOH)4.CHOThe chemical whose formulation is given in this name is galactose (here used as a pun on galaxy/galactic).
LiseidenCollective Purposes VesselAbalule-Sheliz
LiseidenCollective Purposes VesselGellemtyan-Asool-Anafawaya(First Class)Flagship
LiseidenCollective Purposes VesselLaskuil-Hliz
LiseidenCollective Purposes VesselQuiatrea-Anang
RonteMelancholia Enshrines All TriumphInterstitial/Exploratory
Zihdren-RemnanterAdjunct EntityOceanic Dissonance
Zihdren-RemnanterCeremonial Representative Carrying ShipExaltation-Parsimony III

Further ships[edit]

The following ships have not appeared in any books, however they were named by Iain M Banks in an interview with The Guardian.[6] These ships obtained their names as a result of another (unnamed) Involved civilisation criticizing Culture ship naming policy, claiming that such powerful ships ought to have names with a little more gravitas.

  • Stood Far Back When The Gravitas Was Handed Out
  • Gravitas, What Gravitas?
  • Gravitas... Gravitas... No, Don't Help Me, I'll Get It In A Moment...
  • Gravitas Free Zone
  • Low Gravitas Warning Signal
  • Absolutely No You-Know-What


The autonomous spaceport drone shipsJust Read the Instructions and Of Course I Still Love You, operated by SpaceX, were named after General Contact Units mentioned in The Player of Games, as a posthumous homage to Banks by Elon Musk.[9] The construction of a third drone ship, named A Shortfall of Gravitas, was announced by Elon Musk via Twitter on February 12, 2018.[10] It is named after the Experiencing A Significant Gravitas Shortfall, a ship mentioned in Look to Windward and Matter as a GSV and GCU respectively.

See also[edit]


  1. ^Excession reviewArchived 2011-05-20 at the Wayback Machine. (from a bookseller reviews page of the Waterstone’s bookstore chain, Orpington store. Accessed 2008-03-29.)
  2. ^"Iain Banks writes books about sex and drugs. Iain M Banks is a sci-fi nerd. Are they by any chance related?" - The Guardian, Tuesday 20 May 1997
  3. ^
  4. ^Iain M Banks. The Player of Games. 
  5. ^The State of the Art - Banks, Iain M., 1991
  6. ^ abcde"Iain M Banks Q&A". Guardian. 11 September 2000. Retrieved 2009-03-09. 
  7. ^Banks, Iain M. (2001). "11: Absence of Gravitas". Look to Windward. Great Britain: Orbit. pp. 241–243. ISBN 978-1-84149-059-5. 
  8. ^Liveware (from the '' website. Accessed 2008-06-18.)
  9. ^Speck, Emilee (June 25, 2015). "SpaceX resupply launch, barge landing attempt set for Sunday". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved June 26, 2015. 
  10. ^Kelly, Emre (February 12, 2018). "Elon Musk: New SpaceX drone ship, A Shortfall of Gravitas, coming to East Coast". Florida Today. Retrieved 12 February 2018. 

This article is about the Star Trek character. For the pediatrician, see Benjamin Spock. For other uses, see Spock (disambiguation).

Spock is a fictional character in the Star Trek media franchise. Spock was first portrayed by Leonard Nimoy in the original Star Trek series, and also appears in the animated Star Trek series, a two-part episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, eight of the Star Trek feature films, and numerous Star Trek novels, comics, and video games.[1][2] In addition, numerous actors portrayed the various stages of Spock's rapid growth, due to the effects of the Genesis Planet, in the 1984 Star Trek film Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. In the 2009 film Star Trek, Nimoy reprised his role with Zachary Quinto, who depicted a younger version of the character, existing within an alternate timeline. Both reprised their roles in the 2013 sequel Star Trek Into Darkness and Quinto reprised his role again in 2016's Star Trek Beyond.[2]

Spock serves aboard the starship Enterprise, as science officer and first officer, and later as commanding officer of two iterations of the vessel. Spock's mixed human-Vulcan heritage serves as an important plot element in many of the character's appearances. Along with Captain James T. Kirk and Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy, he is one of the three central characters in the original Star Trek series and its films. After retiring from Starfleet, Spock serves as a Federation ambassador, contributing toward the easing of the strained relationship between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. In his later years, he serves as Federation Ambassador-at-Large to the Romulan Star Empire and becomes involved in the ill-fated attempt to save Romulus from a supernova,[3] leading him to live out the rest of his life in the parallel timeline introduced in Star Trek (2009).



