Like so many others, I must sadly bid farewell to Leonard Nimoy, who passed away yesterday at the age of 83. His portrayal of Spock in the original Star Trek series left an indelible impression on me during my formative years. As one of my elementary school friends recently recalled, my main interests back in those early days were things military and Star Trek, and she was not far wrong. The timing of his death was something of an irony for me, as I had just started to go back through the original series only a week or so ago after not having watched them for many years.
As a boy, my head was filled with the universe of Star Trek and its characters, along with the historical events of the Apollo program and, later, the Space Shuttle. Sometimes I probably forgot which was which. When you’re a child gifted with an active imagination, it doesn’t really matter, I suppose. But back in those days, were I granted a single wish, it very likely would have been to be a member of the crew of the Enterprise. Had I been able to step through the barrier separating reality from imagination, I would not have hesitated.
Of all the characters, I identified most with Spock. While I wished that I was more like Kirk, the truth is that I was a hopeless nerd (something that hasn’t changed much). If you think about it, Leonard Nimoy’s Spock was a nerd, too. But he showed that nerds could be strong, compassionate, caring, and just. Spock was the perfect TV role model for kids like me, and Leonard Nimoy brought it off flawlessly. Now, I’m not going to say that I’m anything like Spock, or Leonard Nimoy for that matter. But he represented something worthy and noble to which kids like me might aspire.
Nimoy, of course, had talents that went far beyond his portrayal of Spock. I have to confess, however, that I didn’t really follow his career outside the narrow confines of Star Trek, and I suppose that his intensely strong typecasting as Spock might not have done his acting career any favors. Be that as it may, I’ve certainly enjoyed seeing him in other roles (notably as William Bell in the wonderful sci-fi series Fringe), and no one can deny that he was an immensely talented actor and creative mind.
But to me, the boy who sat glued to the tube every night waiting for Star Trek to come on, the boy who would later cast aside a secure government career to write science fiction stories, he has always been, and always shall be, Spock.