27th February 2015 – Leonard Nimoy, 83
“The following tale of alien encounters is true. And by true, I mean false. It’s all lies. But they’re entertaining lies. And in the end, isn’t that the real truth? The answer is: No.” Leonard Nimoy, The Simpsons
Actor, writer, director, producer, zen master, singer-songwriter, pilot, animal rights activist and charity fundraise indelibly linked in the minds of billions to the role of Spock from Star Trek. He played the logical Vulcan Spock in the three series of the original TV show, the animated TV series, and in eight films.
“In front of the camera, as the half-human, half-Vulcan Spock, he captured with delicious wit the tensions in the character. Spock’s logical, detached perspective could be infuriating to his more demonstrative colleagues; it also caused him to be amused or bewildered by the workings of humans. This could play out humorously or poignantly. He was uniquely placed, for example, to analyse coolly our emotional shortcomings: “It is curious how often you humans manage to obtain that which you do not want,” he mused in the first series. His dry rapport with the more passionate, full-blooded Captain James T Kirk (William Shatner) was a pleasure that endured long after the Star Trek brand itself showed signs of having been around the galaxy a few too many times.” Ryan Gilbey, Guardian obit
“It's all about trying to make the world and the universe a better place. I'm proud to be connected with it. I think we need that in our lives. We need ethical, heroic people trying to do the right thing to help others and to improve life on this planet and in the universe."
Leonard Nimoy, Reno Gazette-Journal 2006
“The peculiar thing about Spock is that, being half human and half Vulcan and therefore possessing about half the usual quota of human emotions, he consistently, if dispassionately, behaves as if he possessed very heroic human emotions indeed. He makes a choice in “Star Trek II” that would be made only by a hero, a fool, or a Vulcan. And when he makes his decision, the movie rises to one of its best scenes, because the "Star Trek" stories have always been best when they centered around their characters.” Roger Ebert, Wrath of Khan review, 1982
Beyond Star Trek, he had a long TV and film career, moving from the early 1950s shows like Fireside Theatre and Dragnet (which were to the Stanislavski school what The Bill was to RADA graduates) onto Night Gallery, Gunsmoke and a 49 episodes playing Paris in Mission Impossible.
“Nimoy himself was the opposite of the unfeeling, imperturbable Spock. Humorous and emotional, he wrote romantic poetry, and published several volumes of verse, including Will I Think of You? (1974), We Are All Children Searching for Love (1977) and Warmed by Love (1983).”
“Mr. Nimoy, who was teaching Method acting at his own studio when he was cast in the original “Star Trek” television series in the mid-1960s, relished playing outsiders, and he developed what he later admitted was a mystical identification with Spock, the lone alien on the starship’s bridge. Yet he also acknowledged ambivalence about being tethered to the character, expressing it most plainly in the titles of two autobiographies: “I Am Not Spock,” published in 1975, and “I Am Spock,” published in 1995. In the first, he wrote, “In Spock, I finally found the best of both worlds: to be widely accepted in public approval and yet be able to continue to play the insulated alien through the Vulcan character.” Virginia Heffernan, NY Times obit
“The TV show was done very much in radio style. It was tough, terse dialogue and I played a heavy, I think I played a couple of them. Jack Webb had a sensibility about what made that show work, so very often, if the camera was on a close up on you, single shot, there would be two teleprompters off camera. One would represent him and the other would represent his partner. You’d play to the teleprompter, not to a human being. It was bang, bang, next, and a startling experience because you never felt like you’d made human contact!” Leonard Nimoy, on Dragnet
In the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (the Donald Sutherland version) he played Dr Kibner, and he played Theo Van Gogh in a TV film of the death of Vincent Van Gogh (which he also directed).
“Kibner is so authoritative when he tenderly but forcefully disabuses his friends of their fears that we’re tempted to disbelieve what we’ve already seen and trust him. When Elizabeth complains that her husband isn’t himself any more, that he has turned into an unfeeling automaton, Kibner responds using the then-trendy-language of self-help and New Age positivity, presenting the problem as one of psychology and not an extraterrestrial force. Nimoy and Kibner embody a potent strain of social commentary in the film: Just as the original satirized the conformity of both communism and Cold War capitalism in the most chilling possible way, the remake takes satirical aim at those who are so self-absorbed and wrapped up in their own needs that they have become oblivious and unfeeling to the needs of others. The casting of Nimoy as Kibner is brilliant: Here was an actor audiences had been conditioned to trust as a kindly, if dispassionate, creature of intellect. After telling Matthew that he believes him when he says that an alien invasion is underway, it feels like even more of a betrayal when Kibner reveals himself to be one of the pod people, and quite possibly also one of the aliens in charge. In pod-person form, Nimoy suggests an evil version of Mr. Spock, a distant creature who feels a cold disdain for the messiness of the human condition: the hate, love, and maelstrom of other emotions that makes life so complicated.” Nathan Rabin, Dissolve
“I was drawn to Vincent because it was a one person show. The challenge of being on stage alone. Vincent struggled to find himself for the first twenty six years of his life – he was a preacher, a vagrant and so on – until he wanted to be an artist. His work was ground breaking and not terribly familiar for people to be able to accept at the time. His brother Theo was a Gallerist and supported Vincent all through his life.” Leonard Nimoy, on Vincent.
He also found time to appear in the music video for The Bangles song Going Down to Liverpool.
