Leonard Nimoy died on February 27 due to complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which he claimed was due to having been a smoker even though he had kicked the habit nearly 30 years.
Though he had a long career as an actor playing a variety of parts, he became forever identified the world over as Star Trek‘s Mr. Spock, the half-human/half-Vulcan First Officer of the starship Enterprise. He not only played Spock on the initial TV series for three seasons, but would return to the character many times over the years from The Animated Series and the theatrical movies, and also the spinoff series The Next Generation and the recent revival of the movie franchise.
To honor the man and his work, we offer our remembrances. Afterwards, there are listings of weekend programming featuring Mr. Nimoy.
Written by Adam Blair
I’ve been rewatching the original series Star Trek episodes on Saturday nights (I know, get a life). Even though I have seen these stories 10, 15, 20 times apiece, they still hold a fascination for me that goes beyond sheer nostalgia. (It helps that whoever is distributing them has gone back and souped up the special effects, giving familiar shots of alien planets and phasers firing a nice visual sheen). I’m also appreciating the acting more – particularly the humor Leonard Nimoy found in even the grimmest moments and the most risible dialogue. There was a deadpan comedian always lurking behind those quizzical eyebrows and pointy ears. Remember the scene in the classic “The Trouble with Tribbles”; he says, in his best Spock-explains-the-phenomenon voice, “Their trilling seems to have a tranquilizing effect on the human nervous system. I am, of course, immune . . .”. All the while he has been absent-mindedly petting a tribble; embarrassed to be found out, he quickly puts the little critter down.
That was Spock in a nutshell. He wasn’t immune to emotion, far from it. In fact, he knew how dangerous it could be, so with discipline and self-will he steered clear of it – mostly. And Nimoy didn’t just have a great comic sense and sharp timing; he was a smart actor who realized that underplaying was the way to go when playing scenes with the often over-the-top William Shatner and the irascible DeForest Kelley. In Nimoy’s career, he never really shook Spock, but why should he? He made smart sexy. In addition, he (along with the writers and directors that were a cut above the usual TV hacks) provided a guide for intellectuals, and aliens/minorities of various stripes, on how to be yourself and also be part of the team. Nimoy the man has gone the way we’re all going to go, but Spock will truly never die – not as long as there’s one geeky kid who instantly discovers a kindred spirit in a pointy-eared, green-blooded alien.
Written by Davy
Obviously everyone remembered him as Spock from Star Trek, but as much as I loved him from that classic show, I did remember him as the sinister Dr. David Kibner in the superior 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Also, in the brilliant, and excellent 1982 sequel Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, which is 20 times better than the 1979 original motion picture. I remember the scene, in which everyone knows, where Spock sacrifices himself to save the ship from destruction.
While he is dying, Captain Kirk says to him: “You will always be my friend.” It was just one of the most heartbreaking moments in film history. Every time you saw Nimoy on TV and film, you wanted to be his friend. He was smart, intelligent, and innovative. As much as I loved Zachary Quinto in the 2009 reboot, Nimoy will always be the original Spock.
Written by Will McKinley of Cinematically Insane
“You’re so guarded!” my mother once yelled at me during one of my teenaged battles with her. “You’re like Dr. Spock!”
Title transposition aside, my mom was on to something. As my teen years descended into Kirk/Khan-level conflicts, I took on the personality of Leonard Nimoy’s iconic character: logical, emotionless, reserved. I don’t think I realized it at the time, but Spock represented true power to me: the ability to exist on your own plane, undeterred. He observed others, learned from them, but was rarely swayed by their feelings or thrown off his prime directive. He was stable, in an unstable galaxy.
I can’t claim to being the world’s biggest or most knowledgeable Star Trek fan. It took the release of Star Wars in 1977 to turn me on to the adventures of the Starship Enterprise, and only then at the urging of my fangirl grandmother (then well into her ’60s). But, while I still haven’t seen all the TV episodes (gasp!), I was there on opening weekend for all of the films featuring the original cast – including Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979, which I saw (of course) on the arm of my nanny.
Through it all, Spock (and Nimoy) remained the essence of Star Trek for me. He was at the center of the only Trek moment that made me cry: his “death” scene in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). And he was at the helm for what is my favorite work of the original cast: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1984). Although that film is arguably the least science fiction-y of the series, it captures, for me, what made the original so memorable: unforgettable characters, believable relationships that unfolded over decades, and wit. After making me misty in Wrath of Khan, the Nimoy of Voyage Home makes me laugh out loud – all while respecting his character, and staying true to his nature.
But the best part of Nimoy’s work is, it will never go away. Unlike 1977 when I had one chance per week to see a Star Trek episode on my tiny TV, audiences forever will have instant access to every minute in the saga. And subsequent generations will find that element that speaks to them, and inspires them to live long and prosper.
On EPIX: A Conversation with Leonard Nimoy
Saturday 2/28 – 5:40PM ET & 10:00PM ET
Sunday 3/1 – 8:00PM ET
Saturday 2/28 – 9PM Star Trek – “Amok Time”
Sunday 3/1 – 8:00PM ET Columbo – “A Stich in Time”
Sunday 3/1 – 9:30PM ET The Twilight Zone – “A Quality of Mercy”
Sunday 3/1 – 10:00PM ET The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – “The Project Strigas Affair” with William Shatner
Sunday 3/1 – 11:00PM ET Mission: Impossible – “The Hostage Affair”
Sunday 3/1 – 12:00AM ET Get Smart – “The Dead Spy Scrawls”
Syfy’s Leonard Nimoy Tribute on March 1
9AM The Twilight Zone – “A Quality of Mercy”
9:30AM Star Trek: The Next Generation – “Unification: Part I”
10:30AM Star Trek: The Next Generation – “Unification: Part 2”
11:30AM Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country [Read Mat Brewster’s review]