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Star Trek: The Strange Truth Behind Spock's Skin That Only True Fans Know

If there's one franchise that has the most fully stocked archive of deep, esoteric lore, it's probably "Star Trek." No minutiae is too small or insignificant to not be common currency among the hardest-core "Trek" fans out there, but among the more general public many casual fans might not be aware that as originally conceived, the character of Spock (Leonard Nimoy) was going to have red skin before a technical problem made the Vulcan complexion closer to that of Nimoy's in real life.

A 2011 Trek.fm feature on the most famous Vulcan of all time revealed that "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry initially intended Spock to be much more "devilish" in appearance: "his ears tapered, his eyebrows raised high and severe. Even his skin was to simmer red. All he was missing was the forked tail," the article claimed.

Spock's hair, eyebrows, and his most famous physical trait, his pointed ears, can all be seen as vestiges of this character conception. But back in the days when "Star Trek" was first airing, Spock's red makeup had to look right on both color and black-and-white television sets, a technical challenge that the show's makers were simply unable to master.

Leonard Nimoy himself confirmed the story

Leonard Nimoy himself confirmed this unusual piece of Spock's backstory in a 2015 interview with The Los Angeles Times. "I was going to be black on a black-and-white set," Nimoy said, explaining that on black-and-white television sets the red makeup appeared jet-black.

It's not known whether the makers of "Star Trek" were thinking about any real-world racial implications in their choices behind Spock. According to makeup artist Fred Phillips, the character ended up getting a coat of what was actually called "Chinese Yellow" by Max Factor, suggesting that it probably wasn't the biggest concern (per Trek.fm).

And so Spock pretty much appears in the form he would become an icon in from the very beginning of "Star Trek," in visual terms at least. Viewers of the unaired pilot episode "The Cage" are often shocked by the uncharacteristic emotion displayed by the famously stoic Vulcan before his character was fully developed.