Live Long And Prosper

I was very saddened to learn today of the death of Leonard Nimoy at age 83.  He was an accomplished stage and screen actor, poet, and photographer — but to those of us who loved Star Trek, he will always and forever be the man who created Mr. Spock.

Books have been written about Spock and Kirk and McCoy, the complex relationship between that trio that made Star Trek such a terrific show, and the half-Vulcan character who struggled mightily to keep his human side in check in compliance with the dictates of Vulcan culture and its relentless emphasis on logic.  Nimoy made Spock a believable character — and thus a great character — when he very easily could have been as silly as Jar Jar Binks.  After all, an alien with pointed ears, green skin and super-human strength who eschews all emotion?  But thanks to Nimoy’s deft touch, Spock was as real and complex and layered as any character in the TV or film universe.  And, for those of us who were awkward adolescents at the time, dealing with a rush of weird new emotions and our own feelings of not quite fitting in with the rest of the world, Spock was enormously appealing.

I also liked that Nimoy seemed to struggle with the Spock character almost as much as Spock struggled with his human side.  Nimoy knew immediately that Spock was an iconic character, and he wanted to avoid being typecast.  When the Star Trek series ended, he promptly took on a completely different role as Paris on Mission: Impossible, wrote an autobiography called I Am Not Spock, and seemed to constantly reject the great character he created.  But ultimately he relented, reconnected with the role, and played Spock in a long series of movies and TV appearances — and Star Trek fans are grateful that he did.  Indeed, his connection with the character became such that he wrote a later autobiography called I Am Spock, and by the end of his life, as Richard points out, Nimoy ended his tweets with LLAP — a reference to Spock’s great Vulcan salutation.

Live Long and Prosper.  What a wonderful, simple sentiment from what was supposed to be an unemotional culture!  Nimoy lived that sentiment and gave us an unforgettable creation.  He will be sorely missed.

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45 Glorious Years Of Star Trek

45 years ago — on September 8, 1966 — Star Trek first beamed across the airwaves of American television sets.

On that day, viewers first began to know Captain James Tiberius Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, Montgomery Scott, Lieutenant Uhura, and the other regular members of the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise.  William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelley became well-known faces and names.  Equally important, fans were introduced to the inspiring concept of the United Federation of Planets, with its concepts of brotherhood, and science, and peaceful exploration and coexistence with alien races.  The series offered the promise that better days lay ahead, when the human race could move beyond the racial division, strife, and savagery of the 20th century and realize its true potential.

Has any TV show been more influential to our society than Star Trek?  Not only did it captivate legions of devoted fans, it created a durable franchise that spawned multiple TV shows and movies that populated various points in the back story and front story of the original series.  It also introduced a host of sayings and gestures — “Live long and prosper,” the Vulcan split-fingered greeting, “Beam me up, Scotty,” and the Vulcan neck pinch, among others — that became, and remain, deeply engrained in popular culture.  The show’s vision of future vessels and devices also influenced design of military vessels and technological concepts.

For all of its influence and inspiration, Star Trek was, at bottom, a pretty darned good TV show.  (OK, some of the episodes stunk, but the good shows were really good.)  When 4:30 came on a weekday afternoon on the Ohio State University campus in the late 1970s, you’d find countless students — me and Flameface included — gathered around their TV sets, cold beers in hand, ready to watch once more the familiar, classic exploits of Kirk, Spock, and Bones and revel in being part of their world.