Friday, February 27, 2015

Leonard Nimoy - Live Long and Prosper

After a short hospital stay last week, Leonard Nimoy died at his home in Los Angeles this morning. The cause was heart disease, brought on by a smoking habit he left behind three decades ago, but still too late. The man was many things in his eighty-three years, an actor, director, poet, musician, singer, writer, artist, photographer, and science fiction icon, but he was also a gigantic part of my life, my childhood, my education, and my love of the genre. And now he's gone.

I was asked earlier today to contribute to a memorial of the man at Biff Bam Pop!, and I had nothing. I was so stunned and silenced by his passing.

By the time I was aware of Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock, and "Star Trek," the show had left the network airwaves and was then currently running in syndication where it was experiencing a renaissance. Out of production for years and more popular than ever, I first saw "Star Trek" on Philadelphia's channel 48, which butchered the show mercilessly to fit more commercials in. It would be more than a decade before I saw all the episodes in their entirety.

My big sister loved the show, and so I watched it too. While I dug William Shatner as the mainstream good guy hero of the piece, I was drawn more to Nimoy's Spock. I guess that the way that Spock is alien, had pseudo-super powers, and was an outsider, almost a superhero, I connected to him more. And I think still today, the character is the best, and central to the show.

The first real Trekkie, or more accurately Trekker, I ever met was the big brother of the girl who lived across the street when I was a kid. Denis knew everything about "Star Trek,' everything. His knowledge of the show and the mythos was extraordinary, the type of minutia I knew well as a comic book fanboy, but somehow "Trek" seemed more important. He had all the books, the models, the Star Fleet Technical Manual, he knew how many decks were on the Enterprise. Yeah, I really looked up to him. Sometimes he picked on me, but it was okay, because he was cool, because of "Star Trek."

Around this time that I remember sitting through a thoroughly boring half-hour on PBS where Nimoy read his poetry, but I did it because I wanted to know more about the man. He was also hosting and narrating "In Search Of…" and doing the voice of Spock in the "Star Trek" animated series. And then the Star Trek film series began. He was never not on TV in some form or another for my entire life. Leonard Nimoy was always in my life.

There were missteps of course, like his recording career, perhaps done to compete with William Shatner's equally dismal musical forays, but sometimes we can forgive. And really, the stuff wasn't that bad in an ironic humorous way. Either way, none of us will ever forget "Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" once we’ve heard it. He did stage plays, voice work, movie serials, video games, audiobooks, almost every aspect of the business and left his mark in all. He was the man.

His portrayal of Spock bridged all versions of Star Trek, and influenced those who followed in his footsteps. Star Trek, the world, all of us… has lost a legend, an icon, a role model, a part of us all. Live long and prosper, my friend.

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