Leonard Nimoy, the 83 year old actor best known for his portrayal of the logical alien from the planet Vulcan, Mr. Spock in television’s “Star Trek,” died at his home in the Bel-Air section of Los Angeles, according to the New York Times. The cause of death was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease brought one by years of smoking. Nimoy had quit smoking nearly 30 years ago.
Nimoy was an artist of great breadth and depth. He appeared in a number of other TV series, such as “Mission Impossible” and the more recent science fiction series “Fringe.” He directed a number of films, such as “The Good Mother,” “Three Men and a Baby,” and, of course, two Star Trek movies, “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” and “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.” He wrote poetry, engaged in photography and wrote two volumes of an autobiography, entitled somewhat whimsically “I am Not Spock” and “I am Spock.”
Of course, it was his signature character, Mr. Spock, the half human/half alien First Officer of the USS Enterprise with whom he was most identified with. The struggles the character had with balancing his emotional human side and his logical alien side was a long running theme through the original series of “Star Trek,” appearances in movies and other “Star Trek” series. The character was a particular favorite of female fans who were attracted by Spock’s inner and repressed vulnerability.
Ironically, the Spock character was killed off in the climax of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” Fan outrage was so intense that Spock was brought back in the subsequent movie. Nimoy played Spock one last time in the J.J. Abrams reboots of the franchise “Star Trek” and “Star Trek: Into Darkness.” The character was also played by a younger actor, Zachery Quinto.
The most famous “Star Trek” fan is said to be President Barack Obama. Nimoy once told the story of meeting the then candidate at a Hollywood political gathering in which the future president gave him the famous Vulcan salute. Another story has Nimoy, assuming the Spock persona, telling Obama, “It is logical that you should become president.” Indeed, Obama’s spin doctors, for a time, cultivated the idea of “President Spock” to emphasize the alleged cerebral nature of the 44th president, perhaps forgetting that the character actually made a poor leader, as illustrated in the classic “Star Trek” episode “The Galileo Seven.”
In any event, Nimoy joins Deforest Kelly (aka Dr. McCoy) and James Doohan (aka Commander Scott), not to mention series creator Gene Roddenberry, in the afterlife. He will be missed by everyone who soared to those strange new worlds vicariously.