Friday, August 23, 2013

Don't Know Much About (Vulcan) Philosophy

The Vulcan IDIC seen in close-up in 'Is There in Truth No Beauty? (1968)
For many Star Trek fans the Vulcan philosophy of IDIC (short for Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations) symbolizes what scholar Jennifer Porter calls the program's "ideal for tolerance of diversity." Regardless of fandom's appropriation of the concept, however, it is no secret that Gene Roddenberry's introduction of the IDIC was motivated less by philosophical aims than it was commercial ones.

The IDIC philosophy and related jewelry first appeared in the seventh episode produced during the third season of Star Trek, 'Is There In Truth No Beauty?' Although the writing credit went solely to newcomer Jean Lisette Aroeste, the IDIC was actually the invention of series creator Gene Roddenberry, who specifically re-wrote the teleplay to feature the IDIC medallion. Roddenberry already had plans to sell IDIC jewelry to Star Trek fans through his mail order business, Lincoln Enterprises, but before he could do that he had to get the concept on the air.

Roddenberry first tried to include the IDIC at the end of 'Spock's Brain,' the sixth episode produced during the third year, and ultimately the first episode of the season to be broadcast. In a July 10, 1968 memo to Fred Freiberger, Roddenberry outlined his idea for a scene with the IDIC. Perhaps emphasizing the importance the jewelry had to Roddenberry, the memo was titled 'Spock's Medallion.'

This proposed epilogue began with Uhura presenting Spock with 'a boxed item from the junior officers of the vessel, which they have had made up to show their delight that Spock has been brought back to life.' Inside the box, of course, is the IDIC medallion, which Roddenberry says 'has great meaning to all Vulcans' and is 'like the 'cross' to Christians and similar symbols to other religions and creeds.' Roddenberry's memo goes on to elaborate on the scene:
Chekov is proud that his research on it was correct and Spock admits it is perfectly executed. We may or may not have Spock mention that his original Vulcan IDIC medallion given to him by his father at his Vulcan 'Bar Mitzvah; was lost in some early spaceship disaster or adventure. 
The reason for junior officers presenting it is so that Kirk, McCoy, and Scotty can be curious about it and its meaning. We may assume that they have seen this symbol or heard about it, but since Vulcans are not prone to chatter about their philosophy, not too many people know the real meaning and symbology [sic].  
Prompted by the fact that Chekov’s clever research has already revealed much about it, Spock begins to explain some of the symbology [sic]. Spock, genuinely moved by the gift and by certain relationships of it to the story we have just seen, becomes more and more articulate and is finally chattering away like a human.  
We can have some humor here as Kirk, McCoy and Scotty try to break in with ship’s business, and for the first time in our series, Spock won’t let anyone get a word in edgewise. This leads to your suggested final line of McCoy’s wishing he had not connected Spock’s mouth.
Freiberger elected to ignore Roddenberry's story suggestion, likely because it was too late to implement in the episode. Paramount's mandate that the series now complete each episode on a strict six day shooting schedule made it difficult to execute changes on the fly, and by the time Roddenberry's memo was delivered, it was already the third day of photography on 'Spock's Brain.' It didn't help that the scene was only in the form of a rough outline, not script pages that could be put in front of the camera.

Undeterred, Roddenberry decided to revise the script for the next episode to be shot ('Is There In Truth No Beauty?') to include the IDIC. Roddenberry's script revisions (which were unusual during the third season, in which he still dictated story memos and co-wrote two episodes, but was no longer doing rewrites) were delivered at the last minute, and when the show's two stars got ahold of them, a serious conflict erupted on set. Director Ralph Senensky later described the situation:
Our first day of filming, Tuesday, July 16th, arrived, and I was greeted with a mutiny on the Enterprise. Bill Shatner and Leonard Nimoy had very strong objections to a portion of the scene we were scheduled to do that day and were refusing to film. Since the objection was to dialogue involving a piece of jewelry that Gene Roddenberry had designed, he was summoned to the set. (I have since learned that Leonard Nimoy first phoned producer Fred Freiberger to tell him of the problem. When Freiberger refused to take any action, Leonard called Roddenberry.) The morning was spent in a round table war with the six characters involved in the scene plus Gene and me. But the battle was strictly Bill and Leonard vs Gene. Bill and Leonard felt Gene was using the scene as a promotional commercial for a pin he had designed; the pin was part of Leonard’s costume. Gene vehemently denied these accusations, but the guys were adamant in their refusal to be a part of something they considered to be commercially oriented.
--Ralph Senensky, Is There In Truth No Beauty? (2011)
William Shatner offered his own perspective on the situation in his book, Star Trek Memories:
I got my script change, read the new scene and with my jaw still hanging open, I called Fred down to the set, asking him, 'What's this IDIC thing about?' I knew that Lincoln Enterprises would soon be selling these things, and there was no way that I was going to muck up a perfectly good story line just so we could include Gene's rather thinly veiled commercial. With that in mind, I flatly refused to do the scene. Freiberger hemmed and hawed about the difficulties involved in re-revising the script, but as I spoke to him recently for this book, he finally admitted that he was actually relieved that I wouldn't do the scene. It was probably the first time in history that a producer was glad to be dealing with a 'difficult' actor...
Leonard and I had both seen through Gene's marketing ploy, and one after another we'd refused to play the scene. Still, when Gene came to the set, he did his very best to push it through. To his credit, Roddenberry was completely honest about the situation and didn't try to mask his free publicity scam behind any half-baked creative half-truths. He simply stated that Lincoln Enterprises would soon be marketing these medallions, and that he'd really appreciate our cooperation in getting the product into this storyline.
So I went through a great deal of soul-searching and teeth-grinding over the situation, and finally I just had to say, 'Gene, I'm sorry, but I can't do this.'  Roddenberry accepted my refusal, but kept working on Leonard.
--William Shatner with Chris Kreski, Star Trek Memories (1993), p.287-289
With Shatner refusing to play the scene, it ultimately fell to Leonard Nimoy to be the pitchman for Roddenberry's jewelry. However, Nimoy had his own objections to the idea, which he recalled in his book, I Am Spock:
Certainly, I was all in favor of the philosophy behind the IDIC-- but not the fact that Gene wanted me to wear the medallion because he wanted to sell them through his mail-order business, Lincoln Enterprises. Where the scene had been problematic creatively for me, it was now problematic ethically. While I wouldn't argue with the IDIC concept, I was troubled that I had opened the door and let in a new kind of animal while trying to get rid of another.
--Leonard Nimoy, I Am Spock (1995), p.123
With both of his leading men refusing to go before the cameras, and half a day of filming lost to the argument, Roddenberry agreed to postpone the scene until later in the schedule so that he could rewrite it. Ultimately, Leonard Nimoy agreed to do this new version of the scene, although he wasn't thrilled by it:
Although I didn't appreciate Spock being turned into a billboard, I at least felt that the IDIC idea had more value than the content of the original scene. We filmed the scene as Gene had rewritten it. But the whole incident was rather unpleasant; Roddenberry was peeved at me for not wanting to help his piece of mail-order merchandise get off to a resounding start, and Fred Freiberger was peeved at me for going over his head.
--Leonard Nimoy, I Am Spock (1995), p.123-124
William Ware Theiss concept sketch for the IDIC (1968)
Although Ralph Senensky indicates that the IDIC medallion was designed by Roddenberry, the book The Art of Star Trek (1995) suggests that the design was actually a collaboration between Roddenberry and costume designer William Ware Theiss, including the above sketch by Theiss on p.xii. To be fair, the triangle-circle concept had been one Roddenberry had been mulling over since the first season of the series, as indicated in this memo to Matt Jefferies:
To: Matt Jefferies
Date: December 12, 1966
From: Gene Roddenberry
Dear Matt:
Would like to see a greater use of symbols, some design of significant form and color, used to identify and tie together the particular planet cultures, alien vessels, other Earth vessels, organizations, etc. As always, would appreciate you coordinating with costume, property, etc. A handy example: In "Return of the Archons," the law-givers and the Society of Landru could have been characterized by a symbol, say an unusual triangle-circle, which could have then given us unity by allowing it to appear on their rugs, possibly on their staffs, certainly on the walls of Landru's palace. As we discovered in the past, this trick has a way of unifying things, gives it a sense of greater reality, gives the director things to play to, and furnishes guide posts for the audience. For example, an upcoming one is the other vessel in "Space Seed." Can we do anything here?
Gene Roddenberry
--Stephen Whitfield and Gene Roddenberry, The Making of Star Trek (1968), p.127-128
Lincoln Enterprises IDIC advertisement (1969)
Roddenberry soon began selling the IDIC pendants, as indicated by this advertisement for the 'Vulcan Pendant' (which it solely credits to Roddenberry) in the 'Official Star Trek Catalog #2' offered by Lincoln Enterprises. The description of the item was similar, although not exact, to the one Roddenberry had included in his July 10, 1968 memo to Fred Freiberger, which described the IDIC:
SYMBOLOGY [sic] OF THE IDIC. There are two basic shapes and two basic colors and textures, i.e., the circle and the triangle. Generally, they represent that all things meaningful or beautiful are created by the joining together of different things. The pyramid can represent man and logic while the circle represents all of creation, i.e., man and creation joined together to create beauty. Also, the triangle-pyramid represents man and the circle represents woman and the jewel represents the beauty that their joining together is capable of creating. Or it can mean the truth which comes out of the blending of different ideas and creeds or the strength and beauty that comes out of the joining of different races, or the rich life which comes out of surrounding oneself with friends who have ideas different from your own and the rich cross-fertilization which occurs in such associations. 
The Vulcan in it, is that the glory of creation is in its infinite diversities and infinite combinations possible. As such, the IDIC represents and idea of universal brotherhood far beyond that represented by any other symbol we know of.

birdofthegalaxy's IDIC pendant with quarter for scale (2012)
Thanks again to the helpful community at the TrekBBS. Among them, Star Trek History contributor alchemist found the source of the IDIC concept art, Star Trek: Phase II co-executive producer Gregory L. Schnitzer pointed out and transcribed the memo from The Making of Star Trek, and author Christopher L. Bennett helped determine the design lineage of the IDIC. Without their help, this post would have undoubtedly been delayed yet another week.

Update (8/24/2013): Thanks to Gregory L. Schnitzer, I can reproduce a portion of the IDIC scene not included in the final version of 'Is There In Truth No Beauty?' below:

Busy with the search for expressing her thoughts, Miranda's hand touches the medallion pinned to Spock's breast. She touches it carefully, as though identifying it. McCoy sees the fleeting gesture her hand makes on contact with the medallion. He is very intent on her action. 

Spock pulls back, afraid he may have scratched her. 

Forgive me. I forget that dress uniforms can injure. 

No, I was merely looking at your Vulcan IDIC, Mister Spock. 
(looks up, curiously) 
Is it a reminder that as a Vulcan you could mind-meld with the Medeusan much more effectively than I could? 
(to the others, but smiling) 
It would be most difficult for a Vulcan to see a mere human take on this exciting a challenge. 

(to Spock) 
Interesting question. It is a fact that you rarely do wear the IDIC. 

I doubt that Mister Spock would don the most revered of all Vulcan symbols merely to annoy a guest, Dr. Jones. 

(to Miranda) 
In fact, I wear it this evening to honor you, Doctor.


Indeed. Perhaps even with those years on Vulcan, you missed the true symbology. 
(indicates medallion) 
The triangle and the circle... 
...different shapes, materials, textures...represent any two diverse things which come together to create here...truth or beauty. 
(indicating the parts, looks up) 
For example, Doctor Miranda Jones who combined herself and the disciplines of my race, to become greater than the sum of both. 

Kirk can see Miranda isn't fully sold on Spock's intentions 
...he changes the subject. 

Very interesting, I might even say...fascinating. 

(At this point the scene picks up as aired.)

These pages originate from a draft sold by Lincoln Enterprises which bears the date of July 16, 1968. They may reflect Roddenberry's original version of the IDIC scene, which he was forced to change to appease Leonard Nimoy. If this is the case, then the pages were certainly delivered at the last minute, since July 16, 1968 was the day of the on set controversy.

On the other hand, these pages may represent Roddenberry's rewrite of the IDIC scene, written later in the day, after the executive producer agreed to table the scene and move on. Since these pages represent a longer version of the scene, rather than a complete rewrite, I suspect this is the case. They also do not reflect William Shatner's memory that the original version of the scene featured Kirk bestowing the IDIC 'upon an absolutely thrilled recipient,' although readers of Star Trek Memories will know that Shatner's recollections in it are often mistaken.

Without returning to the UCLA archives, however, it's impossible to know the answer. Hopefully, I will be able to return to California soon and have the time do so.

Images courtesy of birdofthegalaxy.


The Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection (1964-1969)

The Making of Star Trek (Stephen Whitfield and Gene Roddenberry, 1968)

Star Trek Memories (William Shatner with Chris Kreski, 1993)

I Am Spock (Leonard Nimoy, 1995)

The Art of Star Trek (Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, 1995)

Star Trek and Sacred Ground: Explorations of Star Trek, Religion and American Culture (Jennifer E. Porter and Darcee L. McLaren, 1999)

Is There In Truth No Beauty? (Ralph Senensky, 2011)


  1. I haven't actually sat down to read this article in depth, but I have scanned it a couple of times and I admire it immensely. IDIC is truly a guiding concept in my life and having it unpacked like this is really valuable for me. Even the cynical aspect of it is good to know, maybe even especially so. Anyway, I just couldn't believe no one else had commented on this so I want you (the author) to know that at least one person really appreciates the piece. LLAP.

  2. The two summed it up perfectly at the end of this episode: Miranda begins, "The glory of creation is in its infinite diversity." Spock replies with, "And the ways our differences combine, to create meaning and beauty." The concept of IDIC fits perfectly in today's attempt to accept all, and eradicate prejudice of all kinds.

  3. Want to add my appreciation for this article on the path and controversy of the IDIC Jewelry. The story seems to be an example of IDIC in action with Stage Craft the Circle and Commerce the Pyramid....

  4. I find it odd that Roddenberry had such a wonderful view of the future and it's philosophies, all for the sake of a buck. So I will assume he begrudgingly hawked his wares to fund his vision. I, for one, believe the IDIC mentality is the way of the future. Thanks, Lofty Seraph.

  5. i have one of the original metals sold by Gene Roddenberry in the ad from the Star Trek Enterprise catalog 1969. it's missing the gem and shows a little wear, but all in all, still in very good condition for an original.

  6. "IDIC & Logic" = "Pluralistic Rationalism"! Hmmm...

  7. If you rotate it a bit to the right, it very much resembles the "pyramid with the all-seeing eye" image. Wasn't Gene Roddenberry a Mason?

    1. There are plenty of conspiracy theories to this effect online. To date, though, I haven't found any references to Roddenberry being a Mason. This is probably a coincidence.

    2. Regardless of whether or not Gene was a Mason, that's clearly what it is. Hardly a "conspiracy theory" when you can see it with your own eyes.

    3. A Mason here. Although we would gladly claim Roddenberry as a member; alas, we cannot. Nor is the IDIC an all-seeing eye, though it does superficially resemble it. I've seen a few of those online theories, too; and they stretch quite a number of points. For instance, the Vulcan salute is not a Masonic sign either. But the philosophy of IDIC itself, while not Masonic, is completely compatible with Masonic ideals.

  8. Why is the word "symbology" followed by "[sic]"? It's a perfectly cromulent word.

    1. It's been years since I wrote this, but I think at the time I was curmudgeonly clinging to "semiology" over "symbology" as the preferred term. When recovering from academia, one can find themselves fixating on such trivialities!

  9. I know it's been years since this has been published, so I'm a bit late in commenting. But I'm a life long Trekkie, and am about to get an IDIC tattoo, so I thought I'd look up a bit more about it. Thank you so much for this great article. I'm actually copying it off onto a word doc so I can always have it for reference, even if it unfortunetly gets taken down in 50+ years. Thanks so much for your hard work on this. LLAP

    1. I also just got an IDIC tattoo and my searches brought me here. LLAP!

  10. Leonard was Jewish priest and the Vulcan sign was a similar movement to one used in his religion...and the Mason's should be able to connect with it since part of their rites includes a Jewish person...

    1. Nimoy wasn't a rabbi. But as a child, he did see one use the gesture, at a different angle, in a ceremony. He was supposed to have his eyes closed. He peeked.