Thursday, March 5, 2015

Live Long and Prosper

This is not a tribute to Leonard Nimoy, who died last week at the age of 83. This blog is a tribute to Spock, Nimoy’s most famous role and the character he brought to life. Spock, not Nimoy, was the persona I gravitated to. I hope I can be forgiven for that, since I was ten years old at the time. What do kids that young know, anyway?

I knew what I liked, I can swear to that. I loved Spock. Who wouldn’t? He was the outsider, the alien, a champion for all us freaks and nerds who felt like we didn’t fit in. He was the science geek decades before that became cool. Yet the militaristic alpha males he worked with still treated him with respect and relied on him to get their asses out of a jam. Which he did, consistently, without breaking a sweat. If the situation called for a multidimentional ion destabilizer, Spock would build a working model from a pile of tin cans and a set of D batteries before the last commercial break, just in time to get Kirk back to the bridge.

A lot of people who thought Kirk was the designated sex symbol are probably shaking their heads right now, but it’s true: Spock was hot. I remember TV Guide running an article called, “Mr. Spock is Sexy.” (I think, but won’t swear, that the article was written by Isaac Asimov. Star Trek was a science fiction show, remember?) What made him so sexy? Gushed the ladies, “He’s so smart.” I suppose to any woman living with men in the real world, someone of Spock’s intellect would provide much-welcome relief.

Did I also mention his honesty, his dignity and his unswerving loyalty to his friends? Compared to Spock, Kirk was an arrogant macho jerk with a hair-trigger temper and the occasional mood swing. Is it any wonder we gals gravitated toward the guy who had all the answers and always kept his head? He didn’t even need to throw a punch. He dropped attackers with the Vulcan Nerve Pinch. How cool was that?

There was also that trait that draws in us chicks like flies: unavailability. Spock was all logic. Spock was aloof. He said he had no emotions. Ah, but we all knew better. The emotions were there, roiling just beneath the unflappable, logical surface. That pesky human half of his made him one of us, even though he did his best to deny it. His best wasn’t good enough. We could see his loyalty, his honesty, his pain, his love for his friends. We were there for you, Spock. We would happily have helped you through any emotional crisis you might have faced. Just tell us when pon farr’s approaching and we’ll line up to save you. (Hands up, everybody who wanted to shove Christine Chapel out an airlock. Bitch thought she was worthy of our Vulcan. Who was she kidding?)

We even got a look at Bad Boy Spock during “Mirror, Mirror.” In a universe marked by violence and barbarism, he was still Spock: dignified, logical, trustworthy. Just with an edge. And a beard. Whooo! I look on that episode as the day I achieved puberty. I’m still drawn to tall, lean, intelligent men. Facial hair and emotional distance optional.

When all is said and done, though, Star Trek was still just a TV show. It and Spock would be forgotten now if not for Leonard Nimoy. Gene Roddenberry may have created him, but Leonard brought him to life. Leonard gave the half-breed alien a dignified demeanor that made him stand out in the crowd. The Vulcan salute and the nerve pinch were Leonard’s inventions. (Leonard felt a logical race like the Vulcans would have developed a less violent means of self-defense than throwing punches.) And, of course, the eyebrow. Leonard could make Spock say more with one lift of an eyebrow than a whole page of dialogue. I can still do the salute with either hand, but I never mastered the eyebrow. Must be a genetic thing.

What this all means to me as a writer is simple: this is how you create a memorable character. Star Trek only lasted three years. Thanks in part to Spock, it’s still remembered fifty years later. Even people who’ve never seen an episode or one of the movies know who Mr. Spock is. Like Batman and Tarzan, Spock has become a part of our cultural heritage. We have Leonard Nimoy to thank for that. Roddenberry built the framework, but Leonard filled it in. Their co-creation has outlived them both.

Now Leonard’s gone, and his talents are no longer available to help us poor writers give such vibrant life to our characters. We’re on our own. Fortunately, Leonard left behind a bountiful legacy as an actor, director and writer that we can study and learn from. A final gift from a multifaceted man.

Leonard Nimoy, rest in peace. Mr. Spock, live long and prosper.


Savanna Kougar said...

Omygaosh, I fell in love with Star Trek the very first episode. I remember dictating to my sisters and brother, in the age of one TV, that we would be watching that show, no arguments allowed. I looked forward to Star Trek with a religious zeal. However, it was one of my brothers who became a Trekkie, and his son followed in his footsteps.

And, yeah, I fell in love with logical Spock's mind-intellect, and the characteristics you described so well. However, I also had a crush on Kirk... and thought a blending of the two would be my ideal... at the time. ~smiles~

But Spock was that quintessential something special, and still is. Live long and prosper, Spock.

Great blog, Pat!

Pat C. said...

I got hold of The Wrath of Khan for a tribute viewing. It wasn't the death scene or the funeral scene that got me. It was that scene early on, where Spock first tells Kirk, "I have been and always shall be your friend." I didn't see Kirk and Spock there; I saw Bill and Leonard. I don't know if Shatner was able to make it to the funeral. He had a previous commitment, a charity event for the Red Cross. I hear he Tweeted his favorite memories about Leonard, though. Another great guy.

Savanna Kougar said...

Ah... it's been years but I remember that early scene.

I've talked with a couple of people who met Shatner when he and one of his wives showed horses. And they loved him as a person.