Our imagination does not impose mortality. That’s why Sherlock Holmes comes back from Reichenbach Falls, Superman does not really die at the hands of Doomsday, and Spock, well he overcomes the wrath of Khan.
The real world though is different. No matter how loved you are, you still die. And there is no way for your character to be retconed or brought back, much though the fans might clamor and plead.
That’s just the way of the world.
So goodbye Leonard Nimoy. Goodbye First Officer Spock.
I know what you will say. That Spock still lives. That he does, in the JJ Abrams reboot and the countless re-reboots that will inevitably follow, for Spock is imaginary and popular and makes money for studios, with the last definitely guaranteeing the character’s immortality. However so perfect was Nimoy’s realization of Spock, from the arched eyebrow to the superior smirk, that, for me and I suppose countless others, he became the character, and while there may be many more actors down the line who will become Spock, the connect has somehow been broken, almost as if the transporter malfunctioned and the Spock that has materialized on the platform is not the one that was beamed down.
When I first started watching Star Trek, decades ago, Spock immediately became my favorite.
He had pointed ears. He could bring down men with a pinch on their shoulders. He could meld minds. He didn’t get horny much but when he did, he could kill for it. He bled blue. He calculated probabilities in his mind. He could beat you in 3D chess. And in a bare knuckles brawl.
He was way too cool.
Then as I was drawn into the world of the Trek, I realized who he was.
The real hero of Star Trek.
He was the real smarts behind the operation. Face it, left to Kirk, the Enterprise would have become cosmic flotsam years ago. I like Kirk a lot too but he was a horrible captain most of the time, whose solution for the problems of the galaxy was either killing or bedding the lifeform in front of him. It was Spock who cock-blocked Kirk when required, which was often, and held him back and shepherded him through one crisis after another, while standing back at his science-officer’s console at moments of success, letting the good captain be the glory-hound. He was brave, putting the needs of everyone else over his own. And he was the best friend a man could have. Why, when Kirk’s persona got split at the transporter, it was he who had declared, when no one on the Enterprise believed it, (perhaps for the behavior of the evil rapacious Kirk was not too dissimilar from the captain they knew), “I think we have an imposter on board”, such was his faith in his friend and captain.
As I grew older and became more immersed in the deep SF themes of Star Trek, I grew to love him more, for it was he who was the most human of all the characters, the struggle between his Vulcan (that he got from his father) and his human side (that he got from his mother) capturing one of the fundamental conflicts of the human condition, that between cold hard reasoning and irrational emotion, between the head and the heart.
And it was Leonard Nimoy’s masterful portrayal that made Spock Spock. He could not shout “Khaaaaannnn”. He could not show emotion. Because then he would be “out of character”.
Yet, and this was a testament to his craft, he could still bring out Spock’s vulnerability, his deep love for his friends and for the universe at large, and the defining conflict of his character in a way that, even after watching countless reruns, inspires awe.
It’s acting of a kind we will never see again. Because Leonard Nimoy is no more.
Or maybe I am wrong.
If there is anything that Star Trek has taught me it’s that our mind must always be open to alternate possibilities and that our imagination, like space, has no final frontier.
Maybe he is somewhere in the great beyond, in this universe or another, tricorder slung to the side, analyzing, understanding and feeling.
Maybe we shall meet again some time in the future.
Till then, dear sir, here is the Vulcan salute.
I have been, and shall always remain, your fan.