Spock's backstory has been explained during the course of several episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series, the 2009 film Star Trek and the episode "Yesteryear" of Star Trek: The Animated Series. Born to the VulcanSarek and the human Amanda Grayson, Spock has a troubled childhood due to his mixed heritage. On his homeworld, he was repeatedly bullied and tormented by full-blooded Vulcan children, who wished to incite the emotions of his human nature.[4][5] For a time, he grew up alongside his older half-brother Sybok, until the older brother was cast out for rejecting logic.[6] In the episode "Amok Time", it is revealed that Spock became betrothed to T'Pring (Arlene Martel) during his childhood.[7]

Sarek supported Spock's scientific learning and supporting his application to the Vulcan Science Academy, as mentioned in "Journey to Babel".[8] In the 2009 film Star Trek, Spock is seen rejecting his acceptance into the Vulcan Science Academy on the basis that they would never fully accept someone who was only half-Vulcan. Although this film set up the Kelvin timeline seen in this and later films, writer Roberto Orci stated that he felt that the actions were unaffected by the changes in this timeline and so would have occurred in the same manner prior to The Original Series.[4][5] Because Spock did not enter the VSA, and sought to join Starfleet instead, he did not speak to his father for the following 18 years.[8]

"The Cage" and the first season[edit]

Spock appeared as the science officer on the USS Enterprise in the first pilot for the series, "The Cage". This was not shown on television at the time, but the events of the episode were shown in the two-part episode "The Menagerie" of the first season, and Spock's previous 11 years of service on the Enterprise were described.[9] Spock was one of the members of the away team who joined Captain Christopher Pike (Jeffrey Hunter) on a mission to Talos IV in order to investigate a distress call.[10] Spock did appear in the second pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before", but this was broadcast initially as the third episode.[11] During the events of that pilot, Spock became concerned at the risk to the ship posed by Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell (Gary Lockwood) and suggested possible solutions to Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner).[12]

The earliest appearance of Spock in the series as broadcast was "The Man Trap", the first such episode. When he needs to knock out an evil version of Kirk in "The Enemy Within", he uses a Vulcan nerve pinch. Together with Chief Engineer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott (James Doohan) work together to rejoin the good and evil versions of the Captain, which had been split following a transporter accident.[14] During "Miri", he finds himself to be the only member of the landing party to be immune to the physical effects of the disease affecting human adults on the planet. However, he realises that he is probably a carrier and could infect the Enterprise if he were to return. Doctor Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) manages to devise a cure, allowing the team to return to the ship.[15]

When Simon van Gelder enters the bridge armed with a phaser in "Dagger of the Mind", Spock subdues him with a nerve pinch. He later conducts a mind meld with van Gelder as part of the investigation into the activities of the nearby colony. After the power to the colony is shut down, and a protective force field drops, Spock leads an away team to rescue Kirk.[16] Spock is reunited with Christopher Pike (Sean Kenney) in "The Menagerie". Pike had been promoted to Fleet Captain but suffered an accident, resulting in severe burns and confining him to a wheelchair and restricting his communication to yes/no answers via a device connected to his brainwaves. Spock commits mutiny and directs the ship to travel to Talos IV, a banned planet. He recounts the events of "The Cage" under a tribunal to Kirk, Pike and Commodore Jose I. Mendez (Malachi Throne). As the Enterprise arrives at the planet, Mendez is revealed to be a Talosian illusion. At the same time, the real Mendez communicates from Starfleet, giving permission for Pike to be transported to the planet, and all charges against Spock are dropped.[9]

While the Enterprise is under threat in "Balance of Terror", Spock is accused by Lieutenant Stiles (Paul Comi) of knowing more about the Romulans than he admits when the alien's similar physical appearance is revealed. Spock hypothesises that they are an offshoot of the Vulcan race. He saves the Enterprise, manning the phaser station and saves the life of Stiles in the process.[17] Spock leads a landing party on the shuttlecraft Galileo in "The Galileo Seven", which is damaged and pulled off course and lands on the planet Taurus II. Lieutenant Boma (Don Marshall) criticises Spock's fascination with the weaponry of the natives after the death of Lieutenant Latimer (Rees Vaughn) at their hands. After Scotty uses the power packs of the party's phasers to supply enough energy to get the damaged shuttle back into orbit, Spock decides to dump and ignite the remaining fuel to attract the attention of the Enterprise. The procedure is successful and the crew on the shuttle are rescued.[18]

