We lost a cultural icon Friday morning.
It’s should be no secret that I’m a life long Trekker from the original series through the original cast movies, the new generation spinoffs, the nextgen movies and even the controversial (among Trekkies, anyway) JJ Abrams reboot. Leonard Nimoy and his portrayal of Mr. Spock was a part of all of them.
When Star Trek came along in 1966, Nimoy, an army veteran, had already been acting for 15 years, had dozens of acting credits including many memorable 50s and 60s TV series, and was teaching Method acting in his own studio. But it is his almost 50 years of recurring roles as the half-human, half-alien Science Officer of the starship Enterprise for which he will always be remembered the best.
He was not always comfortable being so closely identified with Spock; being typecast can ruin an actor’s career. His first autobiography, in 1977, was titled, I Am Not Spock. His second, in 1995, was titled, I Am Spock. Between the two, he made peace with the enigmatic alien he had created and would continue to portray on film until as recently as 2013.
In addition to his perpetual portrayal of Spock, he narrated the popular “In Search Of…” TV series, directed “Three Men and a Baby” and two original cast Star Trek movies (One odd numbered, one even. Trekkers will know the significance of that.) He played Teyve on stage in “Fiddler on the Roof” and Mel Mermelstein , the man who took Holocaust deniers to court and won, in “Never Forget”. Casual fans often confused the titles of Mr. Spock and Dr. Spock but may not have realized that Dr. Nimoy held an honorary PhD. from Antioch University, his Masters Degree Alma Mater.
Nimoy wrote free verse poetry that he published along with his photography. He also sang badly but with great enthusiasm. His “Ballad of Bilbo Baggins” is something of a cult classic combining the nerd realms of Star Trek and The Hobbit all in one vintage 60s psychedelic performance.
The character of Spock was arguably the most complicated of the Star Trek personalities. He was an outsider who was not quite human in a way that made us examine our own humanity. His own struggle to overcome his human half eventually brought him to the realization that, sometimes, logic alone isn’t enough. Nimoy gave us that character and brought to life all the complexity and humanity that makes Spock a fascinating character. For that, among many things, he will be long remembered.
1931 – 2015
Live Long and Prosper