I have followed and respected Mr. Nimoy my entire life. Created by Star Trek godfather Gene Roddenberry, but brought to vivid life by Leonard Nimoy, I first saw his portrayal of Spock and became a Star Trek fan at the tender age of 2. I used to sit on the floor and watch the show with my dad, mesmerized by the spaceships traveling through the cosmos so majestically. My dad was a pilot in the Air Force, and I remember when I was very little, I felt like I got a glimpse into his world. ‘Starfleet’ didn’t seem too far away from ‘Air Force,’ and I loved sharing the experience with him and wanted to be the heir to his love of Sci-Fi and good storytelling.
I grew up watching Next Gen, and the rare occasions when we met Spock again or went to Vulcan were the most exciting to me. I identified with Spock, with his careful consideration of each decision, with his measured, calm demeanor. I liked that kind of strength. The kind of strength that never needed to yell (although every once in a while he still has to). Mr. Nimoy’s passing recently compelled me to compile everything I love most about the character and the reasons why Nimoy and his Spock will live forever in my heart and mind.
The Character’s Complex and Satisfying Mythology includes:
His home: Spock’s home world, Vulcan, is one of the most richly detailed in the whole series. It was an idealized version of classic Roman society mixed with some pretty peculiar reproductive and spiritual characteristics. It was wonderful and very weird.
His family: the story of his mother and father falling in love despite being different species and from starkly different cultures. They were a prominently featured biracial couple, which was treated very realistically by the series: little Spock faced a lot of adversity. Sarek, Spock’s father is arguably one of the most complex, tragic, and noble character in the whole ST universe, and, on a personal note, is also my favorite ST character, edging out Jean-Luc Picard (a very serious declaration). Sybok, Spock’s half-brother, is a whole big thing, too.
Emotional arc: Spock’s arc throughout the series and films is one with which I deeply connected. Spock, Kirk, and McCoy share so much mutual affection and respect. I’m most responsive to something I detect innately when those actors are together sharing smiles and in-jokes on screen and off– some bond of brotherhood forged in a fire I did not seen but know must have existed. The friendship feels real. McCoy’s cracks at Spock, calling him adorable pet names and teasing him. And Spock’s utter paucity of shits given, ever. Genius stuff. There was so much beautiful man love between all of them in respective and unique ways.
I know Captain Kirk was the main character of the thing, but for me, Spock had the best emotional arc overall in the series and films. Something strange happened alongside the big plot developments for the character: despite Spock’s constant adherence to cold, objective reason and logic, and his devotion to being passionless, his journey became the beating heart of the films, at least the first few anyway. His death in Wrath of Khan rocked the audience. When we first saw Kirk scream his iconic scream, “KHAAAAAANNN!!!” like a wild man we didn’t laugh or gawk and mock it, we felt as he did. We also screamed.
And then onward through Search for Spock when the character must go through many thresholds to be reborn in a wild place and then must endure trials in a special world for a time, before returning to himself as a more spiritual being who has to relearn the ways of lower beings. It’s all wonderful, even when Chekov and Scottie start doing their impression of Laurel and Hardy The Voyage Home. (Which, guys, I also love that of course, deeply and profoundly.)
My personal favorite of all of the emotional Spock moments brings me to tears each time I think on it for too long. When Spock knows he might die, he transfers his consciousness to Bones. He gives his soul to Bones to hold onto for him, his truest, best friend. It’s a testament to the magic of Star Trek that this moment makes a profound emotional impact on viewers, considering the aliens and the spaceships and robots.
Spock brought out the best and most interesting qualities in the other characters around him. He was always (mostly) written superbly, especially in the films, but it’s a testament to how Mr. Nimoy colored his every stoic remark with a layer cake of emotional subtext, that the other actors gave their most genuine reactions and dialogue when in scenes with him. His special relationship with Kirk, and his deeply intimate connection with McCoy make for some of the most captivating scenes in all of canon.
Leonard Nimoy and Spock:
Leonard Nimoy made Spock come alive. Mr. Nimoy was a wonderful photographer and artist, in his own right. He was a sensitive thinker who wrote beautifully his peculiar experience with this decidedly out of the ordinary character.
Though much was made over the years of his rebellion against the character (see his spate of books, ‘I am Not Spock;’ ‘Psych, I am Spock, Actually’)All of the compassion and kindness that were somehow innate in the character, in spite of his seemingly cold demeanor, all of that is from Mr. Nimoy.
No one thing illustrates the width and breadth of his soul better than word from this letter he wrote to a mixed-race girl who felt marginalized but was a fan of Spock’s:
“When you think of people who are truly great and who have improved the world, you can see that they are people who have realized they didn’t need popularity because they knew they had something special to offer the world, no matter how small that offering seemed. And they offered it and it was accepted with peace and love.”
And finally, the most beloved character behavior of all. The way each time he uttered this one word catchphrase, “fascinating,” it took on myriad intricate, emotional meanings. Incomparable and inimitable.
Some things have happened before, but not everything happens again.
Written by Kathryn D. Moeller