I’m writing about this today, because Leonard Nimoy, the original Spock to Trek fans, died this morning (Feb. 27, 2015) at age 83. I found this out the way most people these days learn about anything. On social media. On Twitter, in fact. I wanted to believe it was a hoax. These are common on social media. But I knew it wasn’t.
When I was a little girl, I hardly ever saw my dad. As was typical of fathers of a certain era, he worked too much. I always wanted to see him and spend time with him. Occasionally, I could beg hard enough that he’d relent and let me have a spot by his side while he worked on a Saturday morning. Sometimes, he’d take me, my mom, and my siblings out for a drive after he got done working for the day.
(This was back in the days when the cheapest form of entertainment came from a couple of gallons of gas and a few hours spent behind the wheel of a car.)
But mostly, my dad and I, we watched TV together at the end of the day. I shouldn’t admit this, but at four-years-old, I watched more than my fair share of Night Gallery, The Twilight Zone, and of course, Star Trek, because that’s what my dad liked. And since I liked being with my dad, I watched those shows, too.
It was the late 1960s then. I didn’t know it when I was a little girl watching the show, but Star Trek was ahead of its time. I didn’t really know how my dad felt about Uhura, played by Nichelle Nichols, one of the first black women to be featured prominently on television. At that age, I didn’t even know that I should care about such a thing. I didn’t know what a Trekkie was. I didn’t know that my love of Star Trek and the tradition of watching it with my dad would eventually include Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Data — emotionless like Spock, only an android — and a love of Seven, a Borg transplant, and even admiration for a woman called Kathryn Janeway, the first female captain of a starship in the Trek universe.
Before Zachary Quinto was Spock, There was Leonard Nimoy…
All I knew when I was four was that my dad liked Captain Kirk, the captain of the Starship Enterprise, and a pointy-eared alien called Spock, played by one Leonard Nimoy. I’m not sure that I can call my love of the show a love at first sight, but it influenced me (and countless people like me) in ways I could have never imagined.
Eventually, I became a writer. Not just a writer of newspaper articles and online columns like this one. No. I became a writer of novels. Of science fiction novels. True enough, the settings of my first novel — and its subsequent sequel, which is in the works — are closer to home. They’re set in my hometown, Boise, and in a nearby small town called Weiser.
But like Star Trek, my books are also filled with unbelievable technical gadgets that may actually exist one day. With conflicts that examine the nature of good and evil. With ideas about identity and what it is that actually makes us human. But mostly, they are filled with ideas that owe an eternal debt to what I learned about great science fiction stories by watching Captain Kirk and his First Officer, Spock. (Including what it is to be human. A great science fiction and life question.)
I’m writing about this today, because Leonard Nimoy, the original Spock to Trek fans, died this morning (Feb. 27, 2015) at age 83. I found this out the way most people these days learn about anything. On social media. On Twitter, in fact. I wanted to believe it was a hoax. These are common on social media.
But I knew it wasn’t. Because of my love of the show and my work in the media, I knew that Leonard Nimoy had been in the hospital in recent days. And just like in the days before my dad died, I heard that small voice in my head that we all have that tells us how things really are, but which we really want to ignore, mostly because the news it imparts to us is unpleasant and sad. When I tried to reassure myself that the Spock of my youth would survive the chest pains that had sent him into the hospital, the voice reminded me that he was of an age where he may no longer be able to survive these things. And we now know that he didn’t.
The Search for Spock
Leonard Nimoy lived longer than my dad did, who died 12 years ago. Although logically, I know that my dad influenced me more than Spock did, I can’t help but feel sad today, because feelings aren’t logical, something that both my dad and Spock reminded me of on a regular basis.
In the days, months, and years after my father’s death, a part of me was always searching for him. Out the window of my apartment. In the grocery store. When I took a long drive by myself. I’ve never really stopped looking for him, in fact.
And now, perhaps part of me will now always search for Spock. (Or at least what he represents to me.) But unlike in the film Star Trek: The Search for Spock, I know that he can’t be be found again, except in memory and in late-night reruns, no matter how much I hope for it.
Here’s to one of the greatest influences I’ve ever had as a storyteller. May you live long and prosper somewhere in the farthest reaches of time, space, and memory.
Sources: Forbes, TMZ, Twitter
Buffy Naillon is the author of the best selling novel The Girl Who Fell Into the Sky: A Retelling of the Grimms’ King Thrushbeard. Her work has appeared in USA Today Travel, Trails.com, and Germany’s Der Spiegel Online.
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