The South has gotten hit by an unusual amount of snow this week and I have been watching lots of classic Star Trek to combat cabin fever. As such, the sound of Leonard Nimoy’s voice as Mister Spock has become something of a background hum in my apartment.
I knew of his condition but didn’t expect the news which broke today.
Leonard Nimoy, the sonorous, gaunt-faced actor who won a worshipful global following as Mr. Spock, the resolutely logical human-alien first officer of the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie juggernaut “Star Trek,” died on Friday morning at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 83.
His wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, confirmed his death, saying the cause was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Characters in fiction can take on a larger than life aspect. Nimoy himself found this to be true when he found difficulty in shedding his Vulcan persona after Star Trek’s cancellation. Usually, the cult phenomenon of a celebrity or character freaks me out, but in this case I found that, through Mr. Spock, Nimoy used his status to spread a message of compassion and fortitude through what is to some a silly TV program from the 60’s.
Fiction can be a powerful thing, science-fiction even more so as it portrays a world of possibilities unhindered by the shackles of our day-to-day world. It can connect with you through books, movies, TV shows, video games or maybe friends/family who are into that kind of thing when you are not. But it can mean something more than just an escape.
It’s worth noting that as the news of his death has spread, other projects outside of his relationship with Star Trek have been given more attention such as his photography. Some of his artwork was collected in the book Shekhina and I have included an example below (more info here). The series explores the feminine aspect of God.
Nimoy’s religious experiences provided the germ of the famous ‘live long and prosper’ gesture which he first saw as a child sitting in a synagogue when the kohanim gave a blessing to the congregation, holding their hands in shape of the Hebrew letter shin, the first letter in the name of God (so every time you Trekkies/Trekkers do that thing, you’re blessing someone).
After three years of the television series and a cartoon run, Leonard Nimoy turned his back on Spock for what many thought was forever. Back in 1978, he very reluctantly returned to Star Trek for the Motion Picture. It was a surprisingly positive experience and the sequel Wrath of Khan an even better one. He ended up directing the third and fourth films and went on to reprise the role of Spock for the Next Generation viewers and a brand new franchise in the 2009 film.
That’s several generations that have been exposed to Mr. Spock in one way or another.
While Spock struggled to understand what he perceived as the erratic emotional behavior human beings, he embodied the best qualities of what it meant to be human in his compassion, understanding and quest for belonging in a universe full of kill crazy super beings, salt-eating monsters, hyper-intelligent robotic entities and a ship doctor who never stopped trying to get the bastard to just sit down and have a drink.
Leonard Nimoy ceased to be as a living and breathing person today, but the message that he embodied in his work is immortal so long as we listen and remember. As people, we all pass on eventually. But we can be more.
Speaking of listening… have a laugh with his rendition of ‘The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins’ and a selection from Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space: