Editorial: A Fond Farewell to Leonard Nimoy, the Face of 'Star Trek'
by Dan Marcus
February 27, 2015
The U.S.S. Enterprise lost an irreplaceable member of her crew this morning: actor Leonard Nimoy, age 83, passed away in his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles, CA from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Fans everywhere have mourned the actor's death, paying tribute with a proper salute on social media. It's as if his memory has beamed into the hearts of those that watched him as a child on the bridge of the Enterprise – and into the hearts of those that just discovered him. For those that loved and admired him, Leonard Nimoy was more than just a Vulcan called Mr. Spock. To many, he was the face of Star Trek.
Not surprisingly, Leonard Nimoy's death has been sending shockwaves more powerful than a photon torpedo blast across the Internet today. To fans everywhere, Nimoy was more than just a member of the Enterprise crew. In some ways, he was the grandfather of Star Trek – especially in his later years. He was the old (but not withered) face of a franchise that's been around for nearly 50 years – a comforting and soothing persona that was as calm and collected as his portrayal of Mr. Spock himself.
As the grandfather of Star Trek, Nimoy was a face for the old generation as well as the new. When J.J. Abrams rebooted Star Trek for new audiences in 2009, Nimoy was the only cast member of the original show to be brought on for the revitalization. He was a familiar and calming face for fans – his appearance assured the legions of worried Trekkies (or Trekkers as Nimoy preferred) that the new Star Trek was going to be okay. It was as if with his appearance he was giving it his seal of approval. When he was advising Spock at the end of 2009's Star Trek, he was just as much advising fans as well. With that, the franchise could boldly go in new directions once more.
Judging from the reactions across the Internet, Nimoy meant a lot to fans. After all, when you think of Star Trek, you typically think of two people: William Shatner as Kirk… and Leonard Nimoy as Spock. That's why Abrams eventually rebooted the franchise by going back to the original series. Abrams knew that Kirk and Spock was every bit as important to Star Trek as the Enterprise itself. Nimoy was also very bit as important to fans as well – and not just hardcore Trekkies.
Like so many, I remember growing up watching Leonard Nimoy. He was the polar opposite of who I was as a kid - cool, calm and collected. However, as I watched more of Star Trek, I realized he had emotions, too. He just did a better job at managing them than most. Well, right now, I'm not doing a very good job at managing my feelings – and I know the same can be said for millions of fans as well. Leonard Nimoy made Spock one of the pillars of Star Trek. Leonard Nimoy was able to do that not just with his acting. He was able to interject a sense of humanity into Spock. As a kid, he was someone to look up to. Someone to revere.
While William Shatner's Kirk was the character fans likely wanted to be – attractive, commanding, good with women, brazen – Leonard Nimoy's Spock was the character fans knew they were. A Star Trek fan knew while growing up that one of the most embarrassing things you could do was admitting you were a Trekkie. Unfortunately, for a lot of Star Trek fans you had to hide the fact that you loved the show. It was something you repressed deep down – something you didn't show or tell others. It's no different than Spock feeling forced to repress his own emotions and human side of his half-human, half-Vulcan nature.
Over the course of the franchise's history, Spock became more comfortable with his emotions. The dilemma with Spock's character was how he battled with the duality of who he was – was he human or was he Vulcan? As his character progressed, he became more at ease with who he was – no different than Trek fans over the years becoming more at ease with acknowledging their fandom. As the franchise itself progressed – especially with the success of Abrams' reinvention of the series – it became okay to be a fan of Star Trek. Suddenly, it wasn't something to repress anymore. It was okay to tell people they were a Trekkie – just like it became okay for Spock to finally express his own feelings.
As Trek fans everywhere express their own feelings today regarding Nimoy's loss, we acknowledge the impact that Nimoy had not only on the Star Trek franchise – but on fandom as a whole. Nimoy's loss extends much further than the fandom of Star Trek, though. In the show, the Enterprise crew was part of the United Federation of Planets, an organization that represented not only every faction on Earth but almost every planet in the galaxy. On the bridge of the Enterprise, Spock represented the Vulcans and aliens everywhere amidst humans of all genders and ethnicities. In a lot of ways, Leonard Nimoy represented fans everywhere – if there was ever an ambassador to fandom, he was it.
With Nimoy's passing, he passes on the torch to a new generation. A new generation of actors who hope to represent the wants, desires and feelings of fans everywhere. It is the responsibility of the cast of the new Star Trek series now more than ever to respect not just the fans of the series, but fans of all beloved franchises- and to respect what Nimoy had done. Leonard Nimoy was the epitome of class, dignity and stoicism. If Zachary Quinto and the cast of the Enterprise want to honor Nimoy, let's hope they have even an iota of the class that Nimoy brought to Spock and to the franchise in general. With Star Trek's 50th anniversary coming next year with the arrival of the next Star Trek film, fans will look to director Justin Lin, co-star and now co-writer Simon Pegg and the cast of the film to respect Leonard Nimoy and to boldly go where Star Trek hasn't gone before. It's a tall order, but we think they may be up to the task.
In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Spock sacrifices himself to save the crew of the Enterprise. As Spock's body is sent out to space, Captain Kirk delivers a touching eulogy. He says, "Of my friend, I can only say this. Of all the souls I've encountered in my travels, his was the most… human." Spock's quest in life was to deal with the duality of his nature. However, as Kirk so eloquently put it, even despite, this Spock brought a sense of humanity to the crew of the Enterprise that might have otherwise been missing. He was, and always shall be, the friend we never knew we had.
Leonard Nimoy was a friend to all of us, whether we knew it or not. Even if we never met him, we welcomed him into our homes every time we stumbled upon a classic episode of the original show or put in a Blu-ray of an old Star Trek film. He was there to comfort us, to guide us and to make us feel more comfortable with whom we are, boldly going where we may have been too scared to go on our own. He will always be remembered for his stoicism, his brilliance but most of all, his humanity. Live long and prosper.