pretty vulcan

6

— I wouldn’t be surprised if the body belonged to the delivery man with the strange limp. You never did see him leave the house.
— What about the gardener? He was there too.
— Too tall. Even the primitive forensics of the mid-twentieth century would have determined that. 

I’m pretty sure this has been done but whatever but I was eating lemon cake with a spork and this happened

Star Trek Tag

2

At the Star Trek: The Motion Picture press conference, Leonard Nimoy was questioned about his reluctance to turn to the role of Spock.

“We’ve had a long and complicated relationship, Paramount and myself, for the last couple of years, and probably the thing that took the most time was the fact that the mail service between here and Vulcan is pretty slow. It’s not really a matter of reluctance. We had a lot of details to work out. There have been periods of time when the Star Trek project was moving forward and I was not available. For example, last summer we had come to what I felt was an understanding about doing the movie. I went off to do Equus on Broadway. During that period of time, the concept changed to a TV series. It was difficult then to get together because there was a question of availability. When the project turned around and I was available again, we started talking immediately.

“It has been complicated; it has been time consuming. But there was never a question of reluctance to be involved in Star Trek on my part. I’ve always felt totally comfortable about being identified with Star Trek, and being identified with the Spock character. It has exploded my life in a very positive way. The Spock character has always been part of my life. I have never tried in any way to reject that. I’m very proud of the fact that I’m associated with the character. And I look forward to playing the character because I certainly wouldn’t want either one of two things — anybody else playing it, or Star Trek happening without it.”

Nimoy’s book I Am Not Spock had come out three years prior to his being hired for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. While the book’s title was certainly confrontational to many Trek fans, the actual contents spend a great deal of time discussing how he approached the role and how he and Spock are alike and dissimilar. 

In a 2012 interview with Star Trek: The Magazine, Nimoy discussed how the book had gotten its name:

“I made a big mistake in the early ‘70s when I wrote my first book about my Star Trek experiences. I wrote a chapter in that book about how I was identified in an airport by a lady who introduced me to her child as Mr. Spock. This child looked at me and did not see Mr. Spock. So I wrote a chapter about the difference between myself and the character in an effort to give the readers some insight into how an actor goes about building a character. It’s partially from him or herself and it’s partially from using elements of other people we may know. I called that chapter, ‘I Am Not Spock,’ meaning simply that I’m an actor who portrays Spock and this is how I go about doing it.

“In the same book, I said if I was given a chance to identify with any character on television, I would choose Spock. I admire him, I like him and I respect him. I would rather be identified with Spock than any other character on television. But the mistake I made was in using that title, ‘I Am Not Spock,’ as the title of the book. People assumed I was rejecting Spock and Star Trek but they didn’t read the book. If you read the book, you’ll find quite the opposite.”

Publicity photos scanned from the They Boldly Went archives. If you appreciate our ongoing mission to provide unique Star Trek content, please consider supporting this blog on Patreon. 

Star Trek: TOS “Journey to Babel” Medical Review/Explanation

Requested by @kivrin

If you haven’t seen “Journey to Babel,” the whump plot kinda goes like this: Sarek has a heart condition that needs a surgery that Bones has never done. The surgery requires copious amounts of blood, which they don’t have in stock, and Spock, who happens to contain the kind of blood they need, doesn’t have enough of it to give. They can give Spock a drug that could allow him to produce the blood, but it could also kill him, and if he dies or is severely incapacitated, he can’t play a particularly critical role in a mission, which Kirk has already been tapped out of because, well, he’s been conveniently stabbed.

In my opinion, this was a fantastic episode. Not only did it explore something pretty interesting about Vulcan anatomy and bring up potential limitations in providing medical care to such biological diversity as Starfleet, but it also looked at the state of the art of very real human heart surgery in the late 1960s.

To set some background, when this episode was written, open-heart surgery (surgery where the internal structure of the heart is directly visible and the heart is not beating) had only been possible for about 16 years. Because of this advance in surgical technology, heart surgery as a whole had very recently gone from barely being able to open a hardened valve or repair a very small hole from a birth defect, to venturing into coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) procedures, repairing major birth defects (including something called Tetralogy of Fallot, where there are four structural problems with the heart at birth), and even dabbling into human-to-human heart transplant (the first few done in South Africa in 1967).

These new open-heart procedures were still largely experimental, and mortality rates were as high as 10-30%, making them quite dangerous as well. Still, given that the heart had been almost regarded as taboo in surgical circles until that point, it would have been very exciting to hear about any successes at all.

Surely Ms. Fontana assumed that by stardate 3842.3, humans would have heart surgery pretty much down pat. By making it Sarek who needs the surgery, and the blood-producing drug being originally for a different species, Bones gets to play the role of an experimental surgeon using improvised technology, reflecting the same emotional weight that would have accompanied the concept of heart surgery when the episode was aired.

Here’s my explanation of what happened:

“According to instrument readings, [Sarek] has a malfunction in one of the heart valves. It’s similar to a heart attack in a human. But with Vulcan physiology, it’s impossible to tell without an operation.” –Dr. McCoy

If nothing in the above statement jumped out at you as sketch, or you want a refresher, I highly recommend you check out the difference between a heart attack, heart failure, and cardiac arrest.

