Beam me up

Leonard Nimoy endured a struggle with being potentially typecast as 'Spock' but he always remained respectful and amazed at the love so many people have for the pointy-eared alien. As a 'Trekkie', I admit even fans take a great deal of Nimoy's contribution to Star Trek for granted. In the last few weeks all the ways he added the crucial nuances that define Spock have surfaced - not just among sci-fi and Trek fans, but through all mainstream media. No matter what you may have known about him until now, sadly it's as part of his passing that we find out much more about the kind of man he was.

Film stars get all the press for stories of legendary method acting, Christian Bale and Daniel Day Lewis are standout examples whose constantly in character behaviour was widely praised and publicised throughout their careers. In contrast TV actors rarely get full credit for the work they put into realizing their role - until that role becomes a worldwide phenomenon.

From one of the most iconic scenes in science fiction
In his case, Nimoy was speaking not just for Spock but for an entire alien culture. It is the mark of a truly exceptional actor to understand and sometimes fight for your character when necessary, not allowing the director or even the writers to have that character behave in ways that would be completely illogical (pun not necessarily unintended) to their fundamental being. When we speak of 'bringing a character to life' this is only achieved when the actor is able to form that fictional person in their entirety, when every nuance is accounted for.

For Nimoy, maybe the most iconic example was the creation of the Vulcan salute, inspired by the Hebrew blessing he had seen performed by Jewish priests as a child. The spread of the fingers represents the Hebrew letter Shin (ש), which stands for El Shaddai, meaning Almighty (God). The Vulcan nerve-pinch was also the product of Nimoy's disagreement with Spock's use of brute force in a particular scene, he suggested the pinch as more precise and dignified fitting to the Vulcan ethos. To his credit Shatner helped make it a success in understanding what Nimoy wanted and reacting perfectly, and so an iconic part of the Vulcan canon was created.

The freedom to affect the long term narrative of a fictional world is truly rare, and only possible in a bit of an ideal environment. Maybe because Star Trek was not expected to be a hit, the cast had more of those opportunities. Great credit goes to Nimoy, but also to Roddenberry, the casting team, and the early writers and directors of the original series who listened and put faith in their actors when they provided insight on set.

Those who have the kind of talent and sensitivity to create personas that leave an immortal mark on our culture generate an equally shocking impact when they are inevitably forced to leave us. As friends, family, fans and the everyone influenced and inspired by Leonard Nimoy mourn his loss, an image surfaced that was especially poignant.

My condolences to the remaining crew:
William Shatner, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig.

In Memoriam

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