Leonard Nimoy has boldly gone.
I only had the pleasure of meeting the man once, shaking his hand briefly at a photo op that left me look rather bewildered and goofy, but is still a treasured moment. He was kind, patient, and jovial with each of his fans that day, and despite the fact that I only met him that one time, he has been in my life for a long, long time.
I came to both the Star giants, Wars and Trek within months of each other in 1977. I’d seen Star Wars the first night we’d settled onto CFB Borden, and then, while we lived in our house there, I would while away the Saturday mornings watching cartoons, and old re-runs of Star Trek. The first episode I ever saw was Miri. It introduced me to many things the series could be, though I didn’t know it at the time, like social commentary. It was filled with excitement, brains, thrills, action beats, spaceships, and fun, without talking down to me.
So for me, I was never forced to choose between the two realms, Star Wars taught me the joys of the space opera, Star Trek taught me the joys of humanity and to examine our society as told against the metaphor of our interactions with alien life, our explorations of the unknown, and the wonders we all too often don’t realize we have.
The central trio, Kirk, Spock and McCoy were not only friends, but counterpoints to the arguments and ideas being presented. McCoy and Spock advised their captain, often pointing out conflicting views, and through Kirk the ideas somehow merged into an equitable solution or course of action.
So as a child, when I played, sometimes with friends, just as often and sometimes even more so (there was a lot of time spent (Han) solo) by myself, I would play at Star Trek. Playground equipment would become the bridge of the Enterprise, where I would sit in the command seat and confer with my imaginary First Officer, asking for Mr. Spock’s advice and help. With my bicycle serving as my Enterprise, imaginary warp nacelles behind me, pushing me faster, I explored the unknown reaches of the strange planet that was my neighborhood. With a phaser, and communicator constructed from Lego, I would face unknowns, meet strange races, do shoulder rolls, get covered in grass stains, and help my imaginary companions, always Spock, McCoy and Scotty as we went where no man had gone before.
As I grew up, my love for Trek never waned, and is still to this day just as strong as my love for Wars. When The Motion Picture came along in 1979, I remember dragging my family to it, and being stunned by the majesty of seeing the Enterprise on the big screen, and seeing my treasured friends continuing their Human Adventure (it’s still one of my fave films, and I love the score by Jerry Goldsmith immensely). I even begged my parents to take me to McDonald’s to get one of the Star Trek Happy Meals… One of the first LPs I ever bought (following my purchase of John Barry’s score for The Black Hole) was James Horner’s score for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, I would play it over and over on my little record player (I’ve added all the scores to the films to my collection over the years, and they are all on my iphone as I type this with TMP being a dear favorite).
Then in 1982, I sat in a theater, I don’t even remember who I was with, and was shocked beyond tears (though I heard a number of people sniffling as I left the theater in a dazed state), even understanding as I watched Star Trek II, and there, Spock died. I was stunned. My dear friend, one of my imaginary companions, gone. But that didn’t stop my love for the series or the character (especially when I finally learned the name of the next film).
My parents fostered my love of the series as they could and would buy me Star Trek books as soon as Pocket Books started publishing them. I got three of them one Xmas in a little slip case, The Web of the Romulans, The Klingon Gambit and The Entropy Effect. I remember the first time I read Yesterday’s Son…
My love of films allowed me to discover Nimoy the director, and as an actor beyond the role of Spock. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Three Men and a Baby. I was always delighted to hear about his work, loved when he popped up on series, like Fringe and just became as much a fan of his as I was of Spock.
His passing is heartbreaking, but it has a measure of beauty and amazement to it as well, the man, the actor, the artist is now gone, but his spirit, his katra, lives on in all those people who loved him, family, friends, co-workers, all of those people, like me, who grew up with him on their television screens, on their book covers, on their record players. Spock came back from the dead once already, and Leonard Nimoy will live on in the hearts of each of us. Each one of us touched through his performances, through his photographs, through his humanity. In those who believes that things can be better, that we can be more, that the Human Adventure is Just Beginning…