My only encounter with Leonard Nimoy in person happened when I was working at the candy counter of a movie theater in Hollywood. He came up to the stand looking like a crazy old person, looked around at everything we had, then said in a loud voice:
“YA GOT ANY CANDY?”
His wife came up to him and grabbed his arm, reassuring him, “Yes dear, look, they have Milk Duds” “Yeahhh!” “And they have Red Vines!” “YEAHHH!” I don’t remember what they ended up purchasing, but to this day I’m not sure whether it was an act or not.
Mr. Spock was one of my best Halloween costumes as a kid – I molded the ear points out of a compound called “fake skin” that was sticky and nasty, my dad made the Starfleet insignia out of foil, and I wore my pajama top that otherwise looked very much like a Spock shirt. I think we even partially shaved my eyebrows.
The first time I ever saw Star Trek was the first movie. Without VCRs and the like – or even a TV in the house, at that age – I kept asking to see Star Wars again, having no concept that it wasn’t in theaters any more. At a certain point, my mother said, “Well, Star Wars isn’t playing, but they have Star TREK.” So I was all, “Okay.” The tone of the movie was such that afterwards, I thought Star Trek was obviously what space was really like, as opposed to Star Wars which I knew was a bit more fantastical. Sure, I was told that there isn’t really a planet where “they all have funny eyebrows and pointy ears,” but I figured the rest of it was pretty close to life.
I’m not sure when I first became aware it was on TV as well, but as a kid you have no concept of re-runs – I thought it was a current show, and when the local TV station yanked it for a new show called Voyagers, I cried so hard. (I learned to appreciate Voyagers once the shock wore off) Spock, of course, was my favorite – I always gravitated towards aliens and non-human characters.
I didn’t experience The Wrath of Khan as traumatically as some of you – it took a while to come to Ireland, so before it even opened anywhere near me, I had a picture book that told the whole story, including the implication that Spock could be alive again. It didn’t have the same emotional impact that way. The Search for Spock was an inevitable movie even before it was announced, as far as I was concerned, and again, I think I had a picture book first. Eventually, one of the theaters in Dublin ran the full trilogy, and I went twice at least – my dad brought a bag of carrots and fruit and said we could only eat junk food after we had finished it off (my friends and I had gotten through it by the end of the first film).
Star Trek IV was the first one I saw in a theater when it came out, which may be why it’s still my favorite (I had the novelization, though, so I knew the story going in). It was in a Florida theater that served food and drinks at your seat, so the adults drank beer while I got hot popcorn on a plate. Spock’s misuse of profanity was the funniest thing in the world, and even my elderly aunt was amused.
I was in my one and only year of junior high when Star Trek V came out – I saw it on my own and it felt like a letdown compared to The Next Generation, which was on TV by then. I actually went on one of my only high school dates to see part VI when it opened, and bought the T-shirt the next day – a shirt I still have.
In college, my friends and I got more into Kirk than Spock – the cult of Shatner as over-actor/bad singer was beginning in earnest, though it hadn’t gone full mainstream and been embraced by Shatner himself yet. Nimoy never lost his actor cred in our eyes: Nimoy was Spock, but Kirk was Shatner, if that makes any sense. Though that first discovery of “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins” (on an import CD I found in England) was one of the highlights of my life – no joke. I think there are a lot of people in the world who hate me for introducing them to that.
Leonard Nimoy clearly struggled with being typecast before finally embracing the fact that there’s something extra-special about creating a character that sticks in people’s hearts so well. His own mighty heart gave out today, from a pulmonary illness he attributes to having been a smoker earlier in life (I’m guessing the cigarettes also contributed to his distinctive, slightly croaky voice, so in a way he got something out of it). Around the time I encountered him at the candy counter, he was also one of the main voices in Disney’s Atlantis (ironically the last film of Jim Varney’s who also died of a smoking-related illness), and he sounded seriously unwell – I figured he was maybe on the way out then. But he bounced back, appearing in Priceline commercials with Shatner, publishing books of nude photos of overweight women, singing “Bilbo Baggins” at conventions, playing Sentinel Prime in Transformers 3, and starring in a Bruno Mars video.
Also, this bit of greatness. Nimoy blessed Quinto as his successor, and his presence in the rebooted movies helped make them more acceptable to otherwise-outraged fans.
I feel like my cat knows what happened – she shares a name with him and has been extra-consoling today (Francis Spock Chewbacca Boyd Thompson is her full name). This past Christmas, I bought my mother-in-law in autographed picture of Nimoy’s hand doing the “Live Long and Prosper” hand with an “I Voted” sticker on it. I thought she was such a fan that we should do it while he was still alive. There’s a hand-written thank you on the invoice, though I’m not sure if it’s by him or not.
I asked her if she wanted to say anything today, and got this in response:
Yes thank you
He was one of my first and most memorable introductions to Science Fiction and the wonders of space exploration. The dream of finding and working with others outside of our puny little blue marble. The wonderful logic of Mr. Spock, the Vulcan salute and how he could keep Capt Kirk somewhat in line. This is such a loss of a great actor, man and humanitarian. Mr Spock and Mr. Nimoy, you will always be remembered. You will live long and prosper forever.
I can’t add much to that, except to say he was pretty great in Invasion of the Body Snatchers too.
Julia’s not awake yet. I don’t want her to get up to this news, because he’s her favorite.
Thanks to scockery below, the only appropriate send-off is this.
Luke Y. Thompson has been writing professionally about movies and pop-culture since 1999, and has also been an actor in some extremely cheap culty and horror movies you will probably never hear much about (he is nonetheless mostly proud of them, as he met his wife on one). As editor of The Robot's Voice since 2012, he can take the blame for the majority of the site's content, all of which he creates because he loves you very, very much. (Although he loves nachos more. Sorry.)
Prior to TRV, Luke wrote for publications that include the New Times LA, Los Angeles CityBeat, E! Online, OC Weekly, Geekweek, GeekChicDaily, The L.A. Times, The Village Voice, LA Weekly, and Nerdist