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Monday 11 December 2017

Trekkies mourn the loss of beloved Spock star Nimoy

Lynn Elber on the charismatic actor who lived long and prospered

Actor Leonard Nimoy
Actor Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy, the actor known and loved by generations of Star Trek fans as the pointy-eared, purely logical science officer Mr. Spock, has died.

Nimoy died yesterday of end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at his Los Angeles home, said his son, Adam Nimoy. He was 83.

Although Nimoy followed his 1966-69 Star Trek run with a notable career as both an actor and director, in the public's mind he would always be Spock. His half-human, half-Vulcan character was the calm counterpoint to William Shatner's often-emotional Captain Kirk on one of TV and film's most revered cult series.

"He affected the lives of many," Adam Nimoy said. "He was also a great guy and my best friend."

Asked if his father chafed at his fans' close identification of him with his character, Adam Nimoy said, "Not in the least. He loved Spock."

However, Leonard Nimoy displayed ambivalence to the role in the titles of his two autobiographies, I Am Not Spock (1975) and I Am Spock (1995).

After "Star Trek" ended, the actor immediately joined the hit adventure series "Mission Impossible" as Paris, the mission team's master of disguises.

He also directed several films, including the hit comedy Three Men and a Baby and appeared in such plays as A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tim Roof, Fiddler on the Roof, The King and I, My Fair Lady and Equus. He also published books of poems, children's stories and his own photographs.

Logic

In a 1995 interview he sought to analyse the popularity of Spock, the green-blooded space traveller who aspired to live a life based on pure logic.

People identified with Spock because they "recognise in themselves this wish that they could be logical and avoid the pain of anger and confrontation," Nimoy concluded.

"How many times have we come away from an argument wishing we had said and done something different?" he asked.

In the years immediately after Star Trek left television, Nimoy tried to shun the role, but he eventually came to embrace it, lampooning himself on such TV shows as Futurama, Duckman and The Simpsons and in commercials.

The space adventure set in the 23rd century had an unimpressive debut on NBC on Sept. 8, 1966, and it struggled during its three seasons to find an audience other than teenage boys. It seemed headed for oblivion after it was cancelled in 1969, but its dedicated legion of fans, who called themselves Trekkies, kept its memory alive with conventions and fan clubs and constant demands that the cast be reassembled for a movie or another TV show.

Gesture

Trekkies were particularly fond of Spock, often greeting one another with the Vulcan salute and the Vulcan motto, "Live Long and Prosper," both of which Nimoy was credited with bringing to the character. He pointed out, however, that the hand gesture was actually derived from one used by rabbis during Hebraic benedictions.

When the cast finally was reassembled for Star Trek - The Motion Picture, in 1979, the film was a huge hit and five sequels followed. Nimoy appeared in all of them and directed two. He also guest starred as an older version of himself in some of the episodes of the show's spinoff TV series, Star Trek: The Next Generation.

"Of course the role changed my career- or rather, gave me one," he once said. "It made me wealthy by most standards and opened up vast opportunities. It also affected me personally, socially, psycho- logically, emotionally. ... What started out as a welcome job to a hungry actor has become a constant and ongoing influence in my thinking and lifestyle."

In 2009, he was back in a new big-screen version of Star Trek, this time playing an old- er Spock who meets his younger self, played by Zachary Quinto. Critic Roger Ebert called the older Spock "the most human character in the film."

In 1954 he married Sandra Zober, a fellow student at the Pasadena Playhouse, and they had two children. The coupl divorced, and in 1988 he married Susan Bay, a film executive.

hnews@herald.ie

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