Spock is reunited with Leila Kalomi (Jill Ireland) in "This Side of Paradise"; after joining an away team to the planet Omicron Ceti III. After being affected by planet spores, Spock begins showing emotion and re-initiates his romantic liaison with Kalomi. The impact of the spores on him is cured after Kirk goads him into anger, and once freed of the effects, Spock is able to initiate a solution which cures the rest of the crew.[19] Spock attempts to mind meld with a non-humanoid Horta in "The Devil in the Dark", having initially suggested that Kirk should kill the creature. Following a second mind meld, Spock relays the history of the Horta and is able to create peace between the aliens and a nearby colony.[20] Both Spock and Kirk undertake guerrilla warfare against the occupying Klingon forces on the planet Organia, prior to the establishment of the Organian Peace Treaty in "Errand of Mercy".[21] To restore the timeline, he travels with Kirk back to 1930's New York City in "The City on the Edge of Forever". He uses technology of that period to interface with his tricorder over the course of the weeks they spend in the period before witnessing Edith Keeler's (Joan Collins) death.[22]

Season two and three[edit]

In the premiere episode of the second season, "Amok Time", Spock begins to undergo pon farr, the Vulcan blood fever, and must undergo a ritual mating in the next eight days or die. Kirk disobeys Starfleet orders and takes the Enterprise to the planet Vulcan so that Spock can undergo the mating ritual. When they arrive, he is reunited with T'Pring (Arlene Martel). She rather wishes to be with Stonn (Lawrence Montaigne), a full-blooded Vulcan. She demands the ritual kal-if-fee fight instead, and selects Kirk as her champion, who unknowingly agrees to a fight to the death with Spock. McCoy persuades T'Pau (Celia Lovsky) to let him inject Kirk with something to alleviate the issues with Vulcan's thinner atmosphere and make the fight fair. The fight begins, and Spock gains the upper hand, garroting Kirk and killing him. McCoy orders an emergency transport directly to sickbay, while Spock is told by T'Pring that it was all a game of logic which would let her be with Stonn no matter the outcome. No longer feeling the effects of the pon farr, Spock returns to the Enterprise where he discovers that McCoy had injected Kirk with a paralyzing agent which merely simulated death and that the Captain was still alive.[7]

During the course of the encounter with the Nomadspace probe in "The Changeling", Spock undertakes a mind meld with the machine. Kirk stops the meld when he realises that Spock's personally starts to be changed by the contact.[23] Following a transporter accident which transports Kirk, McCoy, Uhura and Scotty to a Mirror Universe and swaps them with their counterparts in the episode "Mirror, Mirror", they encounter a different version of Spock. Sporting a beard, he grows suspicious of the activities of the suddenly changed personnel and under Starfleet orders, attempts to kill Kirk. Mirror-Spock is knocked unconscious, and is treated by McCoy while the others head to the transporter to attempt to return to their universe. Spock awakes and mind melds with McCoy to discover why Kirk did not have him killed. Discovering what took place, he agrees to help them return and as he mans the transporter controls, Kirk implores him to take control and save not only the ship but his Terran Empire from implosion at the hands of tyrants. The switch is once again successful, and the crew members return to their relevant universes.[24]

The Motion Picture and the film series[edit]

At the beginning of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), Spock is no longer in Starfleet, having resigned and returned home to pursue the Vulcan discipline of Kolinahr. Spock is unable to complete the Kolinahr ritual after he senses the coming of V'ger, and rejoins Starfleet to aid the Enterprise crew in their mission.[1] Spock, promoted to captain, is commanding officer of the Enterprise at the beginning of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982).[1] At the film's end, he transfers his "katra" – the sum of his memories and experience – to McCoy, and then sacrifices himself to save the ship and its crew from Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalbán).[1] The sequel, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), focuses on his crewmates' quest to recover Spock's body, learning upon arrival that he has been resurrected by the Genesis matrix after landing on the planet at the end of the previous film. At the film's conclusion, Spock's revived body is reunited with his katra.[1] Spock is next seen in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), which depicts his recovery from the after-effects of his resurrection. In the film's final scene, he joins the crew of the newly commissioned USS Enterprise-A under Kirk's command.[1] In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989), Spock and the Enterprise crew confront the renegade Sybok, Spock's half-brother.[1]Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) reunites the Enterprise crew on a mission to prevent war from erupting between the Federation and Klingon Empire. Spock serves as a special envoy to broker peace with the Klingons after a natural disaster devastates their homeworld.

