Leonard Nimoy: The one true Spock - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Leonard Nimoy: The one true Spock

Photo above: Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock, from the film, “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” (YouTube)

Leonard Nimoy …

Back in the 1970’s when there were just rumors of a Star Trek movie, the big roadblock reported at the time was that Leonard Nimoy, the all-important Mr. Spock, was not keen on reprising his role.

The Star Ship Enterprise from the original series. (YouTube)

The Star Ship Enterprise from the original series.
(YouTube)

There were all sorts of Star Trek rumors going around back then, many of them spurred by the release of Star Wars. That darn George Lucas was stealing Gene Roddenberry’s thunder! So Mr. Spock was revived, retrieved actually, from the planet Vulcan, to assist the Enterprise, under the command of Captain Decker — what? — With Admiral James T. Kirk along to … who knows.

  • Did you know: The very first space shuttle, SST-101 was named after the fabled starship from the series? Indeed. SST-101 was first named Constitution, but a letter-writing campaign to president Gerald Ford got the name changed.
The space shuttle, SST-101 Enterprise. (Wikipedia)

The space shuttle, SST-101 Enterprise.
(Wikipedia)

So, Spock strides onto the bridge of the new Enterprise radiating menace. Everyone, including Kirk, was taken aback by Spock’s demeanor.

Mr. Spock is one of those iconic characters than can only be played by one guy. In these newer versions where the characters are younger, Zachary Quinto has the unenviable task of playing a character that is so well known, so beloved by a public that has so enjoyed the franchise, he must have felt like walking into a lions den. Quinto would be compared — unfairly — to Nimoy.

There could only be one older Mr. Spock and that actor had to be Leonard Nimoy.

To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of Star Trek in any era. In fact I’ve never seen any episodes of the shows that followed Next Generation. Captain Picard, who doesn’t love Captain Picard? In reality I watched the original series in syndication while smoking pot and getting high — because that’s what we did back then. But for the most part, I just didn’t get into it.

STAR TREK: THE NEVER-ENDING REVERBERATION!

Oh dear god, give it a rest!

Which brings up this totally illogical and unrelated story. In 2008 I lived in a rather “salty” neighborhood of San Diego. With my Trusty Trek, I took two buses to and from work every day. It made for a long day. So, Comic-Con was taking place that summer and a few minutes after I got on the #15 bus a bunch of Star Trek-clad Comic-Con attendees got on the bus. They were staying in one of the cheap motels on or near El Cajon Boulevard, several miles from Comic-Con.

The crew gets knocked off their feet — in outer space — while Mr. Spock is in command of the Enterprise. (YouTube)

The crew gets knocked off their feet — in outer space — while Mr. Spock is in command of the Enterprise.
(YouTube)

Then another group of Con attendees got on the bus a few stops later, in Star Trek attire. Now, these people weren’t wearing Star Trek Hoodies or T-shirts. No … they were dressed in exact replica costumes and if you recall, those Star Trek costumes on the show were … form fitting, to say the least. A person needed to be in tremendous shape to wear a Star Trek costume properly. These Comic-Con revelers were not.

So, one group was dressed up as Next Generation and the other as the Original Series. I was sitting about half way back on the bus and these Trekkies were all behind me. A discussion began about which costumes — original series or Next Generation — were more realistic. Seriously. A discussion about the wardrobes of two science fantasy programs being “realistic.” Trekkies, you gotta love’em.

The voices began to get louder, and then an insult was hurled and then another and then these two groups of people, dressed in form fitting clothing they should not have been wearing, got into a shouting match and two of the revelers, both men, got up to take swings at each other.

It was at that moment, at one of the bus stops, the bus driver got up from his seat and said if they didn’t stop the fighting he would kick them off the bus and call the police.

Okay, the #15 bus goes through some tough neighborhoods of San Diego and the regular riders have had to deal with gang-related violence and crime of all sorts for all their lives — and their ride to work was just interrupted by two groups of Trekkies arguing over which costumes were more realistic.

Besides being a little annoyed, most of the riders found the Trekkies and the prospect of Trekkie violence entertaining. The thought of these people, dressed in costumes, trying to navigate the the most desperate section of El Cajon Boulevard  was amusing. Remember the episode where the ship goes back in time to 1930’s-era Chicago with all the gangsters and soup kitchens? The Comic-Con attendees would have been just as out of place as Kirk and Spock were in Depression-era Chicago.

I don’t blame Leonard Nimoy, or Spock, or Kirk/William Shatner or even Data — Brent Spiner. Star Trek grew a cult following that morphed into an industry and in the process it acquired a brand of fans that can only be called, generously, eclectic. And eccentric.

Jim Parsons with Leonard Nimoy on the set of “The Big Bang Theory.” Leonard Nimoy, as Mr. Spock, had a great influence on Parsons and the TV show. (Twitter)

Jim Parsons with Leonard Nimoy on the set of “The Big Bang Theory.” Leonard Nimoy, as Mr. Spock, had a great influence on Parsons and the TV show.
(Twitter)

Leonard Nimoy had a lot to do with this. His character, Mr. Spock, was the moral compass of the show. He was the leader whose example carried the crew through the darkest of times. There could be no Star Trek without Mr. Spock.

