Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015) - He Was Spock, He Was Not Spock

Written By: Ken Hulsey

Today I was very saddened when I learned that the iconic television and movie actor Leonard Nimoy had succumbed to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at the age of 83. Like many of you out there, my first taste of science fiction television came from Star Trek and Nimoy's character on the show, Spock, was always my favorite. It would be safe to say that he was in part responsible for spawning my life long love of the genre, which in turn spawned the website where you are reading this. Indeed my heart is heavy on learning that one of my favorite actors has passed on to his creator.

Nimoy was born on March 26, 1931 in Boston, Massachusetts to Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Iziaslav, Soviet Union. He began acting at the tender age of eight at a local children's theater. Bitten by the acting bug he would later attend Boston College where he studied drama, though he never completed his studies.

In the early to mid fifties Leonard Nimoy landed small roles in several low-budget science fiction and western movies before he had a brief cameo in the iconic monster movie "Them!" in 1954. Nimoy's real bulk of work, pre Trek, consisted of more sci fi and westerns on television including appearances on The Twilight Zone, Sea Hunt, Colt .45, Wagon Train, Rawhide, Bonanza, Perry Mason, and The Outer Limits.


In 1965 Nimoy turned down a role on the soap opera Peyton Place to shoot a pilot called "The Cage" for yet another science fiction themed television program called Star Trek. Though NBC initially rejected Gene Roddenberry's cerebral vision of a prime time television series about space adventurers, the show was given yet another chance, in a more Joe public friendly format, and Nimoy was the only cast member from the original pilot invited back. As they say "the rest was history", we all know that Star Trek lasted a mere three seasons on television despite capturing legions of fans, many of them women who actually found Spock more sexy than his dashing counterpart Captain James T. Kirk, played by William Shatner.

After Trek Nimoy was immediately hired on the spy series Mission: Impossible, in which he replaced actor Martin Landau. Nimoy was cast in the role of Paris, an IMF agent who was an ex-magician and make-up expert "The Great Paris." He played the role during seasons four and five (1969–71).

Though Mission: Impossible was a popular series it was his work on the show In Search of..., which was a documentary series about the paranormal, monsters, UFOs and other phenomena, that many fans remember fondly today.

Though many unsuccessful attempts were made to bring Star Trek back to primetime television, the show was in essence reborn as an animated series aimed at the young audience that made the series a huge success on afternoon syndicated television. All of the original cast members were brought in to voice there respective characters including Nimoy and his alter ego Spock.


In 1977 Nimoy wrote his first autobiography entitled "I am Not Spock" in 1975 where in the actor tried to tell the story of his life aside from his most famous television persona. The fans, to put it mildly, didn't welcome the memoirs with an open mind and in 1995 he wrote a follow-up book entitled "I am Spock". In this more fan friendly volume Nimoy actually had factious conversations with his half-Vulcan-half-human alter ego in the end coming to the summation that Spock was indeed a part of his soul ... and vice versa.

In the later years of Nimoy's career he would amass a very large resume of work both in front and behind the camera in both movies and television. He also had a very successful career as a theater actor staring in acclaimed roles in productions such as Fiddler on the Roof, The Man in the Glass Booth, Oliver!, 6 Rms Riv Vu, Full Circle, Camelot, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The King and I, Caligula, The Four Poster, Twelfth Night, Sherlock Holmes, Equus, and My Fair Lady.


As time passed from the seventies to the eighties and beyond Nimoy would again take on the Spock character in numerous movies and television adaptations culminating in JJ. Abrams' 2009 reimagining of Star Trek in which has passed the Spock torch on to actor Zachary Quinto.

Though Nimoy was known as an actor, director, writer, and producer he was also a renowned photographer and vocalist who produced numerous albums including Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock's Music From Outer Space, Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy, The Way I Feel, The Touch of Leonard Nimoy, and The New World of Leonard Nimoy. He also had a minor hit song with the cult favorite "The Ballad Of Bilbo Baggins" based on J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" books.


Leonard Nimoy's contribution to the fantasy and science fiction genre have made him an enduring pop culture icon who's true body of work has been an inspiration to, and will continue to inspire, actors and writers for generations to come. Ironically, through the character of Spock, Nimoy has in a sense become immortal and undoubtedly when mankind does "boldly go where no man has gone before" the character will travel with them. I can't imagine a future without Star Trek airing somewhere.

Comments

  1. For me, Star Trek was the first - edging out Doctor Who and Star Wars - and it wouldn't have been the massive cultural touchstone it became without Nimoy's Spock.

    I have to admit I got a bit choked up when I heard the news, but we will always have his incredible body of work to keep his memory alive.

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  2. Over the years I have had the pleasure of meeting a lot of actors from the numerous Star Trek series including William Shatner. Unfortunately I never got to meet Mr. Nimoy. I myself got very emotional when Terri called me with the news. It's like a part of my childhood has passed away.

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