Monday, 2 March 2015

RIP Leonard Nimoy

Like everyone, I saw the news on Friday that Leonard Nimoy had passed away at the age of 83. I have loved Star Trek since I was about 4, watching reruns of the original series, and Spock was impressive even then - alien, with the distinctive ears and eyebrows and haircut that would influence later actors who played Vulcans. To say nothing of the performance - calm, collected and only occasionally letting emotion seep through.

Years later, when I discovered Star Trek: The Next Generation, I was excited to see he'd made it into that show as well, and into the Simpsons too - a lot of the reactions on Twitter and other internet message boards to his death was to quote the lines from his appearances in the monorail and alien sighting episodes ("Hey Spock, whaddaya want on your hot dog?" "Surprise me!"). Even more recently, I was happy to see him pop up on Fringe, both in person and lending his voice to several episodes even after he'd officially retired from acting.

I'm vaguely aware of the negatives of his most famous role, of course - his book entitled I Am Not Spock, and the way he was effectively typecast following the performance. William Shatner seems to have succeeded in, if not breaking out of the confines of his Star Trek role, at least turning it to his advantage in subsequent shows like TJ Hooker and The Practice - I'm unaware of Leonard Nimoy having had a similar career trajectory (other than the paranormal show, In Search Of). But he eventually made peace with it, leading to the appearances mentioned above, and in a quiet way, indulged his interests in photography and poetry as well. That said, I haven't quite brought myself to listen to his Ballad of Bilbo Baggins.

My most vivid memory of him, however, is of being in the back of the car one weekend as we were driving through North Beach on our weekly trip to San Francisco, and having my dad tell me to look out the window. When I did, there were Spock and Kirk, surrounded by production people, getting ready to film one of the scenes of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. What I remember most about that sight was seeing Leonard Nimoy tying the white headband around his head, to conceal the Vulcan ears.

That was, unfortunately, the closest I ever came to meeting him for real - or any of the other Star Trek actors, for that matter. But he's left behind him one of the most iconic roles of our culture, parodied and imitated for close to five decades. He tried to escape it, he returned to embrace it, and became a legend. As so many have noted already, he truly did live long and prosper.

Goodbye, Spock, and thanks for the memories.