The character would not be so iconic, if not for Leonard Nimoy. He created that “Live long and prosper” hand sign — borrowed it really, from the Jewish religion. His simple statements of “that’s highly illogical” and one of the most tender and beloved quotes, from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, “I have been, and always shall be, your friend” are — and were — quoted continuously, seriously and satirically.

Spock was half human and half Vulcan and in that one scene, as he sits dying from radiation exposure in The Wrath of Khan, the humanity of Spock is revealed. Jim Kirk had not only been his captain for many years, but also his friend, a sentiment Spock could not express at any other time.

Mr. Spock … Leonard Nimoy … he never won an Emmy or an Oscar, even though he was nominated three times during the original airing of the series. He should have received one, at least for his original role. There was no other character on television like Spock. People who didn’t even watch the show mimic Mr. Spock.

In the movies and on TV there have been other Vulcans, played well by other talented actors, and even with Zachary Quinto as the young Spock, the face we all associate with Mr. Spock is that of Leonard Nimoy.

Even for a person like me who only watched the show in syndication because that’s what people did when they smoked pot and dropped acid endlessly every night. I wasn’t even that keen on seeing the movie when it first came out in December of 1979. But, off I went to the movie theater — for the premier — with my friend Eddie.

Live long and prosper. Nimoy’s tagline for his tweets was “LLOP” (Wikipedia)

Live long and prosper.
Nimoy’s tagline for his tweets was “LLOP”
(Wikipedia)

Before the movie people dressed up in Star Trek attire took to the stage and … yadda-yadda-yadda. When the movie started, to this packed theater, there was a little kid who had read the novel based on the movie, or the movie was based on the novel? At any rate, this little kid began telling everyone what was going to happen. Very annoying and highly illogical. When it became apparent the kid’s father wasn’t going to keep the kid quiet, Eddie said in a loud voice, “If that kid doesn’t shut up I’m going to turn around and punch out him and his dad.” That was the end of the commentary.

Regardless of my lack of enthusiasm for Star Trek, Mr. Spock — Leonard Nimoy — was always a fascinating and enjoyable character. More than Star Trek, I loved watching In Search Of … when Nimoy was the narrator of the show. Even if the subject was something goofy like Bigfoot, hearing Nimoy narrate the show gave the topics some gravitas.

Leonard Nimoy is gone now, which is okay. He lived long and prospered. Nimoy’s influence on society will live forever, or for as long as Trekkies are being born. I have to admit it was a shock to read and hear of his passing.

Matthew Continetti may dislike Mr. Spock, aka Leonard Nimoy, but he and his fellow conservatives (who feel the same) are definitely in a minority. And lets face it: they only dislike Spock because President Obama said the Vulcan was his favorite Star Trek character and that he identified with Spock.

Mr. Spock was a peacenik, most of the time, and during the 1960’s, with anti-war demonstrations shutting down cities and universities across America, that was a sentiment many viewers sought. Mr. Spock, the half human, half Vulcan hero.

Those closest to Nimoy will miss the man, but those of us who know him only through his television and movie roles, will have him forever.

“I have been — and always shall be — your friend.”  — Mr. Spock from the film, “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (YouTube)

“I have been — and always shall be — your friend.”
— Mr. Spock from the film, “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (YouTube)

There are much better eulogies for the man on the web, people that have studied Nimoy’s career beyond Star Trek. This is my little tribute; a fond farewell from a fan that thinks the whole Star Trek and Star Wars mania is a bit much. No doubt there will be thousands of Spocks at Comic-Con this year. The passes are already sold out if you’re thinking about it. That show came on the air 49 years ago, so there will be fans of all ages dressed as Mr. Spock, to honor one man — not so much the character because Mr. Spock will live forever.

That’s one heck of a legacy — and I’ll ride on the bus with them.

He was, and always shall be, our friend.

Below is an interview of Leonard Nimoy by Pharrell Williams for the Reserve Channel.


About the author

Tim Forkes

Tim Forkes started as a writer on a small alternative college newspaper in Milwaukee called the Crazy Shepherd. Writing about entertainment issues, he had the opportunity to speak with many people in show business, from the very famous to the people struggling to find an audience. In 1992 Tim moved to San Diego, CA and pursued other interests, but remained a freelance writer. Upon arrival in Southern California he was struck by how the business of government and business was so intertwined, far more so than he had witnessed in Wisconsin. His interest in entertainment began to wane and the business of politics took its place. He had always been interested in politics, his mother had been a Democratic Party official in Milwaukee, WI, so he sat down to dinner with many of Wisconsin’s greatest political names of the 20th Century: William Proxmire and Clem Zablocki chief among them. As a Marine Corps veteran, Tim has a great interest in veteran affairs, primarily as they relate to the men and women serving and their families. As far as Tim is concerned, the military-industrial complex has enough support. How the men and women who serve are treated is reprehensible, while in the military and especially once they become veterans. Tim would like to help change that reality. Contact the author.
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