For the Love of Spock

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS - Star Trek’s Star Trek — I Am Spock. I Am Not Spock. Star Trek Va­ri­ety Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble, Va­ri­ety, “Star Trek En­ter­prise

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

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