During my first week of officer training, our flight commander asked everybody an unusual question - who is your favorite fictional character in either books, movies, or television? One of the guys (who ended up being my roommate) responded 'Captain Kirk!' He gave a lot of reasons but it all boiled down to the Star Trek ethos of 'boldly going where no man has gone before.' He also cited that when all looked lost, Captain Kirk was always there to save the day. Then it was my turn. I said it was a toss-up between Sherlock Holmes and Spock. To the guy who loved Captain Kirk, I reminded him that if it wasn't for Spock, Kirk would have a much tougher time saving anything. He didn't argue with me. How could he? While Jim Kirk the Galactic Penis was galavanting all over space, Spock was the calm, cool, collected guy who had all the answers, even before the questions were asked. I wanted to be the guy with all the answers, but I didn't have Spock's temperament (still don't).
A piece of my childhood died yesterday. I found out about it right after I dropped off the rental car at BWI on my voyage home. Leonard Nimoy was Spock. I have been a Trekkie (not a 'Trekker' - there is a difference) since the very beginning. I remember Star Trek before it went into reruns. My dad didn't like me watching it because it was on at dinner time. But I got to watch anyway. It went into reruns and I watched every day after school. Of all the characters, the guy with the pointy ears was by far the most interesting. Or as he would say with one eyebrow arched, "fascinating." He had the mind meld, and the nerve pinch. For a young teenager, the nerve pinch was the coolest thing. When Spock went through the Pan Phar, I saw him beat a computer screen to a pulp. That was pretty cool too.
Spock was so iconic, even in the early days, that Leonard Nimoy wrote a book called "I Am Not Spock". He didn't want to be typecast; he wanted to be known for other things besides Mr. Spock. He was the guy who did the voice for "In Search Of..." I saw him a few times on Mission: Impossible. But alas, despite those other things he wanted to do, Leonard Nimoy would always be Spock to me. For a long time during the 1970s there was talk of a Star Trek movie. There was also talk Leonard Nimoy didn't want to do it. Then from out of nowhere came a movie called Star Wars. Now that sci-fi was big box office, and there was a built-in audience practically begging for a Star Trek movie, he got the call from Paramount and he said yes.
The Spock in Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a bit of a mystic. He was going through a ritual that was to purge all emotion from him, as if he was trying to suppress his human side forever. But at the crutial moment he hesitated. He sensed the 'cloud' that was heading toward Earth had the 'answers' he was seeking. This Spock was even more cold and calculating than the TV Spock. The film did OK but didn't really meet expectations. However, there was to be a second Star Trek film. They threw him a bone which he couldn't turn down - would you like to die in this movie? His death scene after he saved the Enterprise was a heart-ripper. But you just had to know that Spock wouldn't stay dead. After all, anything goes in science fiction, and Spock was resurrected for the third movie. Leonard Nimoy got to direct that movie and the fourth, which completed the story arc started in the second movie. He didn't direct the fifth movie, and I think it showed.
After the sixth movie, I thought he was done with Star Trek. Imagine my surprise when he appeared in two episodes of The Next Generation as well as the two latest movies in the "re-boot." It seemed to me that as Spock aged, he seemed more human. But as we have seen, even Vulcans get older and slower, and even Spock can be "emotionally compromised." As Leonard Nimoy got older, he learned to embrace his iconic character. He wrote another book - "I Am Spock."
Leonard Nimoy played one more character on a show I liked. The show was Fringe, and his character (seldom seen but always present) was William Bell. He was the founder of a company called Massive Dynamic, which was at the center of everything fringe-ish. He was the only character that was as brilliant as Walter Bishop. Walter always talked about all the weird stuff that he and William Bell came up with, and there was a lot of it. In the original Star Trek series there was one episode that imagined a parallel universe. It was called "Mirror, Mirror" (it was the one where Spock had a beard). Speaking of beards, there was a band not too long ago that called itself 'Spock's Beard.' But I digress... Fringe devoted most of its entire storyline to the existence of a parallel universe. I thought it appropriate that Leonard Nimoy was the guy "on the other side."
So now the guy who was one of my favorite fictional characters is gone. First Deforest Kelly, the James Doohan, now Leonard Nimoy. Zachary Quinto is a good Spock for people new to Star Trek, but for those who have been there since the beginning, Leonard Nimoy will always and forever be Spock. He lived long and he most definitely prospered.