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Literature / Spock Must Die!

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Published in 1970, Spock Must Die! by James Blish is the very first original Star Trek novel published by Bantam books, and only the second original Star Trek novel of all. note 

During a routine mapping mission, the Enterprise learns that the Klingon Empire has launched a major offensive against the Federation. Cut off from the Federation, Kirk decides to head for Organia to discover why the Organians have not enforced the Peace Treaty which they imposed in "Errand of Mercy".

With the journey set to take several months, Mr. Scott devises a novel long-range transporter and attempts to send a short-lived tachyon duplicate of Spock to Organia, with the intention of getting an immediate report. However, the new transporter creates a permanent duplicate of Spock.


What has happened to Organia, which is the original Spock, and what should be done with the duplicate?

As one of the earliest Star Trek novels, Spock Must Die! benefits from only having to maintain continuity with the original TV series. The book is generally considered non-canon, as the Klingons are ultimately interdicted from space flight for a thousand years.

Spock Must Die! provides examples of:

  • Beam Spam: In a satisfying aversion of normal Star Trek practice, Kirk gives Sulu free rein to fire at will. Shortly after, three Klingon corvettes are reduced to clouds of incandescent gas.
  • Covers Always Lie: One edition cover shows two identical Spocks on the transporter pads. In the book, one of them is actually a mirror image and has his badge on the wrong side. Somehow, Kirk and co. don't notice, giving the duplicate time to change his shirt.
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  • Destructive Teleportation: McCoy theorizes that this is how the transporters work. None of the other characters agree.
  • Early Adaptation Weirdness: Despite having written many adaptations of the Original Series episodes, Blish has Kirk inexplicably calls McCoy "Doc" instead of "Bones". Blish admitted in the introduction in later editions of the novel that this was a mental lapse on his part.
  • Left-Handed Mirror: The duplicate of Spock is left-handed. He has to fake right-handedness to maintain his cover. Being the duplicate of Spock, he manages pretty well.
  • Mr. Exposition:As Spock is sort of not quite his usual self, the role is filled by McCoy - pages worth.
  • Mirror Chemistry: A mirror-reversed copy of Spock is created in a transporter accident. He's unable to eat anything, and so he finds himself slowly starving while he works with a chemistry set in order to create mirrored food he can eat and survive.
  • Mirror Morality Machine: A side effect of the duplication process. Not only does it reverse left and right, but somehow reverses loyalty to the Federation with loyalty to the Klingons.
  • Out-of-Character Alert : Kirk attempts to use this to out the 'wrong' Spock, but unfortunately, the circumstance has left the original Spock rather out of character as well. The situation is worsened when both Spocks demand that the other must be killed, leading Kirk to fear that his Spock had actually been killed in the transporter accident and both of these Spocks are the 'wrong' ones.
  • Plot Hole: A few.
    • If Organia is months deep inside Klingon territory, then why was it strategic in "Errand of Mercy" and what was the Enterprise doing there?
    • McCoy has qualms about the regular transporter effectively killing the subject and creating a duplicate elsewhere. This leads to Scotty's tachyon transporter which doesn't send the subject anywhere, but creates a tachyon duplicate at the destination which, after 24 hours, reports back and is then allowed to evaporate. Neither the morality of creating a sentient being only to destroy it, nor the psychological effect on the duplicate of knowing it only has 24 hours to live, is ever addressed.
    • There is no audio/visual link to the inside of the (now sealed) transporter chamber. Since the duplicate is only supposed to be able to exist inside the chamber, how was it supposed to give its report?
      • Probably to the original, who is also inside the chamber and can tell the others whatever happened in there.
    • The fate of Organia itself is the source of Spock's duplication. In 5-6 months, nobody thinks to use the tachyon transporter to go anywhere other than Organia, or to send a probe to coordinates near Organia.
      • Then again, considering what happened the first time they tried it, nothing strange in their reluctance to try the tachyon transporter again.
  • Space Is an Ocean: Invoked. The Enterprise answers her helm better as she increases speed, like a 'nineteenth century clipper ship'.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: An extreme version of this at first appears to be the fate of the Klingons, with eons passing as they pursue the Enterprise. It is unclear how this marries with their eventual fate of being interdicted from space travel for 1000 years.