Star Trek: The Next Generation[edit]

Spock appears in "Unification" (1991), a two-part episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Set 75 years after the events of The Undiscovered Country, the episode focuses on Federation Ambassador Spock's attempt to reunite the Romulans with their Vulcan brethren. Filming of The Undiscovered Country overlapped with production of this episode, and the episode references Spock's role in the film.

Reboot films[edit]

Main article: Star Trek (film)

Spock's next appearance in the live action Star Trek franchise is the 2009 Star Trek film. Nimoy was given approval rights over Spock's casting and supported Quinto's casting.[citation needed]

In the film's flashback (set 19 years after the events of "Unification", and as depicted in the comic miniseries Star Trek: Countdown[3]), Ambassador Spock (Nimoy) promises the Romulans he will use Vulcan technology to save them from a rogue supernova that threatens to destroy their Empire. He pilots an advanced starship equipped with red matter, a powerful substance able to create artificial black holes. The mission is only partially successful, and in the aftermath Spock is pursued into the past by Nero (Eric Bana), a Romulan driven mad by the loss of his homeworld and family, setting into motion the events of the film.

In the film's opening act, Nero's ship emerges in the year 2233, and through its interaction with the inhabitants, inadvertently creates an "alternate, parallel 'Star Trek' universe".[25][26] Twenty-five years later in the new reality, Spock's ship emerges, and Nero captures him and the red matter. Stranded in the alternate past, the prime version of Spock helps the alternate, younger version of himself and Kirk (Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine, respectively) thwart Nero's attempt to destroy the Federation.

The film also features Jacob Kogan in several scenes depicting Spock's childhood, including his abuse at the hands of other Vulcan children due to his half-Human heritage, and his relationship with his parents (Ben Cross and Winona Ryder). The film also depicts Kirk and Spock's initial clashes at Starfleet Academy, and the gradual development of their friendship based on shared mutual respect,[25] what the elder Spock calls "... a friendship that will define them both in ways they cannot yet realize."[27] A major change in characterization from the primary timeline is alternate Spock's involvement with alternate Uhura (Zoe Saldana), his former student. At the end of the film, the young Spock opts to remain in Starfleet while his older self stays in the altered universe to aid the few surviving Vulcan refugees, as Nero had destroyed Vulcan, Spock's home planet.

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)[edit]

Main article: Star Trek Into Darkness

In Star Trek Into Darkness, Spock Prime is described as living on 'New Vulcan' while the younger Spock remains aboard the Enterprise struggling with the loss of his homeworld, as well as his relationships with Uhura and James T. Kirk. Spock nearly dies protecting a planet from an active volcano, but Kirk breaks the Prime Directive and saves him. Spock Prime is contacted by Spock on the Enterprise, to find out details on Khan. Spock Prime initially reminds his alternate self that he will not interfere with the events in the alternate timeline. That being said, he then informs Spock that Khan was a dangerous man, and the greatest threat that the Enterprise ever faced in his own timeline, and warns that he is likely as dangerous in Spock's alternate timeline as well. When asked whether Khan was defeated, Spock Prime answers that he eventually was defeated, but at great cost (referring to the events of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan). When Kirk contracts radiation poisoning and dies in front of Spock (a transposed parallel of events in the prime timeline where Spock dies in front of Kirk), an enraged Spock attempts to kill Khan to avenge Kirk before Uhura informs him that Khan's regenerative blood can revive Kirk. Nearly a year later, Spock remains as Kirk's chief science officer and executive officer as the Enterprise departs on its first five-year mission of deep-space exploration.

Into Darkness would be Nimoy's final appearance as Spock Prime, as well as the last role of his career. He died in 2015, shortly before production began on Star Trek Beyond.

Star Trek Beyond (2016)[edit]

Main article: Star Trek Beyond

In Star Trek Beyond, Spock receives word that Ambassador Spock (Spock Prime) has died. Impacted by this, Spock later tells McCoy that he intends to leave Starfleet to continue the ambassador's work on New Vulcan. At the end of the film, Spock receives a box containing some of Ambassador Spock's personal effects, and reflecting on a photograph of the older crew of the Enterprise from the series' original timeline (c.Star Trek V: The Final Frontier)[citation needed] he chooses to remain in Starfleet.


