Science Fiction Television Writing

The 1966 Star Trek “Vulcan Proper Names” Memos

This is a great book. And one of the best things about it are the reprints of production memos between key contributors to the original Star Trek television series.

I’ve transcribed a series of these memos below that deal with the “rules” for Vulcan names. And while they quickly turn cheeky, they reveal a deep commitment to creating a believable world with internal logic and rules (not always appreciated by studio management).

The original series, animated series and the feature films almost follow these guidelines (Spock, Sarek, Sybok, Selek, Sepek), but occasionally blow it (Saavik). By the time Tuvok shows up on Voyager, these memos have clearly been long forgotten.

Let’s hope this post helps clear the way for a character named Spork in the next J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie.


TO: Gene Roddenberry
FROM: Bob Justman
DATE: May 3, 1966
SUBJECT: STAR TREK PLANET VULCAN PROPER NAMES

Dear Gene:
I would like to suggest that all proper names for denizens of Mr. Spock’s “PLANET VULCAN” follow a set routine.
To wit: all names begin with the letters “SP” and end with the letter “K.” All names to have a total of five letters in them–no more and no less.
Therefore: Mr. Spock aptly fits this pattern. Other names would be as follows:

Spook
Spuck
Spack
Speek
Spouk
Spaak
Spilk
Spiak
Spunk
Spank
Spink
Spenk
Sponk
Spilk
Spalk
Spelk
Spolk
Spulk
Spirk
Spark
Spork
Sperk
Spurk
Spawk
Spauk
Speuk
Spuik
Spouk
Splak
Splek
Splek
Splik
Spluk
Spakk
Spekk
Spikk
Spokk
Spukk
Spark
Spirk
Sperk
Spork
Spurk
Spxyx

Hope that the suggestions are of immense help to you.
I remain,
Your humble and obedient servant,
Robert H. Justman


TO: Gene Roddenberry
FROM: Herb Solow
DATE: May 5, 1966
SUBJECT: PLANET VULCAN PROPER NAMES

Dear Gene:
In an industry that is founded on the uncontrollable appetite for creativity, it is indeed heartwarming for the management of a major studio to receive a copy of a memo that deals with such an intensely competitive and accurate discussion of proper names on the planet Vulcan.
However, what with time being of the essence; with our schedule calling for production: of our series to commence in three very short weeks, I feel enough time–rather more than enough time–has been spent devising names for Mr. Spock’s relatives. With a deep respect for creativity, I feel we should go on to something of greater importance.
H.F.S.

P.S. Have you thought of the name Spiik? Or Sprik? Or Sprak? Or Sprok? Or Spruk? Or Spudk? Or Spidk? Or Spuck? Or Spisk? Or Spask? Or Spesk? Or Spask? Or any of the other seventy-eight I already devised?
P.P.S. Please refer to Mr. Justman’s May 3 memo and you will find that the fifth name in column one is the same as the sixth name in column three. I understand that you science fiction people with your technical jargon have a word to describe this happening. It is known as a “mistake.”
P.P.P.S. What do you say if all the people on the planet Vulcan are lawyers (interesting idea) and they all have a firm name like Spook, Speek, Spork, Splik, and Roddenberry? (The last name is necessary to keep the audience aware at all times that this relates to science fiction.)
P.P.P.P.S Also note that in the May 3 memo the eighth name in column two is the same as the eighth name in column four. Also the tenth name in column two is the same as the ninth name in column four. There are probably others, but my time is too valuable to waste pointing out that the seventh name in column one is the same name as the third name in column two.


TO: Herb Solow
FROM: Bob Justman
DATE: May 6, 1966
SUBJECT: STAR TREK PLANET VULCAN PROPER NAMES

Dear Mr. Solow:
I refer to your memo, dated May 5, 1966. Any Vulcanite or science-fiction aficionado would know that the fifth name in column one (Spouk) is pronounced “Spook.” Whereas the sixth name in column three(Spouk) is pronounced “Spowk.”
The eighth name in column two (Spirk) is pronounced “Sperk.” Whereas the eighth name in column four (Spirk) is pronounced “Speerk.”
Also, the tenth name in column two (Spork) is pronounced “Spawrk.” Whereas the ninth name in column four (Spork) is pronounced “Spohrk.”
Also, the seventh name in column one (Spilk) is pronounced “Spilk.” Whereas the third name in column two (Spilk) is pronounced “Speelk.”
Consider yourself chastised.

Your Phrend,
Bahb


TO: Robert Justman
FROM: John D. F. Black
DATE: May 6, 1966
SUBJECT: YOUR MEMO TO H. SOLOW RE: STAR TREK PLANET VULCAN PROPER NAMES

Dear Bahb…
I refer to your memo, dated May 6, 1966, regarding Mr. Solow’s memo, dated May 5, 1966 … specifically pertaining to paragraph three of your note. I certainly take no issue with your reference to the tenth name in column two (Spork) being pronounced “Spawrk.” This, of course, is common knowledge.
However…
I am forced to raise some question in regard to your “whereas.” By this I mean the ninth name in column four (Spork) as being pronounced “Spohrk.” The proper pronunciation for the ninth name in column four (Spork) is, in fact, “Sphork” rather than “Spohrk.”
…unless, of course, you are one of those infected by the current trend toward excessive use of “jargon” and “common usage.”
I sincerely hope that you will take this slight criticism in the spirit in which it is intended.

Sincerely yours,
John D.F.


TO: John D. F. Black
FROM: Herb Solow
DATE: May 9, 1966
SUBJECT: VULCAN PROPER NAMES

As you will learn, I make it a practice not to get involved in the private squabbles between members of a particular production unit. However, I feel it necessary to throw caution to the wind and strongly and publicly take issue with your unkind criticism of our Bobby Justman. Our Bobby has been with this company for almost a year. How someone who is new to our shores and who uses Dorothy Fontana’s initials between his two names can rise up and publicly strike out at Our Bobby is beyond the realm of serious thought by the management of this studio.
This is especially disastrous in that your reasoning for taking to task Our Bobby is bad reasoning. Those of us who have discarded our rose-colored glasses and who see life as life is meant to be seen know, in fact, that the proper pronunciation of the ninth name in column four (Spork) is not “Spohrk” and is not “Spawrk,” but is, in fact, a throwback to a German company that manufactured Christmas cookies, and is pronounced with a silent “f” and is spelled “Sfpork.”
Sure, Bob Justman is wrong. If he doesn’t understand the “Sf” factor in Vulcan proper names, then he should be publicly chastised, and I am surprised that you have not taken it upon yourself to be slightly critical of whatever-his-name-is…
(Don’t ask me how they still manage to get their work done. I’ve observed these people for almost two years now, and I still don’t understand it.) NBC’s Broadcast Standards Department requires (as do the other networks) that all scripts for shows to be aired on NBC be cleared with their department prior to shooting. The people working in the Broadcast Standards Department are the ones commonly referred to as the “TV Censors.” They can normally be expected to make a certain number of comments on every script submitted. Their comments are usually phrased in the form of “suggestions” and, of course, are mandatory. In any event, at the same time that John D. F. Black was wrestling with the problem of “Planet Vulcan Proper Names,” he was also becoming acquainted with NBC’s Broadcast Standards Department.


2 comments on “The 1966 Star Trek “Vulcan Proper Names” Memos

  1. One of the Marshak/Culbreath novels mentioned Savaj.

  2. Pingback: N is for Naming | Red Sofa Literary

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: