You may have heard the saying, “truth is stranger than fiction.” But sometimes it isn’t so shocking to learn that truth is stranger than fiction, but that more often than we realize the two are more similar than we ever imagined. In the Kelvin Timeline Star Trek films, Zachary Quinto plays the Vulcan character Spock and he recently learned just how close fact and fiction can be. Quinto will appear in an upcoming episode of NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?, and a clip of the episode proves he has a stunning real life connection to his character.
Originally a BBC series and now airing on NBC, Who Do You Think You Are? digs into the ancestries of celebrities to often give them surprising revelations. In the clip below, provided by Trek Movie, Quinto learns his great-grandfather P.J. McArdle was a union leader in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Star Trek Spock actor is shown an 1899 issue of the labor newsletter The Amalgamated Journal, in which his great-grandfather wrote a brief one-paragraph message. Quinto is understandably shocked to read the message and learn his ancestor ends it with, “I enclose a list of subscribers from this mill. May it live long and and prosper is the wish of Yours Fraternally, P.J. McArdle.” Just about anyone with even a passing familiarity with Star Trek will recognize the phrase we first hear Spock utter, “Live long and prosper,” in the season 2 premiere of Star Trek: The Original Series, “Amok Time.” You can see Quinto get his mind blown below.
As the video teaches us, while it certainly is an amazing coincidence that Quinto’s great-grandfather used the phrase the actor’s Star Trek character Spock is famous for, it actually isn’t all that surprising. Stage actor Joseph Jefferson made the phrase “May you live long and prosper” famous in the 19th century, through his performance of Rip Van Winkle. According to a letter published by The Deseret News in 2015, the phrase comes up in a scene when Jefferson’s character is making a toast, and the phrase itself is a variation on the traditional Irish blessing, “Here’s to your health and your families, and may they live long and prosper.”
Quinto’s appearance on Who Do You Think You Are? does more than give Zachary Quinto some existential questions to ponder, but it shows the rest of us the origins of Star Trek’s Spock in a new, multicultural light. As noted by StarTrek.com, while the phrase Spock uttered may have an Irish origin, other Vulcan traditions heralded by the character come from a different place. The famous V-shaped salute Spock often gives to other Vulcans has its origins in Leonard Nimoy‘s Jewish background. The salute comes from a Jewish blessing performed by priests referred to as the Kohanim. Upon filming the 1967 episode “Amok Time” — the first Star Trek episode ever to show Spock on the planet Vulcan — Nimoy felt it was important that for his interactions with other Vulcan characters, he should have a distinct greeting used only between his people.
If you want to see the whole episode of Who Do You Think You Are? to see if Quinto discovers any more crazy connections between himself and Star Trek’s Spock, it’s scheduled to air on NBC and stream on Peacock on Sunday, August 14.