American Culture

Mr. Spock is dead: RIP Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy passed away today at age 83. I read that he was taken to the hospital last Thursday with a possible heart attack, so I am not completely surprised. I am, instead, deeply saddened. It’s like the end of The Wrath of Khan–but this time it’s for real and there will be no Genesis planet.

Spock: The ship… out of danger?
Kirk: Yes.
Spock: Do not grieve, Admiral. It is logical. The needs of the many, outweigh…
Kirk: The needs of the few.
Spock: Or the one. I never took the Kobayashi Maru test until now. What do you think of my solution?
Kirk: Spock.
[Spock sits down]
Spock: I have been, and always shall be, your friend.
[he places a Vulcan salute on the glass]
Spock: Live long and prosper.

I was not allowed to watch the original Star Trek in its first run. To be clear, I was not allowed to watch it after having seen an episode or two and waking up at night with screaming bad dreams. Hey–I was a little kid with a high level of squeamishness. The only episode I remember from that period was the one with the white horned monkey-like alien that attacked Captain Kirk and drew blood. It was the blood that gave me nightmares.

But I saw enough to know who the characters were and by the time that I was in Junior High, I was hooked. I’m pretty sure I knew more about Mr. Spock, and Star Trek, than I did about Jesus and Christianity by the time I was 13. My interest in both science fiction and religion took on a logical and intellectual edge that I have never lost. When I think of my ideal world, my ideal universe, I think of Star Trek. No struggles on the Enterprise over race, ethnicity, or religion The Cold War was long over. And, my more recent appreciation, operating systems don’t matter.

And Leonard Nimoy embodied that world for me. He struggled with his human side but naturally defaulted to Vulcan logic. I understand why Leonard Nimoy wanted to kill off Spock–it seemed the only way to no longer be dominated by his most famous character. But I can also understand why he eventually re-embraced–and helped resurrect–his pointy-earred alter-ego.

My favorite performance by Leonard Nimoy was not anything to do with Star Trek. He adapted Phillip Stephens’ book Van Gogh as a one man show called Vincent. Nimoy starred in it as Vincent Van Gogh’s brother, Theo. It was brilliant. I saw a film of it shortly after it was performed in 1981. My theatre professor in college, Phil Robb, was the first person to perform the show after Leonard Nimoy and was permitted to use the media from the original production.

It was the production, as well as the acting that made Vincent so special. The story was told through the letters that Theo and Vincent wrote each other. There were large screens on the stage and images of the letters, the brothers, and Vincent’s artwork appeared to illustrate the story. For 1981, it was stunning and revolutionary. It also showed a completely different side of Leonard Nimoy’s acting abilities that I really appreciated–one vastly removed from the  cool, rational Mr. Spock. The show saw a revival in 2013 that Leonard Nimoy worked closely with–here is a trailer from that version:

Mr. Nimoy: you lived long and prospered. Rest in Peace.

Image from Wikipedia

7 replies »

  1. one of my favour characters of all times…it seems we will soon be seen him resurrected unto himself some place..rest until then …wake up in peace hopefully in a more peaceful planet Earth.

  2. If any of you want to truly know what a brilliant actor Nimoy was, there is a scene in the “Star Trek” episode “The Naked Time” where Spock enters a conference room and proceeds to have an emotional meltdown. I consider this the finest bit of acting in the entire “Star Trek” television franchise.

    The best I could find of the scene is this YouTube clip, which has horrible audio. http://youtu.be/6cWG0iVgxIk

    The society envisioned in the original “Star Trek” certainly wasn’t perfect, but it was clearly post-racial, post-poverty, post-religious, and driven by inquisitiveness, compassion, and science. When I was a pre-teen in the early ‘70s, I thought the future of American society would be like “Star Trek” in many ways.

    Well by and large it isn’t, so when I compare today’s reality with my childhood imaginings I feel like I’ve been fucking had.

  3. Spock was my favourite character on TV as a teenager and that show, along with the Apollo missions, led to me becoming an aerospace engineer and later, writing about the importance of the manned space exploration program. You can see some of my newspaper pieces here:

    https://web.archive.org/web/20110228072506/http://www.iosphere.net/~tharris/

    I did space activism long before tackling the climate scare – here are a couple of items of interest (the CSA never did do what their minister agreed to and so, not surprisingly, failed to maintain an adequate budget):

    https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/can.schoolnet.space.sr/ZhwiT9NwB2U

    https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/can.politics/PE5r3HyG02E – the CSA at the time were not sensible about the issue at hand, which is why I eventually publicized their falures.

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