Anyone else grow up quoting Star Trek? As a child of the ’80s who wanted to be a marine biologist, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home holds a special place in my geeky heart. It may also be a huge factor in how I talk about my feelings. Or avoid talking about them, as is often the case. There’s a lot to love about this movie. Whales, time travel to “present day” 1987, human arrogance almost bringing out the end of the world. But what stands out to me is Spock’s journey to rediscover himself and what it says about the importance of family. Including found family like friends and crewmates.

The Enterprise crew begin The Voyage Home in exile. They return to Earth knowing they will be tried by the Federation for ignoring orders and other violations that led to the destruction of the original Enterprise. Sarek defends Kirk’s actions in front of the council. As Sarek prepares to leave Earth, he and Spock speak for just a minute. Though brief, the interaction’s masterful writing, acting, and direction gives it great importance.

“Your associates are people of good character.” – Sarek

“They are my friends.” – Spock

This is the quote that replays often in my family. My dad says it almost every time we hang out with my friends or even if I tell him something about them. He starts with the Sarek line and I reply as Spock. The principle of only being friends with people of good character guides me in who I choose to share my life with. Like Spock, I want to be able to essentially say, “Duh, I would only hang out with quality people.” 

Friendship is a two-way street of course. Spock stands with the crew as they face punishment, even though he doesn’t have to. His memories may be fragmented, but he knows his place is with them. Kirk offers his own supportive gesture in turn. He watches the interaction between Sarek and Spock, which surprises Spock when he realizes his friend is still there. To have an emotional moment with a parent you have a sometimes fraught relationship is taxing even under the best circumstances. Then you turn and see a friend waiting for you. It’s a sweet moment at the end of a movie where Kirk has tried to reestablish their connection and get Spock to call him Jim again.

Scene from Star Trek: The Voyage Home with the crew in the water next to their ship
Paramount Pictures

“It was no effort. You are my son.” – Sarek

I haven’t lived in the same city as my dad since I was 10 years old nor my mom since 16. But in those intervening decades, I have always known my parents love and support me. We communicate at least slightly better than your average Vulcan, but a lot is left unsaid. I just know. The pandemic has actually strengthened my bond with both of my parents. We check in more regularly, watching movies over Zoom or talking on the phone while walking in our own neighborhoods.

The exchange between Spock and Sarek shows how much they love and respect one another. Just in a Vulcan way. Much is left unsaid, or said formally instead of emotionally. They stand well apart, no hugs or claps on the back. It is also done efficiently with the whole conversation taking about a minute. Spock appreciates his dad’s support. Sarek approves of the life Spock has made for himself and admits he was wrong to oppose his decision to enter Starfleet. They do all this out of love.

And really, isn’t “live long and prosper” the nicest send-off anyone can give? “I want what’s best for you” is the quintessential sentiment of parents and good friends. The Vulcan paternal relationship is one of the most consistent things over the course of all the Star Trek iterations. We’ve gotten everything from young Spock, old Spock, boyfriend Spock, two Spocks, an adopted sister, and even a hot Sarek. But the way they interact with each other remains constant.

Paramount Pictures

“I am most impressed with your performance in this crisis.” – Sarek

I grew up with massive family gatherings on every holiday and birthday. But I don’t live near most of my relatives now. My husband and I live a quiet existence in comparison to my childhood. But I am still always looking for a reason to fill my house with people, food, and conversation.

The pandemic has made that harder; however, my friends have come together to support each other, figuratively and socially distanced of course. We vent our frustrations, make grocery runs, and plan virtual hangouts. I am lucky to have a lot of people to ride or die with. A few years ago, we started saying “I love you” to each other. I sometimes bristle at it becoming a habit or obligation, but it feels good to say. And to hear.

Paramount Pictures

“I feel fine.” – Spock

When it comes to expressing emotions or feeling vulnerable, I am a bit stunted. I identify with Spock’s struggle in one of the opening scenes. He answers complex equations and recites facts without issue. But is unable to answer the “simple” question, “How do you feel?” He questions the relevance of the question. Sometimes how I feel does seem irrelevant. Other times it’s easier not to delve deeper, to just answer, “I feel fine.”

It is a bit underwhelming that Spock goes through everything he does over the course of the movie and ends up feeling “fine.” He’s time traveled, had to hide his identity, mind-melded with a whale, learned how to swear, and saved the planet. It’s a lot. But the point is he has an answer. He checked in with himself. It’s progress. One important questions remains though. Would the computer have responded “correct” if Spock had given it an answer?

Paramount Pictures

“It is possible that judgment was incorrect.” – Sarek

As a science communicator and professional over-thinker, there is plenty for me to dwell on in Star Trek: The Voyage Home. Like whether the Klingon Bird of Prey could actually carry whales. Can humans avoid causing the extinction of humpback whales or decipher whale languages and avoid the probe dilemma? And why wasn’t Dr. Gillian Taylor beamed right back down to 1987 San Francisco instead of taken to the future? Does this mean she’ll be a character in some Star Trek spin-off, sequel, or reboot along the way? Whales are the best, and we’re certainly due for an update on how George and Gracie fare in the 23rd century.

Gillian is likely the reason I planned to grow up to be a no-nonsense marine biologist. Bonus that she caught Captain Kirk’s eye and, even better, gets to skip centuries of humanity’s turmoil in favor of an exciting future. But the part most responsible for who I am as an adult comes from the scene between Spock and Sarek. Live long and prosper.