Leonard Nimoy passed away this week and I was gratified that he was given a front page obituary in the New York Times, and a tribute inside by its television critic. Although he worked hard as an actor and in other artistic capacities his entire life, to me and millions of others he was first and foremost Mr. Spock.
I was 11 years old when “Star Trek” came on the television, and my father was a faithful viewer. He controlled the TV watching in our house, so there was a steady stream of cowboys and cops, and endless football games enjoyed by my brothers and boring to me. We lived in the rural Great Lakes and received only three stations, one very fuzzy, and our first TV was black and white. But when “Star Trek” arrived it was as if a hole was blown through our roof and I could see off into the infinite distance another world, where different cultures mixed, intelligence and knowledge were valued, women – even if they were wearing ridiculously tight and short uniforms – were doing responsible and interesting work, and travel – travel! happened as a matter of daily routine. Looking back I’m fully aware of the very American, very cold war, hokey and often sexist ideas represented in the series, but its adventure and optimism and variety acted as a tonic to me. It shined a light on possibility, and throughout my teenage years I vowed to be an astronaut – a “space biologist” – exploring strange new worlds of my own.
And who did I want to be? Not Kirk – my father’s favorite, with his swaggering braggadocio, and not Uhura, although I envied her beauty and loved that she was there, nor really any of the others. But I was drawn to Spock, for what teenager does not understand the struggle between reason and emotion? Having grown-up feelings in an immature body – in an environment where crying was for babies and troubles were not discussed – that’s powerful and difficult, and here was an adult enduring the same torture. I understood when Spock couldn’t say what he wanted to say. He had my compassion when he grieved and couldn’t cry, loved and couldn’t embrace, was misunderstood and couldn’t explain. Of course I knew it was only an actor playing a character, and yet somehow Spock arrived at just the right moment to allow me to dream, and strive and, ultimately, escape. I can truly attribute at least a part of my life’s path – far ranging and happy – to the inspiration of “Star Trek” and the character of Mr. Spock.
So I raise a glass here to Gene Roddenberry, the creative genius behind the series, and Mr. Leonard Nimoy, who brought to life a 20th century icon who made a difference to me. You did live long and prosper, and now I hope you are in a heaven that appreciates you as much as I do.
©Poets Sinews, 2015. Reuse with permission.