Spock’s relationship with his father, Sarek, has always been strained. Star Trek: Discovery has revealed that Spock’s adopted sister, Michael Burnham, also had her fair share of issues with Sarek. They are both huge disappointments to their Vulcan father.
Episode 6, “Lethe,” deepens the context of Michael Burnham’s (Sonequa Martin-Green) relationship with Sarek, who Trek fans have known for decades as Spock’s taciturn father, a Vulcan with a strange tolerance for humans. Discovery furthered the mystery by revealing in “Lethe” that Sarek was given an ultimatum back in the day: choose one of your “human” children (in Spock’s case, half-human) to participate in Vulcan society. Sarek chose his biological child, Spock, to join in on the Vulcan Science Academy’s expeditions and missions. His choice resulted in his ward Michael joining up with Starfleet and falling aboard Captain Philippa Georgiou’s U.S.S. Shenzhou.
But Sarek’s relationship with his children is even more complicated than that. Spock most likely gave his father a huge middle finger when he was a teenager because he chose Starfleet over the VSA. As we all know, Spock joined Starfleet rather than accepting any sort of position at the VSA or in any other Vulcan-run operation. The timing of this is probably way more intense than you realize. Here’s a quick breakdown by years.
We can assume that Burnham was rejected from the Vulcan expedition and assigned to the Shenzhou in the same year, 2249, since Burnham clearly wasn’t just sitting around on Vulcan and pouting logically for over a year; she sprung into action. We come to the year 2249 because Discovery tells us that Burnham had been brought aboard the Shenzhou 7 years before the events of Discovery. The Battle of the Binary Stars went down in 2256; 7 years before 2256 is 2249.
What’s really interesting about the year 2249 is that Sarek, in his memory of choosing Spock over Michael, mentions that Spock hasn’t yet joined the VSA at that time. Since Spock was born in 2230, that would have made him 19 at the time (by human and Federation standards)
And since teenagers — even half-Vulcan ones — are often nightmarish, Spock joined Starfleet Academy in 2250, less than a year after Sarek chose him over Michael to remain in Vulcan society. Spock essentially told his father to go fuck himself.
It can also be assumed that Spock similarly told the VSA the same thing, maybe in a showdown similar to the way J.J. Abrams imagined it going down in the rebooted Star Trek (2009).
Of course, in 2256, Burnham fucked up her relationship with Sarek by becoming the first mutineer in Starfleet history, earning a shameful reputation. The Original Series tells us that Spock and Sarek still weren’t on speaking terms by this point in the Trek timeline; Spock was assigned to the U.S.S Enterprise under Captain Christopher Pike in 2254, and he really wasn’t talking to his dad then. This means Sarek was probably pretty alone for a few months, pondering the logic behind both of his children being such disappointments.
But that’s kinda what you get for playing favorites with your kids, right?
Star Trek: Discovery airs on Sundays at 8:30 p.m. Eastern on CBS All Access.