As I was reading the news on my Android tablet this Friday morning, a banner drifted across the top of the screen in red: Leonard Nimoy Dies at 83. Like many others, I’m sure, my first thought was that Spock is dead. And I wanted to write this post … with this title. But I wondered: Is it dismissive to say goodbye to an actor in the name of his best known character rather than his real name? Perhaps, but perhaps not. Nimoy himself was ambivalent about his identification with the half Vulcan, half human member of the crew of the Enterprise. In 1977, Nimoy authored I Am Not Spock, in which he wrote about the rest of his life and seemed to distance himself from his alter ego. After publishing his second autobiography, I Am Spock, he expressed regret that he wrote the first. At any rate, I only knew Nimoy as Spock, so this is the only personal farewell I can write. If you are interested in more about the man himself, I’d recommend the article in Variety.
Spock could have been a deadly-dull logic-spouting automaton, but Nimoy managed to take the logical Vulcan persona and subtly imbue it with the humanity inherited from his mother though his bemused reactions to the passions of the humans around him and through occasional flashes of those passions himself. Particularly in the movie phase of the Star Trek phenomenon, he let these glimpses of his human side occur more often … and more consciously. By the time he reappeared in J. J. Abrams reincarnation of the series, he was a sage, advising his own younger self to depend upon more than logic.
Nimoy’s appearance as he aged also made Spock seem more like an ancient scholar than a Star Fleet officer, making him Star Trek’s most iconic figure.
As a young man raised by an artistic, passionate mother and a logical pragmatic, father then molded by a scientific education, I often identified with Spock’s struggles to keep his passions in check. Spock was the part of my own persona that I sometimes refer to as my Rational Scientist, and Spock’s dialogs with his own human side and with William Shatner’s passionate Captain Kirk sometimes mirrored what was going on in my own head. I have never considered myself a Trekkie or a Trekker but I have seen virtually every TV episode and motion picture in the Star Trek series, and my favorites are the ones featuring Spock. Nimoy’s presence brought continuity and depth to the Abram’s films and hopefully laid the groundwork for Zachary Quinto to continue the Spock evolution.
But … Star Trek will never be the same. Goodbye, Spock. Goodbye, Leonard Nimoy. Rest in Peace.