When I read that Leonard Nimoy had passed away at the age of 83, I felt a huge surge of shock and grief. I have admired other public figures who have died, and felt sad, but it didn’t feel painful. This did. His contribution to both my childhood and feeble attempts at adulthood had been immense. In fact, I do not recall of any time in which I wasn’t utterly enthralled by Mr. Spock.
My earliest memories are dominated by Star Trek. I was besotted with the show’s mix of colourful design, flamboyant aliens and bombastic score. As I grew up, I came to appreciate them as morality plays laced with social commentary. Star Trek got me young and has never let go.
There are many qualities within Star Trek which might claim credit for sustaining the franchise for 49 years, but surely none are as potent or as iconic as Nimoy’s half Vulcan, half human Spock. With his suppressed emotions, cocked eyebrow and pointed ears there is nothing more recognisably “Trek”. Here was an alien celebrated for his intelligence - a champion for the odd and the different. Spock’s logical and unsentimental philosophy only served to make his sense of morality, loyalty, and friendship all the more poignant.
Far from just being just a performer, Nimoy has guided and evolved Spock over the last five decades. He directed two Trek movies, and had always been keenly aware of the atheistic figurehead with which he had become forever identified. When JJ Abrams faced the task of creating a new wave of Star Trek, he turned to Nimoy for guidance. Zachary Quinto may now wear the ears, but without Nimoy, there is no Spock as we know him.
The impact of this character can hardly be under estimated. From the National Aeronautic Space Agency to the President of the United States, Spock has been an inspiration and comfort to all those odd and different kids all over the world. For me, the loss isn’t just that of the exotic alien. The character has grown with me. I’ve gone from wearing pretend ears as a child to writing dissertations on him at university. Other childhood heroes made me want to be stronger, faster, or have superpowers. Spock made me want a bigger brain. He made me feel like it was good to be the weird kid.
Every now and again he gives us a glimpse of his (and so our) humanity. In the wake of Nimoy’s departure, many of Spock’s most iconic lines have been celebrated (“Live long and prosper” etc) but I have always enjoyed it when his rich contradictory nature has been revealed. In Star Trek VI, when the Enterprise is ordered back to be retired, Spock delivers a flat and dry response, barely able to mask his contempt for the notion of being mothballed.
If I were human, I believe my response would be: “Go to hell”.
If I were human.
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