The Boundless Frontier of Leonard Nimoy

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By Karla Fetrow

Normally, when celebrities pass away, there is a moment of intense grief, expressions of sorrow among friends, relatives and fans, eulogies that proudly and sadly listed the achievements of the departed. Nimoy’s passing was subdued and hopeful. The messages were those you might give to someone going on a long journey. “Farewell my friend. Live long and prosper. May you go where no person has gone before.”

For followers of his wonderful, half-alien character, Spock, death isn’t the end of a chapter but the beginning of a new one. The popular television series, Star Trek, and its subsequent movies demanded a boundless, elastic mind that accepted multiple dimensions and alterations in time and space. Spock dies and is put to rest in “The Wrath of Khan”, and is resurrected on Genesis, a planet humanly engineered to support life, in “The Search for Spock”. The metamorphosis gives him a new purpose and direction that is so deeply spiritual, he abandons his star fleet post.

He guest appears in the 2009 version of Star Trek as a sage old man guiding his younger self, once again bringing multi-dimensional image to his character. His work after Star Trek continued to explore the unknown frontiers of space, time and unexplained phenomena. He narrated for the IMAX film, “Destiny in Space”, showcasing footage from nine space shuttle missions from a four year time period. He also spent three years narrating for the documentary show, “Ancient Mysteries”, his mellow timbre adding a riveting depth to the wonders of some of humankind’s earliest wonders.

For awhile, Nimoy tried to resist the connection with his own personality and Spock’s. His 1975 autobiography was titled, “I am not Spock”. It took years of sharing his existence with this iconic figure before he released a second autobiography in 1995, titled “I am Spock”.Amok-Time-mr-spock-23640422-1024-768

Spock was perhaps one of the most challenging characters to screen write, and difficult ones to play. Gene Roddenberry’s vision was a more evolved alien species, humanoid, with human attributes, but with greater intelligence and better control over their emotions. Week after week, Spock confronts not only new species, but new observations on human behavior, with the word, “fascinating”, and calmly reaches logical conclusions despite the frustrations of his team mates.

Unlike Data, the android searching his humanity in “Generations”, Spock must struggle with the humanity inside him. He feels pain. He feels anger. He sometimes feels the agony of love. He is able to read the passions in others, which sometimes cause him sadness. He lives by a humble truth that sometimes the good of the many outweighs the good of a few.

Leonard-Nimoy-leonard-nimoy-9484505-400-505There is a subtly woven in message about Spock. He is neither fully Vulcan nor fully human. He must both combat feelings of being a social outcast on his home world, and cope with the prejudices of humans. Although his team mates accept him, he is the target of “inside” jokes that puzzle him more than they upset him. This flaw in his ability to understand their humor is what ultimately endears him more than all his superior qualities put together.

From his first appearance as Spock on the pilot Star Trek episode, “The Cage”, Nimoy was destined to represent one of the most sophisticated alien species ever fashioned for television. He was the only member of the original cast to be used for the series. For young science fiction fans who fed on a steady diet of Isaac Asimov, Jules Verne, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke and Robert A. Heinlein, Spock was the alien they had visualized, the one whose alternative perspective created a deeper and broader understanding of our true capabilities. They were primed and ready, and Nimoy never once disappointed them.

Spock has become the iconic interpretation of a Vulcan. With one broad stroke, he had presented a model for all other Vulcan behavior. The actors and actresses that have portrayed other Vulcans for subsequent Star Trek themes studied the characteristics of Spock, from his composure to his quirky lift with the eyebrows and did little to divert from a Spock styled personality.4418962-8881961077-Spock

Leonard Nimoy, the man, was an exceptionally gifted person. Cultivated, well-educated, he would have succeeded at any employment, but what he did best was bring to us truths that extend beyond the stars and defy time and dimensions. He appealed to our logic and reason, but also to our compassion, our human side that embraces all life in its myriad forms. Spock became his mouthpiece for envisioning a world where we don’t have to say goodby, just “farewell my friend”.

About karlsie

Some great perversity of nature decided to give me a tune completely out of keeping with the general symphony; possibly from the moment of conception. I learned to read and speak almost simultaneously. The blurred and muffled world I heard through my first five years of random nerve loss deafness suddenly came alive with the clarity of how those words sounded on paper. I had been liberated for communications. I decided there was nothing more wonderful than writing. It was easier to write than carefully modulate my speech for correct pronunciation, and it was easier to read than patiently follow the movements of people’s lips to learn what they were saying. It was during that dawning time period, while I slowly made the connection that there weren’t that many other people who heard the way I did, halfway between sound and music, half in deafness, that I began to understand that the tune I was following wasn’t quite the same as that of my classmates. I was just a little different. General education taught me not only was I just a little isolated from my classmates, my home was just a little isolated from the outside world. I was born in Alaska, making me part of one of the smallest, quietest minorities on earth. I decided I could live with this. What I couldn’t live with was discovering a few years later, in the opening up of the pipeline, which coincided with my first year of junior college, that there were entire communities of people; more than I could possibly imagine; living impossibly one on top of another in vast cities. It wasn’t even the magnitude of this vision that inspired me so much as the visitors who came from these populous regions and seemed to possess a knowledge so great and secretive I could never learn it in any book. I became at once, very conscious of how rural I was and how little I knew beyond the scope of my environment. I decided it was time to travel. The rest is history; or at least, the content of my stories. I traveled... often to college campuses, dropping in and out of school until one fine day by chance I’d fashioned a bachelor of arts degree in psychology. I’ve worked a couple of newspapers, had a few poems and stories tossed around in various small presses, never receiving a great deal of money, which I’m assured is the norm for a writer. I spent ten years in Mexico, watching the peso crash. There is some obscure reason why I did this, tightening up my belt and facing hunger, but I believe at the time I said it was for love. Here I am, back home, in my beloved Alaska. I’ve learned somewhat of a worldly viewpoint; at least I like to flatter myself that way. I’ve also learned my rural roots aren’t so bad after all. I work in a small, country store. Every day I greet the same group of local customers, but make no mistake. My store isn’t a scene out of Andy Griffith. The people who enter the establishment, which also includes showers, laundry and movie rentals, are miners, oil workers, truck drivers, construction engineers, dog sled racers and carpenters. Sometimes, on the liquor side, the conversations became adult only in vocabulary. It’s a good thing, on the opposite side of the store is a candy aisle filled with the most astonishing collection, it will keep a kid occupied with just wishing for hours. If you tell your kids they can have just one, you have an instant baby sitter; better than television; as they agonize over their choice while you catch up on the gossip with your neighbor. We also receive a lot of tourists, a lot of foreign visitors. They are usually amazed at this first sign of Alaskan rural life style beyond the insulating hub of the Anchorage bowl. Many of them like to hang around and chat. They gawk at our thieves wanted posters. They laugh at our jokes and camaraderie with our customers. I’ve learned another lesson while working there. You don’t have to go out and find the world. If you wait long enough, it comes to you.

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3 Comments on “The Boundless Frontier of Leonard Nimoy”

  1. I grew up in the 70’s watching the Star Trek re-runs and I remember Spock as my first introduction into an awareness of Zen and the practice of finding interest and positivity in things and people. It was a good role model, to be more logical. To be kinder and inclusive, to wait before judging others. To understand or strive to. I think Leonard Nimoy was responsible for much of this in his character. It certainly seems so from what others around him and he himself had to say. I am thankful he stood up for diversity in his show and always seemed to be an exceptional human.
    He also scared the crap out of me with his In – Search Of show, when I was a young one. I’ll always remember that too. 😉

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