It’s always a little odd when a beloved celebrity dies. You don’t know them, but there’s still a hole there. I never knew Mr. Nimoy, and I probably haven’t seen half of his oeuvre. But I grew up watching Star Trek– I am old enough to remember a pre-TNG world, although just barely– and Leonard Nimoy was a part of that.
As a child, one of my favorite movies was The Wrath of Khan. I watched it the way normal children watch Disney movies– over, and over, and over, until I had the thing memorized. I could say the lines in English. I could say them in Vulcan. Twenty-five, thirty years later, the movie still feels familiar enough that owning the director’s cut feels weird, because the flow is off.
The Wrath of Khan is the finest entry into Star Trek canon, and one of the finest films made, scifi or otherwise. I’d cheerfully show it next to Casablanca and Yojimbo. Likewise, Nimoy’s portrayal of Spock– particularly in The Wrath of Khan— is one of the finest, most subtle performances I’ve seen. Spock’s struggle to balance his human and Vulcan sides seems to ring true even with us average human folks. Who can’t relate to being torn between what they should do– the logical thing to do– and what the want to do– the emotional thing? Anyone who’s ever gone on a diet can sympathize.
It’s difficult to remember, sometimes, that Leonard Nimoy was not Spock. But Nimoy brought a certain je ne sais quoi to the role. Personality, perhaps.Charisma. You can see it in his other performances; the instant joy I felt upon seeing him as William Bell in Fringe tells me that it wasn’t just the role I’d grown fond of. When I played Civilization 4 for the first time and heard his voice, I was giddy.
I don’t really know the body of Leonard Nimoy’s works. I never read his autobiographies. I know he sung a song about a Bilbo, wrote poetry and was a photographer. I know he was Jewish. But I know that he brought me joy, that he brought a life to the role of Spock– and William Bell, and doubtless others– that wouldn’t have been there without him.