William Shatner (Captain James T. Kirk, Star Trek): “I loved him like a brother. We will all miss his humor, his talent and his capacity to love.”
The end of the 1960s was a difficult time in America what with race riots, the war in Viet Nam, the Manson killings, the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy and political unrest in the wake of the JFK assassination. The Beatles were breaking up and no longer touring and the music reflected the changing times. From 1966-1969, there was one hour a week when television addicts could escape into other worlds with the crew of the Enterprise and “boldly go where no man had gone before”. Star Trek was a fan favorite despite the lack of interest by the executives at NBC.
The most prominent character (to some) was the tall, pointy-eared science officer called Spock played by Leonard Nimoy. He was already a familiar face having appeared on The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Highway Patrol, Combat, Dragnet, Perry Mason, Sea Hunt and many other popular shows in a variety of roles. None had come close to the popularity achieved by Spock and his relationship with Kirk (Shatner) was humorous, touching, real and surprisingly human although Spock was only half-human. Hard-core fans of the show embraced these characters and escaped their own realities to share this special hour.
When the show was cancelled after only three seasons, the actors moved on to other projects but the show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, sold the idea for a revamped series to a Paramount-owned fourth network intended to compete with the three major networks. When that network failed to get off the ground, the series was sold to Paramount as a movie. “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” was made featuring the original television cast. It wasn’t a great film but it was a box office hit even ten years after the television series ended.
It was the second film, “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”, that made the movie series a phenomenon. There were rumors that Nimoy’s character was going to die at the end of the film, a rumor that infuriated fans to the extent that director Nicholas Meyer and Nimoy himself received death threats if that rumor came to fruition.
It did but neither man was killed. Spock’s death scene opposite Shatner was one of the most powerful and poignant scenes in movie history. It was Nimoy’s request that scenes be added to leave an opening for Spock to be reborn. He directed the next two films–“Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” and “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”. Like Part II, both films maintained the spirit and energy of the television series and the movie franchise was a huge success.
Zachary Quinto (Spock, “Star Trek” remake; “Star Trek Into Darkness”): “My heart is broken. I love you profoundly, my dear friend, and I will miss you every day.”
Nimoy was not just an actor and a director but also a mentor. He took time to guide younger actors without talking down to them. When director J.J. Abrams cast him as Spock Prime, Nimoy’s experience with the franchise was a blessing to director and cast alike. Quinto was, obviously, the most affected by meeting Nimoy and the most affected by his death. It all fits into Nimoy’s legacy and his own ability to project a character into a believable being.
Nimoy and Bill Shatner were close friends on and off the set although both men were intensely competitive–like brothers. Shatner was born four days earlier than Nimoy, making them that much closer. They both suffered from tinnitus as the result of a pyrotechnics accident onset while filming the Star Trek episode entitled “Arena”. They suffered the condition in opposite ears.
Leonard Nimoy died from complications of COPD on Friday, February 27, 2015. Although his second wife, Susan Bay (cousin of director Michael Bay) and his children and family are listed as survivors, all Star Trek fans are included on that list. It is a great personal loss to this writer and everyone who became involved in the series, directly or indirectly. That, too, is a tribute to the actor and the man.
George Takei (helmsman Hikaru Sulu, Star Trek): “The word extraordinary is often over-used but I think it’s appropriate for Leonard. He was an extraordinarily talented man but he was also a very decent human being.”
Live forever and prosper, Leonard Nimoy.