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Tag: opinion

The Search for Sybok: Why Star Trek: Discovery should include (or at least mention) Spock's half-brother

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Aug 21, 2018

Since the first episode, Star Trek: Discovery has done a great deal to examine previously unknown parts of Spock's family history. The main character, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) is the iconic half-Vulcan's adopted sister; his father, Sarek (James Frain), is a major recurring character; and Spock's human mother, Amanda Grayson (Mia Kirshner), popped in for two episodes in Season 1. Spock himself will now become a (seemingly) big part of the show's second season, with actor Ethan Peck tapped to play the green-blooded science officer we all know and love. Some fans may have hoped for this the moment the U.S.S. Enterprise swept on screen at the end of the first season — and it looks like that hope will bear Vulcan fruit.

Still, I have a hope that goes beyond that one. As great as it will be to see this family all together and to see Spock on the small screen once again, the reunion would be left wanting without one other character from Trek lore. Before Burnham, before Spock, before Amanda… Sarek had a liaison with a Vulcan princess. The result of that union was Sybok, Spock's full-Vulcan half-brother.

If you've seen Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, you know who he is. If you haven't seen it, well, he's the main antagonist. Sybok is a Vulcan who turned away from logic and embraced emotion. He also has some crazy emotion-based powers.

Sybok, played by Laurence Luckinbill in the film, is derided almost as much as the fifth Trek film is, but for some reason… I love him. Luckinbill portrays a wildly charismatic Sybok, one who has catchphrases (your pain runs deep, share it with me) for days. For all of the issues that film has, Sybok isn't one of them. It is the only place in Trek continuity that features him (or even references him), but Sybok is not the problem.

Star Trek: Discovery, a show all about filling in the holes, has a unique chance to round out this piece of the Trek universe. Why should it, and furthermore how would it? I'm glad you asked. 

An important side note before we begin, though: As with any longstanding franchise, there are some legal snafus to be aware of when it comes to certain characters and storylines in the Star Trek universe. Sybok is no different. The Star Trek films are owned by Paramount, and Trek television is owned by CBS — and while there's a possible (and very complicated) merger in the works, including Sybok in any Trek television show would be a big legal problem unless that merger goes through.

With that in mind and hope in our hearts, let's see what's out there.

FAMILY MATTERS

If this show is going to feature all of Spock's family, then it makes perfect sense to include the older half-brother. We know that Spock had some kind of a relationship with him, but what were Sybok's relations like with Amanda Grayson? Now that Burnham is in the mix, what would that relationship have been like? What effect might Sybok's "emotion beats logic" rhetoric have on Burnham, a human already prone to giving in to her emotions? The potential is huge.

Does Burnham even know this guy exists? Spock's closest friend didn't know about him — James T. Kirk had no idea that Spock had a half-brother until that half-brother showed up and stole his ship — so there's a good chance Sybok was kept from Burnham.

Sarek made some dubious choices in Season 1, and bringing back this rejected (and probably unwanted) bit of his past for him (and all of his family) to deal with would be some delightful drama of the highest order. If Discovery isn't going to feature Sybok as a character, at least reference him. A simple nod to the fact that he exists would be welcome.

EXTREME LOGIC

Discovery has already begun to feature a Vulcan faction called "The Logic Extremists" and how this terrorist organization believes Vulcan has lost the true way. The group didn't play much of a role in the back half of Season 1, but it is set to make a comeback. Wouldn't a character that embraces emotion over logic be of some use in overcoming this threat, or even become a target himself?

If anyone is going to vehemently oppose this faction, it's Sybok. Add in the notion that the group tried to kill his (estranged) father, and you have the makings of an interesting showdown. Things are changing on Vulcan, and Sybok (and his followers) could fit very well as a part of those ever-changing tides.

There is precedent in the Vulcan battle between emotions and logic, as well — in the first season of Star Trek: Enterprise, the ship encounters some Vulcans who were called V'tosh ka'tur, or "Vulcans without logic." One of them tells the ship's resident Vulcan, T'Pol, that this movement is growing on their home world. She doesn't believe it. Sybok was not alive when this movement began, but he certainly could have been inspired by it... and he may not be the only one.

ONE LAST CHANCE TO JOIN ME AND MAKE FETCH HAPPEN

In Star Trek V, Sybok tells Spock that due to their reconnection, Spock has been given one more chance to join him and his crusade of emotion. But that implies Spock was given an opportunity to join Sybok in the past. So when did Sybok initially try to bring Spock into the fold? What if we see that happen on Discovery?

Rejected by Vulcan society, Sybok and his followers (some perhaps still trying to make V'tosh ka'tur happen) re-entering the fold and trying to enlist Spock, of all people, would certainly be fascinating. Spock's battle with emotions has always been ongoing (a failed Kohlinar, Kirk beatdowns in the Kelvin Timeline, every other episode, etc.), so this would be another moment in a proud tradition. Would Spock be tempted?

What would Sarek make of this offer or such an offer, and furthermore, what might Burnham think? Might Burnham have been given the offer when Spock refused? Could the support of Spock/Sarek/Burnham be the price Sybok demands for his help in dealing with the logic extremists? There is so much potential here, and it would be a shame if the Discovery team did not take advantage of it.

YOUR PAIN RUNS DEEP… SHARE IT WITH ME

Sybok is able to amass a great many followers in Star Trek V by using some kind of mystical power to remove people's pain. One character calls it a miracle, and Sybok even converts many members of the Enterprise crew once he's on board. Though Kirk refuses to give in, famously saying, "I NEED MY PAIN!", not everyone does.

This is an interesting gift, and we've never seen another Vulcan do anything quite like it. Imagine the havoc Sybok could cause on Discovery.

As much as we know about Vulcan mysticism, there's always more to learn. Is Sybok's gift some kind of mind-meld, suffused with the power of emotion? If so, where and when did he learn to do this? It's more untapped potential for the show to use if it wants to. Sybok also has a yearning for knowledge of the divine, which takes the form (in Trek V) of the call from a being known as "Sha Ka Ree." Thanks to the film, we know that these visions were bunk — but when did they begin? Why not see that moment? Even better, why not see all of these moments?

Like it or not, Sybok exists. He's alive during the time period of this show, a show that is, as I've previously said, filling in all kinds of historical Trek holes whether we want it to or not. If that's what Discovery is going to continue doing, then why not do it whole hog?

I may be verging on Sybok-level obsession here, but I think getting to know a young version of him on Discovery would make the fifth Trek film much more interesting. Kirk and company still wouldn't know about him, but we would. Seeing his early familial and historical travails would only enhance the wildly entertaining character we meet later. It's not like I'm asking for the whale probe to get a backstory.

If Discovery doesn't want to show the character fully on the show, then, I say again, at least give him a reference. It would, at the very least, solidify the history of an all-important family that's having its story expanded with every episode and, at the most, further tie Discovery into the existing Trek canon. Something as canonically huge as Spock having an older half-brother should not be ignored — on the contrary, it should be embraced and explored. My love of Sybok runs deep… share it with me, and grow strength from the sharing.