I was deeply saddened yesterday to learn that one of my childhood heroes had passed away. Leonard Nimoy, who is known to most for his role as the stone-faced Mr. Spock in the Original Series of Star Trek as well as the recent movies, passed away from end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Many will no doubt memorialize him by flashing the Vulcan salute (which he invented, mainly by “borrowing” the hand gesture used by Jewish priests during their blessings). Here at Northern Gentleman, however, we would like to ensure that he is remembered for his wealth of cultural contributions in addition to being Mr. Spock. To do any less would be… illogical.
Before donning the ears and stepping onto the Enterprise’s bridge, Leonard Nimoy was a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Army Reserve, leaving the forces in 1955 with a rank of Sergeant. He also held recurring, bit parts in many of the top television shows during the late 1950s and early to mid 1960s, including shows such as “Gunsmoke“, “Wagon Train“, “Sea Hunt” and “The Virginian“.
After the original Star Trek series went off the air, Nimoy took a role on “Mission Impossible” which took him through seasons four and five of the show. He also appeared in a number of movies and TV shows following Star Trek, in an effort to ensure that he wasn’t simply remembered as Spock. One of his movie roles was opposite Ingrid Bergman in her final role in “A Woman Called Golda“.
Nimoy also had a recording career, releasing five albums between 1967 and 1993. He even appeared on a “best of” album in 1997 with William Shatner.
In an effort to make sure people got the point that he wasn’t just Spock, Nimoy wrote his first autobiography in 1975. He subtly titled it “I am not Spock”. The fans were not impressed.
In the 1980s, after appearing in the first two Star Trek films and having his character dramatically killed off, Nimoy was asked to direct “Star Trek III – The Search for Spock” and then continued on to direct “Star Trek IV – The Voyage Home”. He then wrote and starred in “Star Trek VI – the Undiscovered Country”. To cement his directorial credit and show that he could direct something that was a little more down-to-earth, Nimoy then directed “Three Men and a Baby” with Tom Selleck, Steve Gutenberg and Ted Danson. This movie became the highest grossing film of 1987.
By 1995, Nimoy had accepted that he was, at least in the minds of the baby-boomer generation and beyond, always going to be Spock. So, with this acceptance in mind, he wrote his second autobiography, this one proudly proclaiming “I am Spock”.
Throughout his life, Nimoy often spoke about the dichotomy between himself and his best-known character, Mr. Spock. Though he fought it for years, eventually he came to embrace the fact that for millions of fans, he was, and always will be… Mr. Spock.
But as we look back and remember the life of Leonard Nimoy, let us remember him for who he was, an entertainer, a humorist, an author, a director, a screenwriter and, yes, Mr. Spock. May his memories live long, and prosper.