KICK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (18)

By: Greg Rowland
March 3, 2022

One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of a favorite sidekick — whether real-life or fictional.

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SPOCK

Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, never one to do things by half, has two sidekicks, and four regular reserve sub-sidekicks, and about 420 potential who might, just possibly, survive to serve in a sidekick role, if very lucky. Logic might suggest that Kirk’s two sidekicks, Mr Spock and Dr McCoy, would act as demi-sidekicks, and if the line-counting William Shatner had had his way that might well have been the case. A fascinating alternate structure to the traditional sidekick evolved quickly, and something resembling a distinctly Aristotelian-flavoured trinity: Spock (logic) – McCoy (emotion) – Kirk as the considered synthesis.

A radical structure, whereby Spock would often outrank his Captain in viewer popularity polls, announced the simultaneous elevation and redundancy of the sidekick. It was up to Star Trek to navigate the complex cultural potentialities around sidekickism, of usurpation, subjugation and a third, hitherto unexplored, symbolic space. The pivot point comes in an early episode called ‘The Galileo Seven’. It’s a broadly unsatisfactory, even unsettling, first-season Star Trek episode, and Spock, already garnering heavy press and fan attention, was to command the spotlight. Yet, instead of showcasing the glorious Vulcan, the episode flounders, as did Spock and as did Nimoy, later saying that “I experienced it as a failure. Put into the position of being the driving force, the central character, was very tough for me” (Smithsonian magazine, May 2016 issue).

Spock is by turns, anxious, petulant, sarcastic, cruel, vague, reckless and slow as he tries to figure out a way to get the shuttle craft, the titular Galileo, back into space after it had crashed on a planet that seemed relatively hospitable were it not for the 9ft tall hairy spear-throwers in massive culture shock. Scotty pretty much keeps his cool, as launching zero-fuel broken shuttlecraft is an activity which reflects his optimal Scottiness, but McCoy and other senior staff get really cross at Spock and his relentless adherence to logical procedure. And so, Spock acts like a divvy, and receives a torrent of racist abuse. There’s none of the warm interplay of Aristotelian opposites that the show would later feature. It’s just plain nasty.

Lessons from ‘The Galileo Seven’ are still being unpacked today by scholars and humanitarians. It’s proof that the sidekick can supersede the hero, but only in the presence of the hero. Unlike Kirk, Spock cannot sustain an episode, and Nimoy’s body langue, his uncertainty in bodily expression, tells this tale very clearly. Yet, after the necessary disaster represented by ‘The Galileo Seven,’ the holy triumvirate truly takes shape, modelling the joyful triumvirate for all eternity — each cherishing their in and out of universe narrative bonds. Kirk may be in charge, yet his Body (McCoy) and Mind (Spock) are neither above nor below, for they surely be forever at his side, the kindest and most lateral of our three spatial dimensions.

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KICK YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Annie Nocenti on RATSO | Barbara Bogaev on TRIXIE | Sara Ryan on SWIFT WIND | Carlo Rotella on BELT BEARERS | Adam McGovern on JACKIE McGEE | Josh Glenn on RAWHIDE | Gabriela Pedranti on KUILL | Douglas Wolk on VOLSTAGG | Serdar Paktin on CATO | Deirdre Day on TRAMPAS | Dean Haspiel on TIN MAN | Flourish Klink on THE APOSTLE PETER | Miranda Mellis on FAMILIAR | Peggy Nelson on COSMO | Beth Lisick on MARTHA BROOKS | Bishakh Som on CAPTAIN HADDOCK | Stephanie Burt on SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE | Greg Rowland on SPOCK | Adam Netburn on SENKETSU | Mimi Lipson on ROBIN QUIVERS | Jonathan Pinchera on GUTS | Tom Nealon on TWIKI | Mandy Keifetz on DR. EINSTEIN | Judith Zissman on IGNATZ MOUSE | Anthony Miller on DOCTOR GONZO.

MORE ENTHUSIASM at HILOBROW

KILL YOUR ENTHUSIASM (4Q2022): TBD. BLURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (3Q2022): LEFT-CORNER BRICK | JOY IS RESISTANCE | THE FUTURE IS PASSÉ | EVERY MINUTE AN OCEAN | SHUT UP, HE EXPLAINED | & 20 other apothegms to live by. KOJAK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2Q2022): ARK II | WKRP IN CINCINNATI | BUCK ROGERS | THE WHITE SHADOW | POLICE WOMAN | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) TV shows. KICK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (1Q2022): KUILL | CATO | COSMO | TRIXIE | VOLSTAGG | & 20 other sidekicks. NERD YOUR ENTHUSIASM (4Q2021): TIME | THE POST OFFICE | ARDUIN | DOUBT | SUMMATIONS | & 20 other nerdy passions. SWERVE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (3Q2021): WARHOL’S WALT WHITMAN | 70, GIRLS, 70 | TYRAEL’S MIGHT | SHIRATO SANPEI | THE LEON SUITES | & 20 other never-realized cultural productions. FIVE-O YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2Q2021): DARK SHADOWS | MANNIX | GET SMART | THE ADDAMS FAMILY | I DREAM OF JEANNIE | & 20 other Sixties (1964–1973) TV shows. FERB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (1Q2021): STEVEN UNIVERSE | TOP CAT | REN & STIMPY | SHE-RA AND THE PRINCESSES OF POWER | DRAGON BALL Z | & 20 other animated series. CARBONA YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2020): “Sex Bomb” | “Going Underground” | “Soft South Africans” | “Typical Girls” | “Human Fly” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) punk singles. KLAATU YOU (2020 weekly): ZARDOZ | METROPOLIS | DARK STAR | SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | SOLARIS | & dozens of other pre-STAR WARS sci-fi movies. CONVOY YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2019): THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE | ROLLERBALL | BLACK SUNDAY | SORCERER | STRAIGHT TIME | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) action movies. SERIOCOMIC (2019 weekly): LITTLE LULU | VIZ | MARSUPILAMI | ERNIE POOK’S COMEEK | HELLBOY | & dozens of other comics. TUBE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2018): LOONEY TUNES | THREE STOOGES | THE AVENGERS | ROCKY & BULLWINKLE | THE TWILIGHT ZONE | & 20 other Fifties (1954–1963) TV shows. WOWEE ZOWEE (2018 weekly): UNISEX | UNDER THE PINK | DUMMY | AMOR PROHIBIDO | HIPS AND MAKERS | & dozens of other Nineties (1994–2003) albums. KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2017): THE KILLERS | BANDE À PART (BAND OF OUTSIDERS) | ALPHAVILLE | HARPER | BLOW-UP | & 20 other Sixties (1964–1973) neo-noir movies. #SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST! & dozens of other squads. GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) new wave singles. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other Thirties (1934–1943) fantasy novels. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.

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Enthusiasms