“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few… or the one…”
This is just one of several memorable lines attributed to Commander Spock, First Officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701, in the now-immortal series “Star Trek” (before you start berating me about accuracy, he was the captain in rank and position on the Enterprise when he first uttered those words). Yes, of course, the exact words were actually written by screenwriters or even added by the producer of “Star Trek 2- The Wrath of Khan”, but it was the performance of Leonard Nimoy, the actor who brought Spock to life, who made the words iconic even thirty-plus years after the movie played in theatres.
Mr. Nimoy left us last Friday, February 28, to boldly pass into the Final Frontier that awaits us all. I, and my wife, had opportunity to see him at a convention in 2004 as he spoke before a standing-room-only gathering of Star Trek fans. He happily answered questions from my fellow Trekkies about anything, but I was most amused by the few fans who give us genuine ones a bad name; they kept asking him about his next role and, worse, the next time we would be Spock onscreen again. He politely answered that question each time, “I’m retired.” His days (then) were occupied with his photography hobby. It became laughable each time he was repeatedly asked that question, and he took it in stride with never a moment of frustration.
We signed up for a professional photo with him, and we waited our turn at the scheduled time with a combination of patience (like Spock) and excitement (like true geeks). By now we had already been to a few Star Trek conventions and had already gotten into the groove of what to do at these events, and how the stars acted and reacted with their fans. Many stars were content to just be in the picture, just like Santa Claus is part of the background for children’s Christmas pictures; others were more personable… but when it was our turn Mr. Nimoy first shook our hands warmly, thanked us for coming to see him, and took us in his arms like we were family and held us tightly close for the picture. It was the most memorable picture we ever took at a convention, although my picture with Julie Caitlin Brown of Babylon 5 was definitely and unquestionably second high (and that is another story for another day).
Back to the legend that was Leonard Nimoy, and his immortal portrayal of the hybrid alien Spock. I watched the original series in first-run, and then never missed it after school when it aired in syndication. In high school and college I watched it whenever possible on TV. Then when home video recording came into being I recorded Star Trek, and then started buying the video tapes of Star Trek, and finally the DVDs and today Blu-ray. It was Spock’s continual study of a situation and logically seeing through the wrong answers before arriving at the correct one that became my core motivation in life, although I had an occasionally bad recurring occurrence of making mistakes in my own life before finding the correct answers at some point and to some degree. But at his character’s core there was a single truth that continues to bear fruit today, and will long into the future after we are all long-gone: logic will always win out.
Sadly, Mr. Nimoy, along with DeForest Kelley (“Bones”) and James Doohan (“Scotty”), didn’t make it to the 50th anniversary of the first airing of the first episode of Star Trek on TV (September 8, 1966), although he did make it to the 50th anniversary of the filming of the first pilot, “The Cage” (Jeffrey Hunter played Captain Christopher Pike), which was later broken up to be part of the two-part Star Trek episode “The Menagerie”. NBC rejected this episode in 1965 as being “too cerebral” and ordered an unprecedented second pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before” starring William Shatner as Captain Kirk. The character of Spock was the only one to survive the first pilot to the second… and a legend was born.
This weekend I have enjoyed watching some other programs Leonard Nimoy starred in before and after Star Trek. He was a terrific actor in all his various roles; I remember following him as he starred in Mission: Impossible for a couple seasons simply because he was in Star Trek.
But he was best-known as Spock, and he happily embraced his legacy. His demeanor at conventions was much like that of Spock: calm and serene and, yes, logical.
In the autograph line I took two items: a picture of me added into a promo photo of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy from Star Trek: The Experience, and I had already gotten William Shatner to sign it the year before; the second was the 1998 Hallmark Spock Christmas ornament. I handed that ornament to him, and he commented, “It was very logical that someone would bring one of these,” then happily signed the back of the ornament. It will be a little sad to hang that ornament on the tree this Christmas season.
It was very logical to be sad this weekend, but also this weekend was to remember the warmness and passion that was the incredible and unforgettable Leonard Nimoy. Live Long and Prosper… and Peace and Long Life…
Jack Gannon & Cyndi Williams-Barnier