“So how did the late Nimoy come to appear in the video for then-nascent band? "I had grown up with Leonard," said band member Susanna Hoffs, who grew up in Los Angeles, to the A.V. Club in 2011. "My family was very close to his family — pre-'Star Trek,' even — and his kids and me and my brothers all played together. Our parents were friends. So it was kind of a natural thing for me to call and ask him if he wouldn't mind being in a video. I was just amazed that he said 'yes.' And my mother (Tamar Simon Hoffs) ended up directing the video." In the video, Nimoy is in the driver's seat while the Bangles are in the back seat. At one point, Nimoy turns the song off the radio and the Bangles quickly turn it back on. If you're on a desktop, check out the video below.” Chris Jordan, Asbury Park Press
Two memorable guest appearances in The Simpsons, playing himself, appeared in the 1990s: in Marge vs The Monorail, he casually discusses the joy of experience to a neurotic passenger before “beaming up” to the Enterprise at the end. In The Springfield Files, he appears as the narrator, before joining up for a sing song at the end. In more recent times, he had a recurring role on Fringe as Dr William Bell (for which he won a Saturn award), and voiced Spock in The Big Bang Theory and Family Guy.
“After a metatextual break, at which the story appears to end with 10 minutes left to run, Nimoy makes his excuses and drives off, leaving the cue-card kid to fill in. However, Nimoy then reappears among the crowd waiting for the alien’s appearance (alongside the “Alien Dude: Need Two Tickets to Pearl Jam” poster-holder), leading to the immortal line to Bart: “Wherever there is a mystery and the unexplained, cosmic forces shall draw me near.” Then, after joining in the chorus of Good Morning Star Shine, he wanders off with the crowd, leaving the cue-card kid to fill in once again – “Keep watching the skis – uh, skies.” Andrew Pulver, Guardian
“A solar eclipse. The cosmic ballet goes on.” Leonard Nimoy, Marge vs The Monorail
“I don’t think I’m an awful lot like William Bell. [Laughs] William Bell is kind of what we refer to in our culture as a master of the universe. He’s a guy who has accomplished extraordinary things. He’s kind of a Paul Allen — one of those guys. A scientific genius as well as an extraordinarily successful businessman. A rare combination. I don’t fit that mold. I’m a character actor and I’m trying to find my way through this process as an actor learning how to play this guy. We developed little bits and pieces of him so far and there will be more developed now. I can’t say that I actually relate to him, but I do understand him. When I play the dialogue, I do understand where he’s coming from. That’s a matter of an intellectual understanding of what he’s dealing with.”
Leonard Nimoy, Comic Book Resources 2010
He also had a long run on Stage, touring Fiddler on the Roof and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and performing in the 1970s with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
“I met [Night Gallery producer] Jack Laird, who had shown a bent for starting new directors, and had several conversations with him. And I guess I just pestered him long enough, until finally one day he called me in and said, ‘Read this script.’ I thought it was a wonderful story, a sort of Romeo and Juliet love story with vampire turns, and he gave me the job.” Leonard Nimoy, on Night Gallery
His directing career started with an episode of Night Gallery, Death on a Barge, based on the short story by Everil Worrell. (Which was his second stint with Rod Serling, as he had appeared earlier in his career in the notable Twilight Zone episode A Quality of Mercy.) Two Star Trek films, including The Search for Spock, were under his belt before he directed the comedy classic Three Men and a Baby, in 1987.
“Its strong and earnest stance on dissolving gender roles in the middle of a period of over-the-top macho Hollywood action films has helped it age extremely well in terms of theme and comedy. For Nimoy, who was sometimes frustrated early in his career for being known first and foremost as the pointy-eared Vulcan, Three Men and a Baby is a testament to his skill as a comedic director. More than just Spock, Nimoy was a master of directing comedy.” Max Knoblauch, Mashable
He presented The TV series “In Search Of”, which allowed him to write two episodes, one of which was on his great love, Van Gogh. He also wrote the screenplays for the fourth and fifth Star Trek films.
He was also much in demand as a narrator, providing the authoritative voice to: Pioneeers of Television, History’s Mysteries, An American Synagogue, episodes of the Daily Show, The Hydrogen Age, History happened Here, The Story of Computer Graphics, The Harryhausen Chronicles, Ancient Mysteries...to name but a few. He also found time to narrate the video game Civilisation IV.
“Leonard Nimoy was my best friend on the set of Star Trek. He probably saved my life when I was bitter and suicidal. He is a very serious actor and filmmaker, and he coached me and helped me prepare for my role. Whenever I asked him for some insight into my character or advice in how to deliver a certain line, he would have the perfect answer.” Grace Lee Witney, The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy
“In a trend dubbed "Spocking," Canadians have taken to drawing pointy ears and tiled brows on top of Canada's seventh prime minister, Sir. Wilfrid Laurier, to make him look like Mr. Spock, the half-Vulcan, half-human Star Trek character made famous by Nimoy. The "Spocking" trend has lead to Twitter hashtags #Spocking and #Spockingfives along with pictures of people's various designs. It has also led the Bank of Canada to issue a statement urging people to please stop. While it is not illegal to deface Canadian bills, "there are important reasons why it should not be done," Bank of Canada spokeswoman Josianne Menard told USA TODAY in an emailed statement. Menard cited practical reasons, as well as "national pride." "Writing on a bank note may interfere with the security features and reduces its lifespan. Markings on a note may also prevent it from being accepted in a transaction," she said. Kaja Whitehouse, USA Today