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RIP Leonard Nimoy, Our Favorite Logical Alien

Leonard Nimoy brought us a truly memorable character in Commander (later Ambassador) Spock, the half-Vulcan first office of the USS Enterprise in the Star Trek TV show and later movies. Star Trek was the creation of Gene Roddenberry, and strove to show a multicultural starship crew of the future in action, even including non-human crew members such as Spock.

In the initial pilot epsiode "The Cage", the character of Spock was not as "emotionless" as his later embodiment, and the female "Number One" character played by Majel Barrett was actually the tough, no-nonsense executive office. Once the series was picked up by NBC though, Spock (as far as I know, we were never told his first name), was the first officer of the Enterprise crew.

For me to say that the Spock character is "emotionless" is of course, not really true - the character of the "half breed" Vulcan is actually always fighting to keep his emotions in check, through the use of his will and the discipline of logic. Over the course of the TV show and movies Nimoy shows this very well, making Spock light years away from what could have otherwise been a rather boring, glum character.

Spock's voice of reason is so often the counterbalance to Captain Kirk's more overtly emotional character, and of course the verbal sparring with the sometimes crotchety Dr McCoy is rightly famous. As I said, Nimoy built this seemingly one-note character into quite a complex soul, sometimes bemused by his human crew mates, yet developing a real friendship and respect with them.

Nimoy brought the simple yet very effective device of the Vulcan salute, as well as the "Live long and prosper" invocation from his Jewish heritage, both of which have become cultural touchstones.

The relationship between Kirk and Spock specifically was a central element in the 2009 movie "reboot" of Star Trek, which starts with a very rebellious/obnoxious Kirk character, and also shows some of Spock's younger years on planet Vulcan as the put-upon son of a Vulcan father and Human mother. Through a time-travelling storyline, "old Spock" (Nimoy) gets to interact with "young Spock" (Zachary Quinto) and "young Kirk" assuring them that the they actually become friends (the two strongly dislike each other at this point).

Nimoy brings a melancholy gravitas to the old Spock role, and gently but firmly verbally bangs their heads together to get the two younger characters to realize what each offers the other. Once again, the emotional content is there in Nimoy's protrayal, but much of it is merely implied by the occasionally raised eyebrow, a sigh or a look.

Leonard Nimoy was a Renaissance man; he acted, directed, sung, painted, took photographs and wrote books and poetry. After publishing his first autobiography "I am not Spock", he came to terms with the identification of him with the character and wrote a second volume "I am Spock" some years later.

Leonard Nimoy passed away in February 2015 at the age of 83.

He lived long, and prospered.

As a light-hearted way to end, here is a humorous Audi commercial featuring Nimoy and Quinto bantering and hamming it up. Nimoy even reprises his "Bilbo Baggins" song from the 1970's....


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