In 1966 Star Trek first aired on television, giving rise to what may be the largest and most iconic sci-fi series in history. At its head, by the side of Captain Kirk, was Mr. Spock – the half-Vulcan science officer and first officer on board the Starship Enterprise. The character reached iconic status through his dependence on logic his stunningly severe features, but perhaps more importantly was the way in which these traits were inhabited and portrayed by the actor Leonard Nimoy.
The accomplished actor, director, musician, poet, and artist has just passed away on 27th February 2014 at the age of 83.
Born in 1926 in Boston, he moved to Hollywood in 1949 after discovering his love of acting in local productions. He landed minor or supporting roles, teaching acting on the side, until his breakout performance as the seemingly emotionless alien in Star Trek. Nimoy once said that he enjoyed playing such outsiders and that, if he had to be anyone else, he would choose Spok. He even titled his two autobiographies I Am Not Spock (1977) and I Am Spock (1995).
These were quite the apt statements, as he spent the majority of his acting career post-1966 in this persona. While the original Star Trek series was cancelled after three seasons due to low ratings (a shock nowadays), the cult fan following that emerged spawned numerous conventions, spin-off series (both live action and animated, often featuring the original actors), and feature films in every decade between the 1970s to the present day. Nimoy played his defining role in almost all of these, the most notable exception being in the most recent franchise (2009-present) where the role of a younger Spock has been taken by Zachary Quinto. Nevertheless, Mr. Spock’s past/future self emerges in both released films, played by none other than Nimoy.
It is easy to overlook the other aspects of Nimoy’s life and career due to the shadow cast by his half-Vulcan persona. He was a prolific poet, publishing several volumes, and a skilled photographer. He enjoyed delivering spoken word performances and singing original songs written about Star Trek and other randoms, including Tolkien’s The Hobbit. In addition, he directed two Star Trek films – The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home. Directing and taking a main role in both was no mean feat.
It is as Mr. Spock, however, that Leonard Nimoy will be best remembered for. He infused the seemingly cold alien with a surprising humour and humanity which will be forever a part of the classic sci-fi canon.
Live long and prosper.
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