In a corner in my parents’ basement there is a chalkboard. On that chalkboard lies the last adventure of the USS Enterprise.
Leonard Nimoy died today. At 83 years of age it is inevitable that he will be said to have lived a good long life. Even so it seems that he has died too young. Mr. Nimoy played the role of Mr. Spock on Star Trek (The Original Series, or TOS to the hard core fans), and his acting in that role was simply iconic.
Some people grow up with a particular sport influencing their lives (like football or basketball or baseball). For me that great influence was Star Trek. I couldn’t tell you why but some of us were drawn to the show like moths to a flame. As a child who spent his primary school years in a pre-Star Wars culture, making public the fact that I was a huge fan of the show put me on the fringe of the social ladder in some cases. Not that social ladders matter too much in elementary school, but I was definitely teased for it. Even so, somehow I managed to find several friends of like-mind who were eager to gather in my basement and create our own adventures for Star Trek. I guess we were LARPing before it was cool (actually, I’m not sure it’s considered cool, but I digress).
I don’t know what drives a ten to twelve year old kid to want to play act a TV show but I can assure you that for a few of us we had that bug and had it bad. The role of Mr. Spock was coveted by us, but like Highlander, there can be only one. I played it for some time (it was my basement we were using). Eventually my mom persuaded me to play Captain Kirk instead – I think she always wanted me to be less nerdy and more commanding; a beautiful sentiment, but a role which I have never fully embraced.
When the Star Trek Technical Manual came out I was in heaven. Within it were the schematics of all the control panels of the bridge of the Enterprise. My mom had an old cardboard seamstress’ grid (she enjoyed making clothes for us – especially my sister) but I prevailed upon her to allow me to decorate the blank reverse side with the pilot and navigator’s console from the bridge. I can’t remember what we used for an astrogator but I do remember that chalkboard, which saw some pretty active use. It was a hit. My dad had an antique dentist's chair in the basement, too, and while it didn't at all resemble the captain's chair of the Enterprise, it was different enough that we all accepted it immediately for the bridge. With the screen, the console, and the captain's chair we set about patroling the galaxy, beaming down to strange planets, and generally relishing becoming our heroes. One of the guys who joined me on those adventures became my best friend. We have stayed so for life.
To say that Star Trek, and Leonard Nimoy, had a strong influence on my life (and many, many others') would be an understatement. In the role of Spock he played a half-human half-vulcan who had largely mastered his emotions. A few shows played on this tension and in a few Spock struggled to suppress his emotions and be led by logic – the Vulcan half. I seem to have attempted to internalize that trait and I have done so fairly successfully. Though I have strong passions and values I have always tried to frame them in a thoughtful context – I think before I speak, so to say, and in describing me most friends would probably describe me (amongst other words) as reflective.
I wasn’t planning on writing anything about Leonard Nimoy until my friend David Heath called me. The nerds in both of us compared notes on how quickly we had learned the news. In an age of high tech where instant communication has become the norm (a world that in some respects mirrors Star Trek some 300 years sooner) we were able to establish that both of us learned of it about the same time – 15 minutes after it was announced. He from his brother, me through my daughter (who isn’t a fan). In that conversation he told me that I was the first person he thought of when he heard the news and felt no one could write a better homage to Mr. Nimoy. I'm not sure he's correct about that second part, but couldn't deny the influence the show(s) had on me as a kid and agreed to write something.
As I was chatting about his passing with Dave I felt my eyes get misty (actually they are again as I write this) and I realized that Mr. Nimoy’s iconic role was once again showing its stamp upon me. I can’t explain why his loss saddens me. I never met the man and he never knew of my existence. Yet there I was feeling real sadness at his loss and attempting to control it just as Mr. Spock would have done. Of course I wasn’t pretending to be Spock, but the irony (parallel?) was not lost on me.
What else is there to say? As an actor Mr. Nimoy somehow managed to put the stamp of his character upon millions of fans. To what higher goal could an actor aspire?
Mr. Nimoy you will be missed.
Leonard Nimoy Passes
Leonard Nimoy's role on Star Trek has had an impact upon several generations of fans. His passing has been deeply felt by the community.