Main article: Development of Spock

The Original Series[edit]

The earliest known mention of Spock was in a conversation between Star Trek's creator Gene Roddenberry and actor Gary Lockwood, in which Lockwood suggested Leonard Nimoy for the role. The trio had previously worked together on Roddenberry's The Lieutenant in the episode "In the Highest Tradition". Roddenberry agreed to the idea, but was required to audition other actors for the part. At the time, Roddenberry sought DeForest Kelley to play the doctor character in the pilot, "The Cage", but both NBC executives and director Robert Butler wanted him to play Spock. Roddenberry offered the part to both Kelley and Martin Landau, but they both turned him down. When offered, Nimoy accepted the part but was apprehensive about the make-up which had not been determined at that point.

The character evolved from having a metal plate in his stomach through which he ingested energy to being a half-Martian in the original 1964 pitch with a "slightly reddish complexion and semi-pointed ears". Due to Roddenberry's concern that a Mars landing might take place before the end of the series, Spock's home planet was changed. Lee Greenway conducted the initial makeup tests on Nimoy, but after four or five days, Fred Phillips was asked to take over. Phillips in turn asked John Chambers to create Spock's ears, as he was working on getting an appropriate shade of red for Spock's skin; this idea was later abandoned in favor of a yellow hue because of the effects on black and white television. Nimoy hated the ears, and Roddenberry promised him that if he was still unhappy by the 13th episode then they'd find a way to write them out. The NBC executives were also concerned, as they felt it made the character satanic.

At Roddenberry's insistence, Spock was the only character retained for the second pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before". However, NBC demanded that he was only a background character, and when it went to series, the tips of Spock's ears were airbrushed out on promotional materials. It was during early episodes such as "The Corbomite Maneuver" and "The Naked Time" that Nimoy came to understand the nature of the character.[40] After eight episodes, NBC executives complained to Roddenberry that there was not enough Spock in the series – "Spockmania" had begun. In response, Spock was moved to a more prominent role within the series, such as taking the lead role in "This Side of Paradise" over Sulu. The popularity of the character caused frictions with Shatner, and rumours spread that he was going to be dropped from the show and replaced as the lead by Nimoy as Spock. A drawn out contract renegotiation at the start of season two resulted in Roddenberry considering whether or not to replace Nimoy and the character. Both Mark Lenard and Lawrence Montaigne were seriously considered.

The character continued to develop, with Nimoy creating the Vulcan salute during the filming of "Amok Time". This was based on a JewishKohen he had seen as a child. During the course of the season, a rift grew between Nimoy and Roddenberry and by the end of the year, they only spoke through formal letters. After the departure of producer Gene L. Coon and the stepping back of Roddenberry during the third season, Nimoy found that the writing of Spock deteriorated. In particular, he did not like the character being made a fool of during the episode "Spock's Brain". The interracial kiss between Kirk and Uhura in "Plato's Stepchildren" had been intended by the writers to be between Spock and Uhura, but Shatner persuaded them to change it.

Phase II and the film franchise[edit]

Nimoy agreed to return to Spock during one of the early 1970s attempts to create a Star Trek film, entitled Star Trek: The God Thing, but dropped out after his likeness as Spock was used without permission to advertise Heineken beer. He was persuaded to return when production turned to the film Star Trek: Planet of the Titans as directed by Philip Kaufman.[52] However, this was dropped in favor of a new television series, Star Trek: Phase II. After being offered only a recurring part by Roddenberry, Nimoy refused to appear at all. When the work moved on again, to Star Trek: The Motion Picture, director Robert Wise persuaded Nimoy to return as the character. During the course of the production, Nimoy presented traits of method acting and would not break character.

Nimoy returned for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan with the promise of a dramatic death scene. Nimoy enjoyed the production of the film so much that he asked if the previously irrevocable death could be reversed. Nimoy did not know how this was going to happen until he saw the film.[58] To facilitate his return in the following film, Paramount executives agreed that Nimoy could direct it and following the success, he was asked to direct once more for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The call for Spock to betray Kirk and side with his half-brother Sybok in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was changed at Nimoy's insistence, as he felt the character had already come to terms with his human-side and Sybok would have no influence on him. Nimoy organised Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, appointing the director, writers and producers. To hand over to Star Trek: The Next Generation at the time of The Undiscovered Country, Nimoy agreed to appear as Spock in the episode "Unification". Nimoy subsequently turned down the directing role on Star Trek Generations as the role for Spock was limited; the character's lines were subsequently given to Chekov and Scotty.

