What is it about autism and Star Trek? Even on a metaphorical and literal level for a show with so many literal and metaphorical aliens coming together it still seems weird that for such an odd show how uniting Star Trek is to those on the spectrum.
How does Star Trek relate to autism though? On a more direct level I feel that each show has their own alien/alien feeling character that stands outside of the crew. Granted I’ve only really seen Star Trek the Original Series, The Next Generation and a pinch or Deep Space Nine, but I feel most confident in speaking to the former.
That being said, let’s examine Star Trek: The Original Series, particularly Spock. I feel that there’s an intimate reason why the late Leonard Nimoy is so well regarded among the geek/fanboy community and that is relatability.
Not the most obvious of example amongst typical autistic traits, but I really liked and related to Spock’s snark. I feel that there’s some misguided notion surrounding people on the spectrum having difficulties with snark and while I may be potentially only speaking for myself here, I feel we can pick up when something one says is…. ill informed.
While we may not speak to it as much as neurotypicals maybe something in our over analytical fashion of thinking we may pick up dopey dialogue which I love and all too much relate to Spock’s quick witted although dry responses. The other thing that I love and relate to regarding Spock is his over analytical … analysis of situations when others will initially lead with a more practical/obvious solution to an issue (Data from TNG shares this but more on that later).
He also seems to be largely alone or as isolated as possible (even in a room full of people), but never seemed lonely. That and his repressed emotions/emotional awareness feel very traditionally autistic.
Now, let’s move onto The Next Generation’s loveable android with Data. He I feel is too displaced emotionally to be properly representative of autism as I know it (VS Spock’s half emotional human side) which seems to be a defining characteristic for him.
HOWEVER, I feel that Data’s analytical nature is more intricate/detailed then Spock’s. I feel that while they both have a strong desire to learn that Spock’s arc has always been more about understanding himself, his humanity and feelings vs Data’s unending search for knowledge and understanding others.
There are obviously crossovers between those between the two characters on those elements, but that’s how I see that breakdown. Regardless, I hope that that dual breakdown helps to contextualize some autistic symptoms of these two classic characters to better understand or relate to a character with your/someone’s spectrum.