What Would Spock Do?

What Would Spock Do? is a well-packaged and lovingly-written show held back from greatness only by a loss of potential emotional depth.

What Would Spock Do? is rather like the character of Spock himself: sometimes lacking in the emotional department, but with brains and skill enough to get the job done.

The versatile and engaging Sam Donnelly plays Gary Thompson, a secret Star Trek superfan pressured into revealing his embarrassing nerdy passion by passion of another kind, namely a romantic entanglement with a Trekkie co-worker. Donnelly also portrays every other character, including Gary’s colleagues, relatives, and his love, crafting a unique physicality and voice for each and switching from one to the other with energy and clarity.

However the show never quite reaches the emotional depth or commentary on art as escapism of writer/director Jon Brittain’s earlier Trek-themed work, My Imaginary Friend Patrick Stewart (a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it character cameo establishes that the two share a narrative universe.) This is partly a function of the script itself, which clips along at a pace that is engaging but leaves less time for emotional or thematic exploration: hints at parallels between being a closet Trekkie and a closet homosexual are suggested through the character of one of Gary’s childhood bullies but never fully developed. But also, Donnelly’s performance itself does not always match what we are told. Gary says he loves Star Trek because as a child it helped him feel more confident but the man we see is never short of confidence; he occupies the stage with great charisma and physical presence. Despite denying it, he is more Kirk than Spock. Donnelly’s energy levels are mostly at a 10 throughout the hour; I would have liked to see him use more silence and stillness to take them down to a more vulnerable, awkward place during the sadder moments. Those moments were there, but could be deeper and hit harder: the advantage of being miked up is that lower, softer registers can be used without audiences straining to hear, and in a small venue like that a diminished physicality could still be clearly seen.

For the most part the production is technically slick, creating different moods and locations on the small stage with soundscapes and lighting changes that are effective but not ostentatious. Some transitions between blocks of the script are superfluous: since the show proceeds in the same manner after they have taken place they left me wondering whether something else was supposed to occur in them that has been cut. The script itself contains plenty for Trekkies to enjoy whilst still remaining accessible. A story beat concerning the recreation of one of Gary’s favourite moments from the show is immediately predictable, but the creative and thematically appropriate use of a character desperately wanting to say something during a period of socially enforced silence is exceedingly clever.

What Would Spock Do? is rather like the character of Spock himself: sometimes lacking in the emotional department, but with brains and skill enough to get the job done.

Reviews by Oliver Lennard

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The Blurb

An uplifting new comedy about love, Star Trek, and learning to accept who you are – no matter how much of a loser it makes you. Written and directed by Jon Brittain (Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho). Starring Sam Donnelly (The Bunker Trilogy, Quasimodo in Belt-Up's Hunchback). 'Brittain's razor-sharp script keeps the audience in gales of laughter' (Stage on The Sexual Awakening of Peter Mayo). 'As hilarious as it is well observed. Truly excellent' (OneStopArts.com on My Imaginary Friend Patrick Stewart).