'Star Trek: Discovery' Reveals Spock Has a Learning Disability

Ethan Peck debuted as Spock in tonight’s episode of Star Trek: Discovery, but that wasn't the only debut. The episode also brought a new revelation about Spock’s childhood on Vulcan.

SPOILERS for Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, Episode 7, “Light and Shadows” follow.

In “Light and Shadows,” Cmdr. Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) takes leave from her duties aboard Discovery to return to Vulcan. She returns to the home she grew up in hoping that her mother, Amanda Grayson, knows something about Spock’s whereabouts.

It turns out Amanda has been hiding Spock in a crypt on Vulcan. Spock’s mind is troubled. He paces about repeating precepts of Vulcan logic, passages from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland stories, and a sequence of numbers.

Burnham and Amanda argue about how best to help Spock. They’re interrupted by Sarek, who insists they turn Spock over to Federation authorities. Amanda argues with her husband.

During the course of this argument, Amanda reveals that Spock struggled with a learning disability as a child. The Vulcan condition has symptoms like those of dyslexia in humans. The condition is rare in Vulcans, and Spock’s case was blamed on his human mother.

Sarek believed Spock’s rigorous education at the Vulcan Learning Center allowed him to overcome the condition. Amanda corrects Sarek, revealing that she provided Spock with the emotional support he couldn’t find anywhere else on Vulcan. She read Alice in Wonderland to him, because she believed that he could relate and find comfort in a story where up was down and left was right.

Learning about Spock’s condition helps Burnham decipher the numbers Spock has been repeating. She realizes that he’s saying the sequence backward. Reversing the sequence reveals the numbers are the coordinates for the planet Talos IV.

Spock’s logical mind has long attracted neurodivergent fans. A search of Tumblr or An Archive of Our Own reveals “Autistic Spock” to be a popular fan-fiction subject. The relationship between Spock and neurodivergent fandom was also explored in the 2017 film Please Stand By. Revealing that Spock is neurodivergent himself may help those fans to see even more of themselves in Star Trek’s most iconic character.

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What do you think of Star Trek: Discovery revealing Spock’s condition? Why do you think Spock wants to return to Talos IV? Let us know how you feel about it in the comments section.

"Light and Shadows" is now streaming. New Star Trek: Discovery episodes become available to stream Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBS All Access.