January 30, 2008

Mr. Spock the half-breed

“Running in Good Company” by Drew Hayden TaylorI find it interesting that the whole concept of being "mixed blood" or a "half-breed" can still, in this day and age, evolve into a volatile discussion, just over the usage of the terms. There are people out there that firmly and confidently believe, rightly or wrongly, that there is no such thing as a "half-breed," because either you are or aren't something. You can't be "half" something. Same principal I suppose as being half pregnant. However, I must disagree on principle (not the half pregnant part though). There have been way too many times that I've been half broke, half-cut or half in the bag. I've had ideas that were half-baked. I've been called a half-wit. Occasionally I've gone off half-cocked, but that's between me and my girlfriends.

Confessing my geek heritage, I'd like to introduce Star Trek's Spock into the discussion--undoubtedly one of the most famous pop icons that immediately come to mind. The product of a human mother and Vulcan father has made him into one of the more interesting characters in Science Fiction and television--an individual of split cultural drives. Same with Star Trek--Voyager's Belanna Torres, human father and Klingon mother. The constant battle between her two competing sides directly influences her character and makes her fun to watch. By comparison, the other mono-heritaged members of the crews seem almost boring. This "mixed-blood" aspect adds spice to the show and inter-relations.
Comment:  I said something similar once when someone criticized PEACE PARTY for addressing race:Heck, even the original Star Trek (unlike Star Wars) was riddled with sociopolitical commentary. Did Spock's self-identification as a Vulcan hurt ST thematically? No. That central theme worked precisely because real humans (including Native Americans) go through such conflicts daily.

If PEACE PARTY's "racial identification" is anything like's Spock's racial identification, I'll take the results. Four TV shows, nine movies, and a billion-dollar licensing, er, enterprise. All are based on Spock's multicultural conflicts, without which ST wouldn't have achieved the iconic status it has.
Of course, we're up to five TV shows and 11 movies now.

For more on the subject, see The Indian-Star Trek Connection.

5 comments:

russell said...

Writerfella here --
The question then becomes, was Mr. Spock a 'half-breed' or a hybrid being, admittedly two differing choices as to his origins. It was not until a particular episode of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION that Humans, Vulcans, Romulans, Klingons, Cardassians, Bajorans, and other neighboring races were shown to have been scattered or 'seeded' by long-ago 'old ones' passing through their regions of space, that all such races had been sprung from one central race, period. Why else did they resemble one another and, in fact, found themselves to be sexually compatible? The episode ended with those various races shrinking back from one another after finding that they actually were so closely related. writerfella will research the episode and present its title and author. BUT -- the same series presented Earth Native Americans as NOT being derived from that same milieu! They instead were descended from the Traveler, an inter-dimensional being who was searching for his own people who might never be found until after he had made his own particular 'ascension' to another dimensional plane altogether! Stay tuned! writerfella may have quite a few more disturbing revelations to make...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Rob said...

What's the difference between a hybrid and a half-breed? Not much, as far as I can tell. The definition of "hybrid" encompasses half-breeds.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hybrid

hy·brid /ˈhaɪbrɪd/
–noun

1. the offspring of two animals or plants of different breeds, varieties, species, or genera, esp. as produced through human manipulation for specific genetic characteristics.

Coming from the same genetic stock doesn't eliminate the possibility of a hybrid. Lions and tigers are descended from the same ancestor and their offspring, a liger, is a hybrid. Humans and Vulcans are descended from the same ancestor and their offspring, a "half-breed," is also a hybrid.

Actually, it would be impossible for iron- and copper-based lifeforms to produce offspring without extensive genetic engineering. (And probably not even then.) A couple of ST novels have made this obvious point.

I gather you're talking about the ST: TNG episodes "The Chase" and "Journey's End." I haven't viewed them, but I've read about them. I haven't seen anything that would make the Natives in "Journey's End" incompatible with the other races in "The Chase."

russell said...

Writerfella here --
The actual difference between 'hybrids' and 'half-breeds' lies in the fact that genetic lines circumvent a 'hybrid' from being able to reproduce, while genetic lines do NOT prevent a 'half-breed' from reproduction at all with either of its own progenitures. Species intermixing usually precludes their offspring from continuing the principle, while 'half-breeds' are able to reproduce with either half of their own type of parents.
Oops...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Rob said...

Wow, you actually answered a question. What a rarity!

Unfortunately, you have the facts somewhat wrong, as usual. Hybrids can breed sometimes, so an inability to breed doesn't define a hybrid.

The facts on hybrids:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hybrid_%28biology%29

The offspring of an interspecific cross very often are sterile; thus, hybrid sterility prevents the movement of genes from one species to the other, keeping both species distinct. Sterility is often attributed to the different number of chromosomes the two species have, for example donkeys have 62 chromosomes, while horses have 64 chromosomes, and mules and hinnies have 63 chromosomes. Mules, hinnies, and other normally sterile interspecific hybrids cannot produce viable gametes because the extra chromosome cannot make a homologous pair at meiosis, meiosis is disrupted, and viable sperm and eggs are not formed. However, fertility in female mules has been reported with a donkey as the father.

Plant species hybridize more readily than animal species, and the resulting hybrids are more often fertile hybrids and may reproduce, though there still exist sterile hybrids and selective hybrid elimination where the offspring are less able to survive and are thus eliminated before they can reproduce. A number of plant species are the result of hybridization and polyploidy with many plant species easily cross pollinating and producing viable seeds.

Rob said...

Moreover, I don't think there's any proof in Star Trek that Spock (or any human-Vulcan hybrid) can have children. The ST novels have postulated that he and Zarabeth had a son, but as you keep reminding us, they aren't canonical. So as far as we know, Spock is a sterile hybrid as well as a half-breed.