A Vulcan Obituary: Leonard Nimoy 1931-2015

A Salute To Spock (Don’t Grieve, Admiral).

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“Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most… human” – Admiral James T. Kirk. 

Leonard Nimoy, who died on Friday aged 83, will forever be known as the actor who portrayed the first regular alien character in a long-running TV series.

Mr. Spock, who made his debut in Star Trek’s pilot episode: The Cage in 1966, is one of the most recognisable icons of popular culture. If any editor had to produce a montage of iconic images to celebrate, say, the best of TV sci-fi, or characters from sci-fi movies, then Mr. Spock would get selected every time. Leonard Nimoy possessed such drawn, gaunt features that he could easily pass for something otherworldly. With those slanted eyebrows and famous pointed ears, how could he not become an instant star?

Besides Trek, Nimoy made appearances in countless TV shows including: Dragnet, Rawhide, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Mission: Impossible and Columbo, and he even made a cameo appearance in a video with The Bangles!     

William Shatner, who played Spock’s commanding officer: James T. Kirk: “loved him like a brother,” and added that we: “will all miss his humour, his talent, and his capacity to love.”   

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“On the day we filmed that scene… I came to this very much as a neophyte… I turn around and I’m looking at my cinematographer, and he’s got tears streaming down his face… and then I’m looking at the rest of the crew, and everybody’s crying! And I’m thinking: ‘what am I missing here?'” – Nicholas Meyer. 

Back in 1983, me and a pal, both ardent Star Wars fans, decided to check out Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan. We joked that it would probably “be just as crap as the first one.” Well…! How wrong could we have been?! We were in awe of Khan as the indomitable villain; swept along with the majestic score by James Horner; hypnotised by the epic battles between the Enterprise and Reliant; but what really blew us away was the death of Mr. Spock. 

Unbelievable. It just didn’t seem… logical. 

Yes, Spock of Star Trek. Killed off?! It was such a bold, and highly unexpected twist. Everyone knew where they were when Spock was killed off, so they say. Things like that didn’t – and shouldn’t – happen, especially to such an iconic character. But it did, and a landmark in SF cinema was produced. Played superbly by Nimoy and William Shatner, it was a monumental and intensely emotional scene, because one of the closest and best-loved friendships in TV history had come to an abrupt and shocking end.

Due to the lacklustre performance of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979, there was minimal interest among the cast to reprise their roles for any sequel, especially Nimoy. He was eventually coaxed back, but with one condition: that Spock be killed off. The actor believed this denouement would make for a fitting end, considering that Wrath of Khan was apparently intended to be the “last” Trek film ever(?!) 

Of course, the phenomenal success of II meant one thing: Paramount Studios came clamouring for III… In the most ridiculous plot-contrivance in SF history, Spock had to be resurrected somehow, and indeed he wasThen, inevitably, came IV – a ridiculous time-travel romp featuring whales set in 1986 which (hey!) just happened to be the year it was made.

Both were particularly notable for being directed by Nimoy himself. He would go on to work behind the camera on numerous other projects, including the unlikely comedy Three Men And A Baby(!) Talk about being a far cry from…

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“My heart is broken, I love you profoundly my dear friend. And I will miss you every day. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest” – Zachary Quinto. 

Other than the Star Trek movies, including the recent reboot (2009) and its sequel (2013), he appeared in Zombies Of The Stratosphere (1952), Them! (1954), Invasion of The Body Snatchers (1978) and A Woman called Golda (1982) (for which he received an Emmy nomination), among others. He dabbled in writing (mostly poetry) and photography, and his deep, distinctive voice led him ultimately to his own singing career where he gave us such greats as: “Highly Illogical,” “Where It’s At,” and the irrepressible “Ballad of Bilbo Baggins.” 

Annoyance with the limitations his Vulcan role had on his career culminated in Nimoy’s 1977 autobiography simply entitled: “I Am Not Spock.” He eventually embraced his Vulcan self, realising that it had secured a place in SF immortality.

The episode: “Amok Time” presented the first opportunity to see other Vulcans. Aware that Humans engaged in ritual behaviour when greeting others, when time came for Spock to greet others of his kind, Nimoy realised that no equivalent Vulcan rituals had been prepared. Nimoy himself concocted the perfect solution; drawing from his Jewish heritage, his famous split-fingered salute was based on the kohanic blessing, a “manual approximation” of the first letter in Shaddai, one of the Hebrew names for God. Within days of that episode’s first broadcast – and in the decades to follow – people in the street would greet Nimoy with that gesture!

The Vulcan phrase closely associated with Spock was “Dif-tor heh smusma.” We all knew it as: “Live long and prosper.”

Leonard Nimoy lived long and indeed prospered. 

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“To this day, I sense Vulcan speech patterns, Vulcan social attitudes and even Vulcan patterns of logic and emotional suppression in my behaviour. Given the choice, if I had to be someone else, I would be Spock” – Leonard Nimoy.  

Naturally, so many tributes in the past few days have quite rightfully loaded the aforementioned death/funeral scene from Wrath of Khan; instead, to end this Post, something different, but still… fascinating was in order.

Normally, tawdry ads would never squirm their way onto one of my immaculately-crafted Posts, but this is such rare, exceptionally good fun, and perfectly encapsulates the humour and infectious joy you could always expect from Leonard Nimoy:

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7 thoughts on “A Vulcan Obituary: Leonard Nimoy 1931-2015

  1. Nicely written and very complete post. My wife and I queued up Wrath of Khan on Saturday night and cried at the death scene. I don’t know the movie by heart, so watching it again seeing how remarkably appropriate it was for saying goodbye …was surprising and fascinating, to say the least.

    • Thank you for your Comment!
      Back in th day, was never a fan of the original TV series, but Wrath of Khan helped change my perception.
      Now, of course, Spock’s last scene is more moving than ever

    • Thanks for your Comment, Sue.
      You would need more than 1 Post to discuss his numerous TV credits.
      I neglected to mention that Spock was thrice-Emmy-nominated, but Nimoy never won. Of course, Trekkies awarded him several times over!
      Thanks again, Sue.

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