As I get older (and, you know, more aware of the issues that surround things like this), the less I can stomach Spock’s mental assault on Valeris in Star Trek VI. Everything about the scene speaks to the complete ignorance of everyone involved when it comes to women’s issues and rights. What is, on the surface, a typical (if tasteless, as these things tend to be) torture-the-bad-guy-until-they-cough-up-some-information moment takes on some very sinister undertones with a little examination.
After deducing that Valeris is responsible for Gorkon’s death and confronting her in sickbay, the next step is fairly obvious: interrogation. However, instead of taking Valeris to the brig or even to a briefing room to find out what she knows, Kirk and Spock bring her to the bridge where, after she refuses to comply with their requests for information, Spock forces himself on her in front of everyone.
Star Trek has generally shown the mind meld to be a deeply personal action. Even when it occurs between two willing individuals, it’s shown to be a heavy, intimate undertaking. In fact, in Star Trek III, Sarek hesitates before joining his mind with Kirk’s for what amounted to a quick visit to make sure that his son hadn’t made a deposit in JTK’s memory bank.
Spock opting to perform the action in front of everyone may have given Nicholas Meyer a few dramatic seconds of footage, but a handful of uncomfortable glances doesn’t make up for how complicit it makes the entire cast look. Meyer worked hard to make the entire scene play out like a rape in front of the cameras, down to the fact that Valeris, her eyes filled with tears, cries out in a distinctly sexual way during the meld after Spock pushes her against her mental walls. I understand the logic of this approach. It is a complete violation of another person, after all, but the lack of any kind of follow-up just highlights how thoughtlessly the scene ended up being written and directed.
Outside of a quick glance at Valeris before going about his business, Spock shows absolutely no remorse for his actions. In the next scene, he’s seen meditating in his quarters but she only comes up in a single line in the entire conversation: Spock’s “I was prejudiced by her accomplishments as a Vulcan” as an excuse for not figuring out who was responsible in the first place. Instead, he and Jim Kirk talk about being old men and having old men problems with the future, which is nice, but a line or two about what occurred and how Spock felt would have made the hero’s extreme actions feel a little more understandable, if not exactly heroic.
Everyone complains about Alice Eve’s underwear moment in Star Trek Into Darkness and yes, that’s about as dumb as these things get, but having Carol Marcus tell Jim Kirk to not look at her in her skivvies seems downright quaint compared to watching one of the series protagonists assault a woman he’s known for decades with no repercussions or regrets.