It’s a weird thing to try and sum up into words, when someone you’ve never met but who still had a profound influence on your life passes away.
This past Friday we all got the news that Leonard Nimoy had passed away at the age of 83 and I couldn’t help but feel a profound sense of sadness wash over me. Death admittedly isn’t something that I get overly sentimental about as it is a part of life, a hard part unquestionably but learning how to cope with loss helps us feel alive at the end of the day. If only because we appreciate what we have in our lives just a little bit more.
With 134 credits to his name, Leonard Nimoy was a bit player in Hollywood circles until 1966 when he was cast in what would be a career defining role as Mr. Spock, the Vulcan Science Officer and second in command on the Starship Enterprise, every week on Star Trek. A show that was clearly ahead of its time as it dealt with a myriad of social issues that were taking place in American at the time under the guise of a classic space opera.
While it wasn’t truly appreciated until years later, Spock (who is the only cast member to have appeared in every one of the 80 episode run) was the only character who was truly relatable. It was hard to relate to the cranky senior medical officer Leonard McCoy and I for one could never get behind the swagger filled, womanizing Captain Kirk portrayed with aplomb by William Shatner. Kirk was the cool kid, who took the social awkward but pretty damn amazing transfer student and taught him how to get along with other people. Their friendship was unique, and as a young awkward boy loving these shows, it gave me hope that in a world where I felt like I didn’t belong, that I would eventually be accepted if I was brave enough to do what Spock did. Not just be different but be proud of who you are as a person.
As the original series gave birth to the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise that spirit of acceptance remained. It wasn’t always going to be easy but it was always worth the struggle.
After the original series most of his career after that (except for a healthy run on the Mission Impossible series in the early 70’s) revolved around being Spock, in the animated series, the movies and even the reboot where his last on screen appearance was in Star Trek: Into Darkness. It feels like he was OK with that, and while he never quite leaned into the fame like William Shatner did he never shied away from it either and had a very salient understanding on his place in pop culture history.
In his portrayal of Spock, Leonard Nimoy quite simply made it OK, and even cool to be different. You could be stoic and compassionate at the same and it redefined how we deal with our emotions. Star Trek in all its forms and iterations kept this ideal strong as it infused and still infuses generations of fans to be themselves, and embrace it no matter how hard it can get.
Rather than get maudlin, I can only say “Thank You” to the late Mr. Nimoy. You were a part of bringing me not only hours of entertainment, but of happiness as well. For that I will do the only thing that I can do…fire up Season 1 of the Original Series and get lost on your five year mission once again.
Rest In Peace and thank you for Living Long and Prospering as well as you did.