During the Cold War in the early 1960’s both sides of the Iron Curtain were making vast strides in aviation technology, aiming to be the first country to conquer space. By 1966, the USSR and the United States had both sent an astronaut into space and the USSR managed the first spacewalk. At the same time, First Officer Spock and Captain Kirk of the USS Enterprise were punching it into light speed and exploring the galaxy. In a time of great exploration, although not for the most scientific of reasons, Star Trek embodied the spirit of adventure and discovery that the ‘60s had in spades. The original series only lasted three season and became far more popular after the series ended, however it was the genesis that propagated five more series under the same name along with multiple movies, games and comic books. Beyond this, it created a cult of followers and inspired generations of people to go where no man has gone before. So many astronauts saw the first glimpse of their future in the USS Enterprise, while future doctors were inspired by DeForest Kelley and Bones. Star Trek has become iconic in pop culture, you can flash the Vulcan salute and most people will understand the reference. Spock with his pointy ears and green complexion is synonymous with Star Trek, and with his recent passing, I wish to honor both Leonard Nimoy’s career and what he contributed to the world with his work.
Many actors’ greatest fear is getting typecast into a role, while I’m sure Leonard Nimoy found himself in a similar predicament at one time, he eventually embraced his Vulcan persona, at least later in life. He even signed off from Twitter with LLP, short for his iconic line, ‘live long and prosper.’ He took on his role as Spock far beyond the original series, into the Wrath of Kahn, the Search for Spock and the Unknown Country and more recently in the 2009 Star Trek movie and Star Trek into Darkness. His character was prolific, existing for generations and even traveling through time; in so many ways this describes the enduring power of Nimoy’s alter ego.
Spock was the original nerd, the science officer that lived between worlds, who was neither accepted nor totally rejected. He was slighted by his father for being too human, and for joining Star Fleet merely because it is what he wanted. He was too cool and calculated, far too Vulcan for the hot-tempered Doctor McCoy. He was logical and yet shameful of the friendship he felt for Jim Kirk. He was a man of two worlds, which allows his character to transcend time and boundaries. He in many ways takes on the struggle of all people who find themselves in a similar situation, pulled in different directions by duty, love, obligation, work and sacrifice. In the end, Spock is always true to himself as he is both human and Vulcan. He is unapologetic, steadfastly loyal, completely dedicated, he is Spock.
Some may wonder how much Leonard Nimoy took from his alter ego’s personality, but I wonder how much of Spock is Leonard Nimoy. Maybe I like to think that every time I watch Spock Prime, I am actually seeing Leonard Nimoy living on in his work. Leonard Nimoy was also a great contributor to the arts, he was a photographer and a writer, his brief yet memorable singing career is lovable only because its serious delivery combined with little talent in the field makes it rather unforgettable. Nimoy published two biographies and combined his love of poetry, photography and Judaism in the photography book, ‘Shekhina.’ While it was considered scandalous by some, Nimoy brought together the divine and sensual, photographing Jewish women in the nude or semi-nude with a kind of sexual realism and enlightened humanism. Leonard Nimoy was more than just Spock, while we may never know as much of the man behind Spock as those who were dear to him, we love him for what he was to us. He made it ok to be who you are even if nobody understands you, he was the true friend and loyal companion, he was our pointy-eared, hobgoblin.