When recasting the role for 2009's Star Trek, Nimoy was asked his opinion. He highlighted the work of Zachary Quinto, as he felt he looked similar and could sufficiently portray the inner thought process of the character.[58] Quinto became the first actor to be cast for the film,[66] and Nimoy agreed to return as the version of the character from the "Prime" universe.[67] Nimoy said that he returned because of the enthusiasm from director J.J. Abrams and the writers, and because it made him feel appreciated.[66] Nimoy made a final appearance as Spock in Star Trek Into Darkness as a favor to Abrams. At the time, he did not rule out returning again,[68] but he died prior to the following film.[69] In Star Trek Beyond, Quinto's Spock mourns the loss of Spock Prime, as played by Nimoy.[70]


"Given the choice", Nimoy said years after the show ended, "If I had to be someone else, I would be Spock."[71] He recalled, more than a decade after the show's cancellation:[72]

The "Star Trek" phenomenon continues to amaze and confound me. It was incredible, and it still is, although it is gentler now than it used to be. For a time, it was hysterical – it was so wild I had to be very careful where I went. If I went to a restaurant, I had to plan my entrances and my exits so I wouldn't be mobbed and hurt. Same thing in hotels and airports – any public place. It isn't that hysterical any more, but it is still a potent force.

From early on, the public reacted very positively—even fanatically—to his character, in what The Boston Globe in 1967 described as "Spockmania".[73]Headshots of Spock became popular souvenirs, with the rare ones of the actor laughing the most valuable.[74] Nimoy reported that "within two weeks after ["Amok Time"], my mail jumped from a few hundred letters to 10,000 a week".[75] When he appeared as Spock as grand marshal of a Medford, Oregon parade in April 1967, thousands gathered to receive autographs: "They surged forward so quickly that I was terrified someone would be crushed to death; and then they started pressing against the bandstand so hard it began to sway beneath my feet!" After being rescued by police "I made sure never to appear publicly again in Vulcan guise", Nimoy stated.[76][77]

Fans asked Nimoy questions about current events such as the Vietnam War and LSD as if he were the Vulcan scientist;[78] one even asked the actor to lay his hands on a friend's eyes to heal them.[79] When a biracial girl wrote asking for advice on how to deal with persecution as "a half-breed", Nimoy responded that young Vulcans had treated Spock similarly and that she should, as he did, "realize the difference between popularity and true greatness".[80] The actor believed that the character appealed to viewers, especially teenagers, because[75]

Spock understands the trauma of human existence, for he is not home with earthmen or Vulcan; he can function only in the fabricated and neatly ordered society of the Enterprise. There, he knows who he is; he relates to his role very specifically, and this gives him a kind of cool.

To Nimoy's surprise, Spock became a sex symbol;[81]Isaac Asimov described the character as "a security blanket with sexual overtones", and Nimoy reported that "I've never had more female attention on a set before. And get this: they all want to touch the ears!"[75] (When a young woman asked "Are you aware that you are the source of erotic dream material for thousands and thousands of ladies around the world?", he replied "May all your dreams come true".) Nimoy speculated that Spock appealed to women because[82]

Down comes a stranger—tall, dark, thoughtful, alien and exotic. Somewhat devilish in appearance. He has a brilliant mind, the wisdom of a patriarch and is oh, so cool.

With one raised eyebrow, he suggests he is above game-playing and role-playing—which are just hangovers from Earth's Victorian Age—that he and he alone understand the deepest needs and longings of the Earth female.

NASA made Spock an informal mascot. Nimoy was invited to be guest of honor at the March 1967 National Space Club dinner and to take an extensive tour of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. The actor concluded from the warm and intense reception he received that astronauts like John Glenn and aerospace industry engineers, secretaries, and shareholders alike all regarded Star Trek, and especially the character of Spock, as a "dramatization of the future of their space program".[83]

An asteroid in the Eos family discovered on August 16, 1971 was named Mr. Spock after the discoverer James B. Gibson's cat (which had been named Mr. Spock, who was likewise "imperturbable, logical, intelligent, and had pointed ears").[84]

The character proved inspirational to many budding scientists and engineers. Nimoy has said that many of them, on meeting him, were eager to show him their work and discuss it with him as if he were a scientific peer, as opposed to an actor, photographer, and poet. His stock response in these situations was "it certainly looks like you're headed in the right direction".[85]

