For the Love of Spock
Leonard Nimoy’s son, director Adam Nimoy, helms this heartfelt tribute to his father, most beloved logician, Mr. Spock. The film opens with interview footage of the elder Nimoy discussing himself outside of his role on the show. “That’s all you can do,” he says, “do a good job being yourself.”
But For the Love of Spock shows that there was a time in the 1970s when Nimoy tried to distance himself from his character, penning an autobiography in 1975 called The series had been canceled, and the feature films had yet to be made. Nimoy was exploring, with some critical success, other roles —including on-stage performances in Camelot, Equus, and Fiddler on the Roof and a memorable role in the 1978 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers. He hosted the long-running television series In Search of … as well as appearing in and he did some singing and songwriting with hilarious results — “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins,” for example. In 1995, though, he wrote a second book and called it Nimoy did not just invent the role of Spock — he became him, body and soul.
Adam Nimoy’s presentation is chronological. His father, the son of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants, began his Hollywood film career in 1949, supplementing his income by selling freezers, driving cabs, and servicing fish tanks. He idolized Lon Chaney, “the man of a thousand faces,” and had the opportunity as Spock to don his own transformative makeup — namely, his iconic pointy ears. When the series premiered, which also butchered Nimoy’s name in its review, stated, won’t work.” History, of course, has proven wrong.
Playing the role of a half-Vulcan, half-human member of the crew in the series afforded Nimoy plenty of opportunities to explore the fine line between the dispassionate and cerebral side of his nature. The internal conflict with his emotive, human side had always been an issue for Spock — a struggle, the film reveals, that was mirrored in Nimoy’s personal life. When became a hit show, the constant attention of fans and the media took its toll on him and his family. As a father, he was mostly absent, and his inattentiveness and his heavy drinking eventually cost him his first marriage. Adam got mixed up with drugs, and for a time, he and his father were estranged. They grew closer when Adam’s wife became terminally ill. Die-hard fans may not learn much they didn’t already know about
Nimoy has appeared in other interviews and made regular appearances at fan conventions — but they’ll relish the many clips from the original series, particularly those highlighting the dynamic of Nimoy and William Shatner as Capt. James T. Kirk. Theirs was a near-perfect pairing of roles made even better by the addition of DeForest Kelley as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy — an acting triad that possessed real magic. Adam Nimoy talks to friends and family members as well as to the casts of the old and new films. Spock, many of them agree, “was the coolest,” and Nimoy played him as the most noble and dignified of characters. One thing is certain: Spock is not just a passing cultural icon but an enduring phenomenon — and Nimoy, who died in 2015 at the age of eighty-three, did indeed live long and prosper. — Michael Abatemarco