I want to give McCoy the benefit of the doubt here. For the purposes of this post, I’m assuming there is a quirk of Vulcan cardiac anatomy where one of the heart valves is supplied by its own personal artery. In Sarek’s case, this artery became blocked, causing a heart attack that then only affected that one valve.

The heart has four open spaces, or “chambers” inside it. Heart valves allow blood to flow in only one direction between two chambers or from a chamber to an artery. A dead or dying heart valve may become “leaky,” allowing blood to flow backwards as well- a condition called regurgitation. When regurgitation gets bad enough, it results in heart failure (see linked post above).

Before we could keep the body alive during open-heart surgery, something called closed-heart surgery was the only option. In closed-heart surgery, the heart is still beating, but a small opening is cut in the heart muscle, allowing a small instrument or the surgeon’s finger to enter a heart chamber. Since the surgeon couldn’t see what they were doing, this technique was limited, but it was found to be very helpful during WWII, when surgeons needed to remove shrapnel that had ended up in a heart chamber, thereby preventing it from moving around in the chamber, getting stuck, and blocking the flow of blood to the rest of the body.

(This also happens to be my new theory as to where Tony Stark’s shrapnel is/was- the electromagnet was meant as a stopgap measure to keep the shrapnel from blocking something/entering general circulation until Tony could get it removed surgically).

Later, this same technique was used to open hardened heart valves. It worked, but only for people who didn’t already have a problem with regurgitation. For people who did, like Sarek, true open-heart surgery was required to remove the defective valve and place either an artificial one or a transplanted one in its stead in order to prevent or treat the resultant heart failure.

In the episode, Spock recommends Bones perform a “cryogenic open-heart procedure” in order to repair Sarek’s malfunctioning valve. Open-heart surgery predates the cardiopulmonary bypass or “heart-lung” machine by several years. Since the heart had to be stopped to perform open-heart surgery, the surgeon only had about 4 minutes to open the heart, do what needed done, close, and restart the heart before brain damage occurred. This was obviously insufficient for complicated procedures. It was found that by cooling the body to 81F, the patient’s oxygen needs were lowered and the surgeon could extend this time to 10 minutes- still short, but slightly more reasonable. This was called the “hypothermic approach,” and the “cryogenic” procedure described in the episode seems to be a more extreme fictional version of that.

Bones says that the procedure would require “tremendous” amounts of blood. Today for a human, this is not necessarily the case, especially if the patient has normal hemoglobin/red blood cell counts going into the procedure. If blood is needed, it may be one unit, or a unit of packed red blood cells. I was unable to find anything on how blood products were used in open-heart surgery in the 60s, but I’ll give it to the writers that use of blood then would have been more routine, as open-heart surgical procedures were not as refined.

If an open-heart surgery-needing patient today does not have sufficient red blood cells to survive the procedure, they may be given iron supplements and/or a hormone called erythropoietin, which tells bone marrow to produce red blood cells. In 1968, erythropoietin was in only very early stages of research, and would not go on the market for more than a decade.

To me this makes it impressive that a writing team would choose to incorporate such a similar drug in the episode (they do credit it as being “experimental” though, which lines up to what it would have been on earth).

Anyway, that’s what I’ve got!

R E F E R ENCE S

Also, if anyone is thinking of getting me a “congrats on your new nursing career” present, I would totally accept an electronic copy of Davis Drug Guide saved to approximately 35 brightly colored floppy discs.  I would lay them out on my desk just like this:

Closed eyes (Mckirk / angst)

Jim Kirk has been in desperate situations before. I mean Tarsus was a bitch. Frank had been pretty shit. The whole Vulcan thing was a frigging mess from start to finish. Not to mention, you know, dying. But none of that compared to holding the person he held dearest, who was choking and spluttering on blood, as he died.

He’s cradled in his arms, the same position they have spent rare nights in their rooms, cradling each other as they watched a holo-movie. The position is familiar, and it’s muscle memory that has his arm pulling his lover tighter. The way his hair smells is the same as it’s always smelt.

But, he can’t fool himself. He can smell the acrid stench of blood. He can feel it drying uncomfortably on his skin. He can feel stuttered breath against his neck. He can feel it all. But he can’t see it. His eyes are squeezed so tight shut that he’s seeing pops of colour erupting behind them. He won’t open them. He hasn’t opened them since he took us this position. To open them is to accept the situation. He won’t ever do that.

Chekov has gone to get help. Spock will not stop until they are back aboard. Scotty will do everything he can to overcome the communication issues.

But he can not be captain. He can not be a leader, a fighter or anything else. All he can be is a desperate and terrified man. Because he knows- oh god he knows- that Bones is bleeding far too much, has been unresponsive for far too long, for everything to be alright. He knows that if he opens his eyes he has to accept the reality that Bones will never open his.

So he squeezes them tighter. He rocks. He pleads with whatever God is up there.

And he pretends he doesn’t notice when he can’t feel Bones’ breath on his neck.