In 2004, Spock was ranked number 21 in Bravo's list of The 100 Greatest TV Characters.[86] In 2008, UGO named Spock one of the 50 greatest TV characters.[87] According to Shatner, much of Star Trek's acting praise and media interest went to Nimoy.[88]

In 2016, Adam Nimoy released his documentary film For the Love of Spock, about his father and his iconic character.[89]

Reaction to Spock's death[edit]

The Wrath of Khan had its first public screening at a science-fiction convention in Overland Park, Kansas on May 8, 1982, almost a month before general release. Although Paramount executives were concerned that Spock's death would set fans against the movie, the audience actually applauded after Spock's death scene. "It was sensational. I hate to be given to superlatives but it absolutely reached everything we wanted it to. I couldn't ask for anything better," said co-producer Robert Sallin of the advance audience's reaction.[90]

Critical reaction to Spock's death was mixed. Film critic Roger Ebert lauded Spock's death: "He makes a choice in Star Trek II that would be made only by a hero, a fool, or a Vulcan. And when he makes his decision, the movie rises to one of its best scenes, because the Star Trek stories have always been best when they centered on their characters."[91] On the other hand, The Washington Post's Gary Arnold stated Spock's death "feels like an unnecessary twist, and the filmmakers are obviously well-prepared to fudge in case the public demands another sequel."[92]

25 years later, Spock's death in The Wrath of Khan ranks number 2 on Total Film's list of 25 greatest Star Trek movie moments,[93] and number 1 on IGN Movie's top 10 Star Trek movie moments.[94]

Star Trek (2009)[edit]

Ty Burr of The Boston Globe described Quinto's performance in the 2009 film as "something special", and stated that Nimoy's appearance "carries much more emotion than you'd expect".[25]Slate said Quinto played Spock "with a few degrees more chill" than Nimoy brought to the original character.[95]Entertainment Weekly said that Quinto "... invests Spock with a new layer of chilly-smoldering sex appeal, [and] Quinto does a fantastic job of maintaining Spock's calm, no-sweat surface but getting quietly hot and bothered underneath."[96]

Cultural impact[edit]

Spock has been parodied by, and has also been the inspiration for, pop culture works in various media. Composer/keyboardist George Duke's 1976 Solo Keyboard Album features two tracks which pay homage to Spock: "Spock Gets Funky" and "Vulcan Mind Probe". Rock guitarist Paul Gilbert wrote the song "Mr. Spock" on his Space Ship One album. Swedish synthpop band S.P.O.C.K makes music heavily influenced by the Star Trek universe. Even Nimoy got in on the act; assuming the Spock character, Nimoy recorded a number of novelty songs, the first being "Highly Illogical", in which Spock pointed out the foibles of human thought, such as relationships, automobiles, and greed. The second song, "A Visit to a Sad Planet", was darker in tone and told the story of Spock visiting Earth in the future and discovering it had been ruined by war, violence, and environmental irresponsibility. According to comic book writer and editor Bob Budiansky, The Transformers character Shockwave was inspired by Spock.[97] Spock's utilitarian perspective that "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few"[98] is cited in a legal decision rendered by the Texas Supreme Court.[99] Leonard Nimoy's second-season Spock costume shirt was expected to sell at auction for over $75,000.[100]

Spock's physical appearance in the Original Series episode "Mirror, Mirror" (1967) has itself spawned a trope of the "evil twin" archetype found in various fictional genres. In that episode, several members of the Enterprise travel to a parallel universe inhabited by evil versions of themselves. The parallel universe version of Spock is distinguished physically by his goatee.[101] Science fiction blog io9 said that Spock's beard in the episode introduced "the best shorthand ever for evil parallel universe duplicates".[102] Examples of the evil goatee's appearances in other media include Bender's "evil twin" Flexo in Futurama and a 2009 episode of The Colbert Report featuring Stephen Colbert and Dan Maffei wearing fake goatees while pretending to be evil versions of themselves.[103] The name of progressive rock band Spock's Beard is a direct reference to Spock's goatee in this episode.[104]

Fan productions[edit]

In addition to television, feature films, books, and parodies, Spock has also been portrayed in fan fiction. Since 2004, the online fan production Star Trek: Phase II has continued the further voyages of the cancelled initial series. The fan-series' creators feel "Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and the rest should be treated as 'classic' characters like Willy Loman from Death of a Salesman, Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, or even Hamlet, Othello, or Romeo. Many actors have and can play the roles, each offering a different interpretation of said character."[105]

