Spock Was Going To Be Martian, Which Would Have Been Silly
Spock was one of the very first Star Trek elements that Gene Roddenberry thought of, judging by what he shared with others. This Spock character would have pointy ears, he said. He would be half alien (Gene came up with this part well before he decided the alien half should be logical and emotionless). Specifically, he would be half Martian.
This meant Spock should have skin that's tinted red. Mars is the Red Planet, after all—or at least that's how it appears from the ground on Earth; today, we know that the surface isn't quite as red as we once thought. At the start, the Star Trek team tried giving Leonard Nimoy red makeup for the part. This didn't quite work as planned. On TV, this just looked like he had extra dark skin, particularly since the majority of households watching Star Trek that first year had black and white TVs.
They tried Plan B next: yellow makeup, which gave him unnaturally light skin. This looked sufficiently alien, rather than looking like they were styling him after any particular Earth race. Yellow skin kind of broke with the Red Planet theme, but by this point, Roddenberry had soured on the idea of making Spock from Mars anyway.
Earth was sending landers to Mars in the '60s. None of them really made it there, but it seemed possible that we'd land on Mars while Star Trek was still on the air, and this would shatter whatever mythology they'd tried to set up for Spock's home planet. So, in place of Mars, they gave him a fictional home world named Vulcan, which had also been the name of a planet theorized to orbit between the Sun and Mercury.
Roddenberry was slightly optimistic about the timeline for landing on Mars, but not by much. We first successfully landed on Mars in 1975, six years after the first Star Trek series ended. He probably wasn't optimistic enough about the lifespan of Star Trek overall, though. He couldn't have expected that they'd be making new Star Trek series well into the next century, by which time we'd be launching helicopters on Mars and livestreaming the flights.
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