Live Long and Prosper
On this day in 2015, Leonard Nimoy passed away at the age of 83. For many of us, he was and always will be, ‘Spock’. Having played the character from 1964-2013, generations of Star Trek fans will always picture him whenever Spock is mentioned. In more recent years the character has of course been portrayed by Zachary Quinto and Ethan Peck but there’s always something more personal and deep-rooted about your weekly visit from your favourite science officer; or for those of us who joined a bit later, binging every episode of Star Trek the original series because you just can’t get enough. But there’s more to Nimoy than just Spock and his perfectly placid wit.
Life Before the Enterprise
Before playing the role of Spock, Leonard Nimoy had multiple jobs that were certainly not short of variety. He worked in an ice cream shop, spent a brief time in the US Army reserves, serving for 18 months and spending some of his time there putting on shows, even delivering newspapers and driving a cab. Like most actors he also spent quite a bit of time on stage, including directing and starring in a production of A Streetcar Named Desire. After playing a lot of smaller roles, Nimoy decided to aim for secondary or supporting roles, rather than lead characters. Ultimately, his decision found him on set for the pilot of Star Trek in 1964.
Logic, Above All Else
At first glance the role of Spock would of course seem secondary, as First Officer it’s his job to support. However, Nimoy could not have anticipated the extent to which Spock and he would become one. My personal experience of the original series saw Captain Kirk and Mr.Spock more as equals than Captain and First Officer. What could easily have been a sidekick role became a crucial element to one of the biggest Sci-Fi shows in history.
Leonard Nimoy released two autobiographies, I Am Not Spock, in 1975, and I Am Spock, in 1995. Whilst his approach in the first was centred more around his apprehension at becoming Spock and the degree to which he was seen only as his character and not himself; the second book instead focussed on his acceptance. Nimoy came to terms with the fact that he was no longer just himself but neither was he just Spock. The two had become one being.
Spock was heavily influenced by Nimoy’s personal approach. In turn, Spock’s logic and wisdom played a part in Nimoy’s personal life, showing him the world through different eyes. To express his coming to terms with this, he stated: “I’m only human, and I have no doubt Spock will outlive me by many years. I can only hope that, once in a while, when people look at Spock’s visage, they might sometimes think of me”. And I intend to do just that. After all, without Leonard Nimoy, we wouldn’t have Spock.
The Final Frontier
Finally, with the original series coming to a close in 1969, Nimoy continued his acting career in a variety of both movie and television roles. Some of these were centred around Spock, however, others were completely separate. For example, he appeared in the Simpsons and Futurama as himself and Spock, as well as in documentaries about Spock. He also did the voice over for Galvatron in The Transformers: The Movie (1986). For the Disney fans amongst you, he voiced King Kashekim Nedakh in Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001).
After making the decision to retire from the role in 2010, Nimoy expressed a desire to allow Zachary Quinto to take centre-stage as the character. Although, he did return for a brief cameo in Star Trek: Into Darkness in 2013, appearing as Ambassador Spock. He also voiced an action figure of Spock in The Big Bang Theory in 2012.
Therefore, the next time you watch Star Trek, the movies or series’, new or old, remember all the doors that were opened by Spock, a character who helped to shape many of our lives. More importantly, remember Leonard Nimoy, the man behind the Vulcan, and all he gave to us. “I have been and always shall be your friend” – Spock.