Today we lost a friend. Star Trek icon Leonard Nimoy has died at the age of 83.
Nimoy, and his timeless portrayal of the alien Spock on Star Trek, have been part of my life for many years. I became a fan of Star Trek in the late 80’s / early 90’s by checking out VHS tapes of original series episodes from our local library. I was taken in by the bright color pallet, the cool spaceships, the pulpy and yet complicated stories and the characters – always the characters. Of the main 7 characters, Spock is the one indelibly etched into people’s memories. Nimoy brought a cold yet coy approach to the emotionless alien that just resonated with people. It really was something. And the chemistry between Spock and Kirk and Bones was really the cornerstone on which all the goodwill of the series was based.
Kirk – the headstrong and confident captain. Spock – the logical and emotionless adviser to Kirk’s right. Dr. (Bones) McCoy – the illogical and emotionally compassionate adviser to Kirk’s left. Together, this trinity presented the complicated moral conundrums to the audience and examined them from each respective angle. In the end, they always seemed to end up on the bridge again, chuckling about how it all turned out.
When the show was canceled and then rumblings of a reboot/sequel came up, Nimoy declined the invite to participate. Nimoy had come to love/loathe his character in a way. He was protective of the legacy and didn’t want to cheapen the character by letting Spock become a parody of himself (despite some of the late-run episodes that maybe crossed that line). Nimoy changed his mind when the series was cancelled in favor of a feature film (in response to the success of Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey). However, Nimoy lobbied for more creative control of the franchise and Spock in particular. When The Wrath of Khan was green-lit, Nimoy decided he wanted Spock to die. Eventually, his wish was granted and Spock’s sacrificial death became the most iconic scene and event in the Star Trek film series.
Following that film, Nimoy actually changed his mind (again) and returned to the franchise as a director for the next two films and also bringing Spock back. Nimoy was re-energized (no pun intended) and willing to continue playing Spock. William Shatner directed the fifth film in the series as a sort of egotistic counter-move to Nimoy’s increasing influence on the series. When that film bombed, it looked like the crew’s journey was over. But Nimoy himself came up with a fantastic idea for a final bow. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country was another masterful film that dealt with big issues and was directed by Nick Meyer (director of Wrath of Khan) on a script based on the suggestion by Nimoy. It was a perfect end to the not 5, but 25 year voyage of this crew as the ship sailed off into the “sunset”.
When the entire series was rebooted by JJ Abrams 5 years ago, Nimoy was the one he asked back to reprise his role – not Shatner. Nimoy had actually become the centerpiece of the original series in revisionist history. That’s how important his influence was. Kirk is a legendary character in his own right, but it was Nimoy’s vision and charisma that kept the ship going.
Nimoy’s final tweet:
A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP
Live long and prosper, friend.