Without the influence of Lieutenant Boma — a minor but important member of the Enterprise crew — Spock would’ve been a very different presence on Star Trek. Without Boma, We may very well have spent years following a Vulcan who hadn’t learned that unpredictability borne of emotion and desperation is sometimes a necessary and life-saving force. Boma dared to challenge Spock’s strict logical governance.
Don Marshall, the man who played Lt. Boma on Star Trek, died on Sunday at the age of 80, but his influence on the Star Trek universe is keenly felt thanks to his role in the episode “The Galileo Seven,” which saw Boma challenge Spock’s callous approach to the threat of death.
The episode found seven of the Enterprise crew members aboard a shuttlecraft called Galileo, which crash-landed on Taurus II, a dangerous planet inhabited by hostile giants. Thanks to the interference of a “quasar-like phenomenon,” the seven crew members were trapped on the planet with a badly damaged ship, no fuel, and no way to get in touch with the Enterprise.
As the commanding officer, Spock was forced to make difficult decisions and became increasingly frustrated when those decisions, based on logic, resulted in further setbacks and even death.
It was Boma who forced Spock to step outside of himself and experience something resembling empathy. Later, it was Boma (and McCoy) who saved Spock’s life just before a last-ditch attempt to launch the shuttlecraft into orbit for a hopeful rescue.
In a clear display that he’d learned something from Boma and his time on Taurus II, Spock made a seemingly highly illogical decision that led to the crew’s rescue.
The mission was Spock’s first time in command, and it no doubt changed him profoundly. He emerged from that experience a better leader and a better friend. It was largely thanks to the influence of Boma, who forced him to see that when dealing with humans — or any life form that isn’t as strictly governed by logic as Vulcans — one must provide for emotional responses and unpredictability.
Don Marshall’s Lieutenant Boma forever changed the trajectory of Spock, and of the Star Trek universe as a whole, despite his brief appearance. Influencing a character that has become so deeply iconic, not just in science fiction but in all of popular culture, is a powerful thing, and it makes for a damn fine legacy.