The fan series Star Trek: Phase II has featured three actors in the role of Spock. Spock was portrayed by Jeffrey Quinn for the pilot and first three episodes, by Ben Tolpin in episodes 4 and 5, and by Brandon Stacy in episodes 6 through 11. Stacy also served as a stand-in for Zachary Quinto in the 2009 Star Trek film.[106]

The independent online fan series "Star Trek Continues" has featured Todd Haberkorn as Spock since its inception in 2012 with three vignettes, seven full episodes and at least two more planned to shoot.

In scientific illustrator Jenny Parks' 2017 book Star Trek Cats, Spock is depicted as an Oriental Shorthair.[107][108][109][110]

"Spocking" Canadian $5 notes[edit]

There has been a practice of altering the portrait of Canada's seventh prime minister, Wilfrid Laurier, on Canadian five-dollar notes to look like Spock. After the death of Leonard Nimoy in 2015, there was an increase in that practice.[111][112]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ abcdefgOkuda, Mike; Okuda, Denise; Mirek, Debbie (1999). The Star Trek Encyclopedia. Pocket Books. ISBN 0-671-53609-5. 
  2. ^ abWeeks, Adam (July 25, 2007). "Zachary Quinto Is Spock". 
  3. ^ abMike Johnson and Tim Jones (writers), David Messina (artist) (2009). Star Trek: Countdown. IDW Publishing. p. 98. ISBN 978-1-60010-420-6. 
  4. ^ abOrci, Roberto; Kurtzman, Alex; Abrams, J.J. (April 7, 2009). Star Trek (Motion picture). Paramount Pictures. 
  5. ^ abPascale, Anthony (December 11, 2008). "EXCLUSIVE: Bob Orci Explains How The New Star Trek Movie Fits With Trek Canon (and Real Science)". Retrieved August 17, 2016. 
  6. ^Loughery, David; Shatner, William; Bennett, Harve (June 9, 1989). Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (Motion picture). Paramount Pictures. 
  7. ^ abSturgeon, Theodore (September 15, 1967). "Amok Time". Star Trek: The Original Series. Season 2. Episode 1. NBC. 
  8. ^ abFontana, D.C. (November 17, 1967). "Journey to Babel". Star Trek: The Original Series. Season 2. Episode 10. NBC. 
  9. ^ abDeCandido, Keith (June 23, 2015). "Star Trek The Original Series: "The Menagerie" Parts 1 & 2". Retrieved August 17, 2016. 
  10. ^Roddenberry, Gene (November 27, 1988). "The Cage". Star Trek: The Original Series. NBC. 
  11. ^DeCandido, Keith (March 11, 2015). "Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: "Where No Man Has Gone Before"". Retrieved August 17, 2016. 
  12. ^Peeples, Samuel A. (September 22, 1966). "Where No Man Has Gone Before". Star Trek: The Original Series. Season 1. Episode 3. NBC. 
  13. ^Matheson, Richard (October 6, 1966). "The Enemy Within". Star Trek: The Original Series. Season 1. Episode 5. NBC. 
  14. ^Spies, Adrian (October 27, 1966). "Miri". Star Trek: The Original Series. Season 1. Episode 8. NBC. 
  15. ^Bar-David, S. (November 3, 1966). "Dagger of the Mind". Star Trek: The Original Series. Season 1. Episode 9. NBC. 
  16. ^Schneider, Paul (December 15, 1966). "Balance of Terror". Star Trek: The Original Series. Season 1. Episode 14. NBC. 
  17. ^Crawford, Oliver; Bar-David, S. (January 5, 1967). "The Galileo Seven". Star Trek: The Original Series. Season 1. Episode 16. NBC. 
  18. ^Fontana, D.C.; Butler, Nathan (March 2, 1967). "This Side of Paradise". Star Trek: The Original Series. Season 1. Episode 24. NBC. 
  19. ^Coon, Gene (March 9, 1967). "The Devil in the Dark". Star Trek: The Original Series. Season 1. Episode 25. NBC. 
Spock, as played by Leonard Nimoy, as seen in the pilots of Star Trek
Spock with his parents, Sarek and Amanda
Zachary Quinto was cast as Spock for the 2009 Star Trek film.

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