I didn’t grow up watching the original Star Trek series, but I remember watching Next Generation and Deep Space 9 with my dad on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Most of my exposure to Spock was through references or cameos on other shows. The earliest scene with Leonard Nimoy that I actually remember watching was his guest spot on The Simpsons. Somehow, despite my lack of experience with the source, I knew that Spock was the one introducing the episode.
I finally did get around to watching the original Star Trek, however it wasn’t my intent. I was in my mid-twenties and hanging out at a friends house. We were talking about sci-fi, and he brought out his dvd case. I flipped through it and saw that he had painstakingly collected every single season of the entire Star Trek saga (yes, including the animated series). I got excited and asked if I could borrow a couple of Next Generation discs. He responded by handing me the entire case and told me to take care of it. I was floored. I thanked him and went home to start my binge.
My original intent was to simply start with the series I was familiar with, but since I had access to everything, I wanted to take advantage. I put the very first disc of the original series into my computer and started watching. It was a lot of fun. I knew that it would be campy, and the effects wouldn’t hold up well, but that’s okay. I like science fiction for the stories, not the effects. It was great to see the origin of many of the tropes that I was familiar with through other series.
What I wasn’t expecting was the sheer number of episodes where Spock was emotional. I had always thought that Spock was like Data from Next Generation, an unfeeling character who provides insight and humor by not being like the rest of us. What I found while watching the original series is that Spock was not like that at all. Spock had a depth of emotions that he merely hid from the world. He had a kindness and humor that wasn’t apparent from the bits and pieces I had seen throughout the years. He was even blatantly insubordinate at times (though not always in his right mind when it happened).
Later, when my wife and I were newly married, she would sometimes compare me to Spock (she still does on occasion, though Sheldon Cooper has become her new comparison of choice). I would take it in good humor, especially since I knew she had never watched an episode of Star Trek in her life. I didn’t really think about it at the time, but looking back now, I realize that one of the reasons it didn’t bother me is because I genuinely liked Spock. I also know that just because Spock chose not to display his emotions didn’t mean that they weren’t there. He simply dealt with them on his own. I’m the same way. My wife has to really work to get me to open up. I’ve gotten better, but overall I still take the time to process what I’m feeling by myself first, then share my conclusions.
I think this connection to Mr. Nimoy’s most famous character is why the news of his death affected me more than most celebrity deaths. I always find it sad when an artist, whose work I enjoy, passes away, but Leonard Nemoy was different to me. He portrayed a character that I related with on a personal level, not just a character who entertained me.
Not only that, but he seemed to be a genuinely good and kind person. I recently read that he was the primary advocate for getting Nichelle Nichols the same salary as the rest of the cast of Star Trek, something very unusual for women of color at the time. He also seemed very willing to poke fun at himself and his character (though I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the case immediately following Star Trek’s run).
There are many other people who will write more fitting tributes to Leonard Nimoy, but I wanted to write down my thoughts. I know that in a few weeks, I will hardly even think about the man, but I didn’t want to let this time pass without documenting the fact that I have thought about him and his impact on my life. Despite never having met, I feel like I can say that Mr. Spock “[has] been, and always shall be [my] friend.”