Friday, February 27, 2015

RIP, Spock

Today, Feb 27, 2015, the actor Leonard Nimoy passed away, at age 83. And I cried when I heard about it. Now, I'm not one to worship celebrities, but Star Trek - and Spock - played a very important role in my childhood, in my entire life, really. I first saw Star Trek when it came on TV in 1966. I was immediately swept away by the show, and by the aloof, yet somehow vulnerable, half-Vulcan Mr. Spock. I fell madly in love with him (as only a 9 year-old can), and I've loved him ever since. I loved him for his battle over his emotions; I loved him for his devotion and loyalty; I loved him for his pursuit of science; I loved him for his pursuit of non-violence. I loved his Vulcan half the most - this alien presence, product of an ancient and noble society, inside a part human body, warring for his soul. Nimoy's portrayal of this battle was so nuanced and so believable. You could feel his struggle during the time of pon farr in the episode "Amok Time." And we all kind of rejoiced when, at the end of the episode, upon discovering he hadn't killed his captain and his friend, Spock breaks into a huge grin and practically hugs Kirk. Many actors have portrayed Vulcans in the various Star Trek series and in the movies, but very few were able to portray the apparent lack of emotion without also seeming wooden. (Mark Leonard, who played Spock's father, was one exception, as is Zachary Quinto's portrayal in the reboot movies.)

So, how does a 9 year-old show her love of this weird TV character? By 'playing' Star Trek, of course! My best friend, Brenda Osborne, and I would spend hours reenacting the episodes, or creating our own situations to portray. Fortunately, Brenda was in love with Kirk, so there was no conflict as to who would play the two characters! By the 70's, there were books about the series being published, and we read and reread those, absorbing all the behind-the-scenes tidbits. We really felt we knew these actor, and therein, the characters. (Sadly, we lost Brenda almost 4 years ago - I hope she is getting to meet Mr. Nimoy in heaven! ;-)

Thanks to reruns, fans never had to go without seeing Star Trek for very long. Any time the show came on, I was in front of the TV. I knew the names of all the episodes, and what happened in each, after so many repeat viewings. You didn't dare go against me in a game of Star Trek trivia! And Spock and Vulcan were my true areas of expertise. Once the Star Trek books started being published, I bought them all and devoured those, as well. And then the movies started being produced - what rapturous joy! The director's cut of the first movie, "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" has some great scenes about Spock trying to finally come to grips with his human half and his emotions.

And then of course, we have the second movie, "Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan" - the movie that crushed my soul! If you don't know the movie, Spock dies - gallantly sacrificing his life for the lives on the Enterprise. Spock's death scene, as he talks with Kirk, is one of the most profound and beautiful in cinema. Of course, I was bawling like a baby through it all! I was afraid I'd never get to see Spock again!! But, naturally, the world of entertainment being what it is, Spock didn't stay dead for long. His rebirth and reeducation process provide some great scenes for his fans.

And then we fans got the amazing bonus of seeing Spock in subsequent Star Trek series, thanks to the longevity of Vulcans. Spock plays an integral role in the detente of the relationship between the Federation and the Romulan Empire. And then we got the double bonus of seeing the Nimoy Spock interacting with the Quinto Spock in the Star Trek reboot movies.

Through all of this (books, TV, movies) Spock was in my life. I knew this person. He felt like a friend. He'd been with me for decades. So that's why the passing of Mr. Nimoy hit me so hard this morning. This time, there will be no earthly resurrection - Spock is not coming back. However, he's not really gone, as long as we remember him (to quote a line from "Wrath of Khan") - and we have hours of video where he still lives, thanks to modern technology. Plus, we have the Star Trek reboot, with Quinto's portrayal of Spock (which is DARN good!), so the character will live. But we have lost an artist, someone who, by all accounts, was a caring, giving person. I mourn the loss of Leonard Nimoy.

In closing, I quote Capt. Kirk, at Spock's funeral in "Wrath of Khan") - "Of my friend, I can only say this: of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most...human."

Appendix - a short list of the essential Spock episodes, movies
Original Series:

  • The Naked Time - a space virus causes Spock to lose his emotional control
  • The Menagerie (two part episode) - Spock apparently mutinies to take his former captain to a forbidden planet
  • Balance of Terror - Spock perseveres in the face of bigotry by one of the crew
  • This Side of Paradise - an alien spore releases Spock's emotional control and he falls in love
  • Amok Time - the time of mating for Vulcans, and Spock really loses control!
  • Journey to Babel - we meet Spock's parents, and Spock has to make a most difficult decision: save Kirk or save the ship
  • A Piece of the Action - Spock tries to master the speech of 1920's gangsters, with humorous results
  • The Enterprise Incident - Spock seduces a female Romulan Commander (hubba hubba!)
  • All Our Yesterdays - Spock travels to the past, and he (once again) loses his emotional control and falls in love
Next Generation

  • Unification (two part series) - Spock is on a "personal mission of peace" to help cool the enmity between the Federation and the Romulan Empire
  • The Wrath of Khan - Spock dies
  • The Search for Spock - Spock is reborn
  • The Voyage Home - Spock continues his reeducation, and has some of his funniest moments
  • Star Trek (2009 reboot) - Nimoy Spock meets Quinto Spock. Priceless!