Links We Like: Leonard Nimoy and the Immortal Legacy of Mr. Spock
To celebrate the recent release of ‘For the Love of Spock,’ Adam Nimoy’s documentary tribute to his father and the iconic character he embodied, we’ve rounded up some required reading on their enduring significance.
“Long before being nerdy was cool, there was Leonard Nimoy,” said U.S. President Barack Obama in a statement released after Nimoy’s death. “And of course, Leonard was Spock. Cool, logical, big-eared and level-headed, the center of Star Trek’s optimistic, inclusive vision of humanity’s future.”
In July 2015, Adam Nimoy — Leonard’s son — came to Kickstarter to make a documentary about the much-beloved half-Vulcan starship Enterprise crew member on the occasion of Star Trek’s fiftieth anniversary. Nearly ten thousand backers rallied behind the project, and Adam, in collaboration with his father, got to work. But when Leonard died on February 27, 2015, at age 83, the focus of the documentary shifted. Originally intended as a film about Spock and his role in the Star Trek canon, Adam decided to create a film that would memorialize Leonard Nimoy and the legacy he left behind — not only as Spock, but also as an actor and a father.
The film includes interviews with original Star Trek cast members William Shatner, George Takei, and Nichelle Nichols, as well as Zachary Quinto — who plays a young Spock in J.J. Abrams’ rebooted Star Trek franchise — and nearly all of the actors involved in the reboot.
Weaving together archival interviews with Nimoy, recordings from his autobiographies and albums, and clips from the Star Trek series, “the documentary works because it is, ultimately, a universal story: a boy seeking the love and attention of his father, a man honoring his relationship with a complicated icon,” wrote Mashable’s Lance Ulanoff.
For the Love of Spock premieres in theaters and is available to download on iTunes today. To celebrate, we’ve combed through the many articles analyzing the indelible mark Leonard Nimoy and Mr. Spock have left on popular culture, and present to you a few of our favorites — pieces that tackle everything from Leonard’s complicated relationship with his iconic character to Mr. Spock’s significance as a biracial cultural icon. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did.
At this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, Adam Nimoy spoke with The Verge about making For the Love of Spock and his complicated relationship with his father. He reflected on the challenges of growing up with a father who, very often, was Spock: “Dad liked to stay in character when he was at home. It’s very difficult for him to pop in and out of being Spock,” Nimoy said. “I mean, I adore Spock. … I just couldn’t relate to him.”
How Leonard Nimoy Grew to Love Spock as Much as We Did (The Guardian)
“As with many others of my generation, Mr. Spock was my babysitter,” Andrew Collins wrote in an article tracing Leonard Nimoy’s own relationship to Mr. Spock. The relationship between the actor and the character was a tumultuous one — as you might expect, given that the two characters were perceived as one and the same in the public eye, but were nonetheless distinct entities (and one of them fictional). But Nimoy grew to embrace his alter ego fully, as evidenced by the title of his second autobiography: I Am Spock, published twenty years after his first, I Am Not Spock.
“If you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” — Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, 1991
For many biracial Star Trek viewers, the half-human, half-Vulcan Spock held a mirror to their own experiences. In a segment for NPR’s All Things Considered, Arun Rath cites a Star Trek episode in which Captain Kirk must make Spock explosively angry in order to save him. Kirk calls out Spock’s mixed-race heritage, spitting “half-breed” with a contempt perhaps all too familiar to biracial children growing up in 1950s and ’60s America.
Spock’s treatment on the show “echoes the markers of race here on Earth,” Rath says in the broadcast. “As a kid in the American suburbs in the ’70s, being half-Indian really did feel like being half-alien. In the presence of my white friends, my Indian culture sure came across like it was from another planet.”
Leonard Nimoy’s Letter to All of Us (Archipelago)
Nimoy, too, was aware of the power and responsibility Mr. Spock wielded as a biracial role model. In a 1968 article in the teen magazine FaVE, he offered advice and comfort to a young biracial girl who had written in to ask Spock how she should navigate the world while being ostracized by her black and white peers alike, much as Spock was made to feel apart from both humans and Vulcans.
Contemplating this letter, unearthed by BuzzFeed in 2013, Nigerian-American writer and editor Ijeoma Oluo reflects on why she was so fascinated with Spock as a child. “I remember watching Spock struggle with the Vulcan community’s perception that he had been dirtied by his human blood,” she writes. “I remember watching the snide remarks his human shipmates made about his Vulcan heritage and yelling at the screen, ‘You just don’t understand him!’ […] I didn’t fully understand at the time that Spock’s isolation echoed my own.”
“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” — Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, 1982
Spock and the Legacy of Star Trek (Medium)
In an age of dystopian science fiction depicting worlds overrun by malevolent machines or hyper-evolved apes, Star Trek offered a vision of “a vastly improved future where we not only retained our humanity, but where the very best aspects of what it means to be human enabled us to create a civilization that gave us every reason to hope for something grander,” writes Ethan Siegel.
As a Vulcan-human with a reverence for logic and dispassionate analysis, a character “whose very differences made him uniquely valuable,” Siegel writes, Spock embodied the series’ ideal “that bringing a diversity of living beings together — with their own individual experiences and histories — would produce a stronger civilization than any alone.”
Written by Rebecca Hiscott, Kickstarter’s engagement specialist.