Saturday, 28 February 2015

One to beam up

Leonard Nimoy lived well and prospered

Leonard Nimoy: 1931 - 2015

Created the same year I was, I literally can't recall a time before Star Trek. It was another show we watched as a family and at my earliest age I suppose, like Doctor Who, it was the monsters and aliens which appealed to me.  But here's the thing: Star Trek had an alien who wasn't just another marauding invader, he was part of the crew.  He was one of the good guys.

It is so taken for granted now but this single concept defined and elevated Star Trek beyond anything which had gone before.  Network executives were rattled and demanded the character be removed, but creator Gene Roddenberry put his job on the line.  He knew what he was doing (this time, at least). His show was to (sometimes rather earnestly) address the issues facing multi-racial America in the 1960s through the lens of a more-advanced future. And what better way to do that than to have an inter-dependent community which featured an Asian, an Afro-american woman and , to really drive the point home: someone who wasn't even from Earth?

The rest is well-trodden history - Mr Spock became one of the most recognisable figures of the late 20th century and continues to be so. Despite his obvious exotic pointed eared appeal the plot device of his mixed heritage and constant inner conflict between his logical Vulcan and emotional human sides was a stroke of genius.  A tormented hero who could potentially embody the best of humanity and most enigmatic of alien couldn't fail to appeal to every demographic.

I certainly took to Spock straight away. Despite not being remotely cerebral myself I've still always identified more with the controlled and learned Mr Spocks of fiction than the two-fisted Lothario Captain Kirks.  I quickly taught myself the Vulcan salute although my left hand, as Nimoy himself quipped, speaks it with a slight accent.  And I used to pedantically bristle when well-meaning adults used to confuse the character with then in-vogue childcare specialist Benjamin Spock - and refer to the Enterprise's First Officer as 'Doctor Spock'.

I think Spock taught me most of all that it's always best to keep your cool.  Infinitely harder, but ultimately better.

Leonard Nimoy was one of the first actors whose names I learnt - his surname, of Ukrainian Jewish origin, even sounded alien. When science fiction had it's global  Star Wars-propelled renaissance in 1977 Star Trek seemed to be never off TV, but I seem to recall while at school in New Zealand it was actually the animated series which was most broadcast.  And naturally, this placed more emphasis on the actors voices: Nimoy's sonorous tones gaining a stardom of their own.

The animated series: A two dimensional Enterprise crew
jog cross a very small planet

That instantly recognisable voice ruled the airwaves with Nimoy's long-running In Search of series, and I remember watching him in Mission Impossible as Paris, the disguise expert member of the IMF team.

Cravats are... illogical

A Star Trek film was inevitable, and perhaps just as inevitable was Nimoy's reluctance, (being perhaps the actor having most success after Trek) to return.  A replacement Vulcan was even cast but, despite having just written an autobiography entitled I am not Spock, Nimoy was once again - nine times again in fact, including an appearance on The Next Generation TV series and further films right up to 2013's Star Trek: Into Darkness.

'Spock Prime': "No Quinto, you do it like this..."
During this time he directed films (including two of the Treks), wrote poetry, published books of photography, performed and gave talks on stage, lent that voice to many different franchises including TransformersThe Big Bang Theory, The Simpsons and , most notoriously, recorded songs.  Reuben Jane will never sound the same for me...
Leonard Nimoy died at his home on February 27, 2015 of pulmonary disease, at the age of 83.

"We are assembled here today to pay final respects to our honored dead. 
And yet it should be noted, in the midst of our sorrow, this death takes place in the shadow of new life, the sunrise of a new world; a world that our beloved comrade gave his life to protect and nourish. He did not feel this sacrifice a vain or empty one, and we will not debate his profound wisdom at these proceedings.
Of my friend, I can only say this: Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most... human."

(Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)

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