“Live long and prosper.”-Mr. Spock and Leonard Nimoy, too many times to count
I’ve spent a great deal of time today not only processing the news that Leonard Nimoy has died today, but on just how to adequately eulogize the man. Most of the world, of course, is remembering his time as Spock, and maybe also his run on Mission: Impossible as Paris, or his directorial career (which of course intersected with Star Trek). Transformers fans, predictably (and I mean that both kindly and unkindly), are choosing to remember his turn as the movie voice of Galvatron. And the contrarians are remembering In Search Of…, though I’ve also seen mention of his narration of the cult Sega Dreamcast classic Seaman, and NESN (the New England Sports Network, which broadcasts Red Sox and Bruins games) has pointed out that Nimoy, ever the Boston native, publicly declared himself a Patriots fan on at least one occasion.
All of this seems so horrendously reductive. One of the main themes that is going to run through Star Trek Debriefed is just how utterly integral Leonard Nimoy was to Star Trek. Practically everything that makes Spock unique was a result of Nimoy’s performance. The Vulcan Nerve Pinch (referred to by the Star Trek staff as the FSNP, or Famous Spock Neck Pinch). The Vulcan Mind Meld. The Vulcan salute. The raised eyebrow. “Fascinating.” “Interesting.” In emphasizing the alienness of Spock, Nimoy ironically created the most human of all of the original Star Trek characters.
It should come as no surprise, really, that Star Trek‘s original and most passionate fans were fans of Spock. Nimoy’s performance was an instant revelation, and the constant alienation that Spock feels (as revealed most famously in “The Naked Time” and “This Side of Paradise”) spoke, and continues to speak, to everyone who has ever had a difficult time “fitting in”. William Shatner’s Captain Kirk was the hero we always hoped to be, and DeForest Kelley’s Dr. McCoy was the embodiment of our conscience and compassion. But with his performance as Spock, we saw ourselves. Better yet, Spock epitomized cool, and nearly always stole the show with the best lines.
So, it is not terribly shocking that the mourning has been deeper and more public for Leonard Nimoy than for any of the other key Star Trek personnel. He was the heart and soul of an international phenomenon, Spock and yet Not Spock to so many. Spock is, and probably will always be, an icon for the geeks, the outcasts, the minorities, the loners, and the alienated. And Leonard Nimoy, having lived a rewarding life with an impressive career in motion pictures, will always be the face of that icon. And, to borrow a line, he’s not really dead….so long as we remember him.