“We are assembled here today to pay final respects to our honored dead. And yet it should be noted that in the midst of our sorrow, this death takes place in the shadow of new life, the sunrise of a new world; a world that our beloved comrade gave his life to protect and nourish. He did not feel this sacrifice a vain or empty one, and we will not debate his profound wisdom at these proceedings. Of my friend, I can only say this: of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most… human.”
Many of the headlines read: “Spock is dead”. Of course, that’s not really true. Spock is a fictional character that will live on likely longer than any of us. But fans of science fiction in general and Star Trek fans in particularly have lost a friend today who was very human. Leonard Nimoy was 83.
Leonard Nimoy started on television doing guest spots on tons of programs. He can be seen in such classics as Wagon Train, Sea Hunt, The Untouchables, Dr. Kildare, Dragnet, Bonanza, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Rawhide, Perry Mason, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Gunsmoke, Get Smart, Columbo, and a Virginian episode where he plays a wounded traitor soldier being tended to by a young army doctor played by Deforest Kelley. It was a show called The Lieutenant where he proved himself to one of the show’s writers, Gene Roddenberry. Roddenberry cast him as the alien Mr. Spock in his failed Star Trek pilot. When Roddenberry was given an unprecedented second chance at a Star Trek pilot, Mr. Spock was the only character to make the transition to the new version, even though he was asked by NBC to “lose the guy with the ears”. Those ears, by the way, were designed by makeup genius John Chambers, who also provided the original Planet Of The Apes makeup. Yes, he was also the character lampooned by John Goodman in Argo.
While Spock was created by The Great Bird Of The Galaxy, it was Nimoy himself who contributed several of the Vulcan trademarks that have lived on in Trek lore. The famous hand gesture that goes along with “Live Long And Prosper” he stole from a Jewish service he attended as a child. Apparently it occured at a point when the congregation was supposed to be looking the other way. Young Nimoy peeked, and all of Trekdom is thankful. When Nimoy the actor was trying to avoid a lot of fistfights for his peace-loving character, he came up with the famous Vulcan Nerve Pinch as a solution to a lot of fisticuffs.
For Nimoy himself, Spock was both a blessing and a curse. His first autobiography rubbed fans the wrong way when he decided to title it I Am Not Spock. He was originally the only cast member not to jump on board for the planned Star Trek Phase II series that eventually evolved into Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Of course, he ended up joining the film, and the script was rewritten to include a last minute pickup for everyone’s favorite Vulcan on the way to the Enterprise‘s date with V’ger. Nimoy would learn to embrace the character once again and found peace with the fans when his autobiography follow-up 20 years later was called I Am Spock. He would go on to direct two of the Trek films including The Voyage Home, considered by many fans to be one of the best of the film franchise. In more recent years he was happy to spoof his Spock character on shows like Big Bang Theory and The Simpsons. Finally, he would reprise his role as Spock “Prime” in the two rebooted universe films from JJ Abrams. He ended up befriending Zachary Quinto, who currently plays Spock in the film franchise.
When the series ended, Nimoy replaced Martin Landau as the master-of-disguise member of the IM Team on Mission Impossible. He got a second wind as the host of In Search Of, a television documentary series that explored many of the world’s mysteries including the biggies like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. The show might have been ahead of its time. Today networks like A&E, History, and Discovery are flooded with those kinds of shows.
It’s not just the Star Trek world that will miss Leonard Nimoy. He was quite the eclectic artist. He has published books of poetry and photography. He recorded several albums where he attempted a singing career. While the singing didn’t really work out, he sounded pretty good when compared to the efforts of his Enterprise bridge cohort William Shatner when he attempted the singing thing. His stage work includes some classic productions from The King And I, Fiddler On The Roof and A Streetcar Named Desire.
Nimoy has always been spoken of kindly by those who worked with him. Here at Upcomingdiscs we’ve had the honor of reviewing many of the projects in which he was involved:
The galaxy became a sadder place with the loss of Nimoy. Thankfully, his great body of work will delight us for the remainder of our own days. “He’s really not dead as long as we remember him.”