Memory Preserved: A Tribute to Leonard Nimoy
By Mother Brain
A few years ago when my mother was sorting through things in our basement, she found a typewritten essay by my late aunt. My mom and I were in the early stages of selling our home of nearly 20 years when she found this and the essay was ironic because my aunt described the memories she had of living in Jamaica as a young girl. She went into specific details about her home, the places she played, and the trees in her backyard. Even though her memories were distant, she believed in keeping the cherished moments alive in her heart and mind.
I bring up this personal story because on the day Leonard Nimoy, the actor and director we have all come to know as “Mr. Spock” on Star Trek, had been admitted to the hospital for chest pains, he left the following cryptic message:
His words immediately reminded me of my aunt’s essay. It was clear to me that Mr. Nimoy’s historic life was coming to a close. Yet, for every performance he brought to the screen and the influence he had not only on pop culture but also social causes, Mr. Nimoy lived every day with graciousness and appreciation. As a human being, he made us strive to better ourselves. At least that’s the impression I got from him.
I am not at all the biggest Trekkie around. I’ve seen all the films, watched the shows every now and then, and even own some memorabilia. Yet, I still had a great appreciation for Star Trek and its following for many decades. Mr. Nimoy was a major part of it. Though the show was the creation of the great Gene Roddenberry and made an icon out of Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, it was the role of Spock that punctuated the morality tales within the context of deep space. Spock was not just a smart Vulcan science officer. He saw the best and worst in human nature and yet he was capable of being a loyal crew member as well as a friend willing to sacrifice himself for “the needs of the many.” It was a role that resonated with young people who felt like outsiders to society and to some degree African-Americans who are seen as different but equal.
Mr. Nimoy’s career was so much more than Star Trek. By now, you’ve probably read the overflowing tributes and obituaries about his work from his work in the theater to his earliest television appearances to his final appearances in the recent Star Trek movies and Fringe. For me, I think about his body of voiceover work. As the voice of Galvatron in 1986’s Transformers: The Movie, he took part in elevating a toy-based cartoon into a masterpiece of animation. His guest spot as himself on The Simpsons in the famous Monorail episode is classic. Then there’s the lesser known live action performances such as a special episode of Shatner’s 80s cop drama T.J. Hooker where Mr. Nimoy played the title character’s ex-partner who is out to get revenge against the man who raped his daughter. It was one of the better known episodes of an otherwise cheesy cop show.
My greatest appreciation for Mr. Nimoy, however, is the influence he had as a director. A few years ago on YouTube, I discovered an old Nickelodeon show called Standby: Lights, Camera, Action which he hosted. I was just an infant when it was on air and I found it so fascinating to listen to Mr. Nimoy’s knowledge of filmmaking. It was a joy to hear him discuss the process while incorporating behind the scenes clips from popular movies of the time including his own Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. As I’ve read in many articles, Mr. Nimoy took directing seriously while giving his actors a comfortable environment to work in much like Clint Eastwood does.
What amazes me about Mr. Nimoy as a director is how versatile his choices were. With Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, he opted against another space adventure in favor of a comedy-driven fish out of water premise with a message about protecting our wildlife and our environment. 3 Men and a Baby was proof he could direct male egos and crying babies effortlessly to have the biggest box office hit of 1987. The Good Mother showed he could tackle human melodrama while Funny About Love had him present legendary comedian Gene Wilder as a brokenhearted man who touch our souls. Mr. Nimoy was capable of tackling those non-Star Trek film without even a single trace of Mr. Spock’s presence.
A productive and wonderful life of 83 years has finally come to a close. Though the world is sadden by his loss, Leonard Nimoy’s legacy will continue to live on through his decades of performances and directorial work in film and television. He has a great successor in Zachary Quinto who continues the Spock role in the current Star Trek film series. The influence of his performance as Spock will continue to live on through Quinto, the fans, and actors who just love acting. We will preserve his moments in time as we treat our lives as one whole garden. He has been – and always shall be – our friend. Prosper in power, Mr. Nimoy.