The Original Mister Spock, R.I.P.

When he published an update to his previous memoir (entitled I Am Not Spock), Leonard Nimoy changed the title to I Am Spock. It was a rueful acknowledgement, and acceptance, that while it severely limited the number of roles he could take as an actor, he still created one of the most iconic roles in television history.

Note: not science-fiction television history. Not just that particular genre. Consider this:

Spock, while an extraterrestrial, is the second-in-command of a crew of 430, mostly from Earth. The series producer, Gene Roddenberry, was optimistic about mankind, wanting to send a message that humanity could accept other intelligent people as intellectual and social equals, but he designated Spock as an alien because, as an “outsider,” he could be an observer on contemporary events as reflected and portrayed on the show.

Yes, you had the character in strong suppression of his emotions, which led non-fans to criticize his performance as wooden. But in episodes such as “Amok Time” and “This Side of Paradise,” the viewers discovered that this was a facade: Spock did have emotions, powerful ones, which he kept in check because that was expected of him by both his culture and his contemporaries.

No other character in series television, at that time, carried that off. Not in the Westerns of the day, not in the sitcoms, not in the crime dramas. It’s one of the reasons Spock was so resonant with teenaged viewers, who experienced that same sort of conflict, dealing with a family and society that expected them to keep themselves in check just as they were beginning to assert their independence and individuality. It’s not surprising that, by the time the series ended in 1991 (yes, 1991, I’m counting the six movies as part of it), we knew more about Spock as a character than any of the other Enterprise crew, including Captain Kirk.

It would be illogical to wish Mr. Nimoy “live long and prosper,” because at 83 he’d already done that. But “it has been an honour” is definitely a fitting epitaph for this man.

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About phantomobserver

I'm a professional librarian currently working in Ottawa, Ontario.
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One Response to The Original Mister Spock, R.I.P.

  1. Nathan B. says:

    Nice piece, Victor. I actually felt a bit like crying when I read of his death in the news yesterday. I remain a huge fan of Star Trek–most especially the Next Generation, in which Spock continued to have the odd appearance. I’m glad he was in the two reboot movies, too.

    And you know, there are very few celebrities who come across as both intelligent and genuine–and Leonard Nimoy was certainly both.

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