The news of Leonard Nimoy’s death yesterday has had a strong impact on me in a way that the vast majority of celebrity deaths usually don’t. When I woke up yesterday morning and saw the news for the first time online, it was like a kick in the gut. I spent the entire day stunned, in tears, just sitting in front of my computer browsing the web for more news. Even though I usually don’t give a damn about the passing of most celebrities, this one has left me totally gutted. Why?
This sad news really should’ve come as no great surprise to anybody. Leonard Nimoy was 83 years old, and had been in pretty bad health for many years. But like a sick relative that everyone loves dearly, we’re still in mourning when they die. Leonard Nimoy, in particular his iconic Mr. Spock persona, was like a close friend or relative. His passing truly is almost like losing a member of the family. But why has the death of a television actor, someone I’ve never met, had such an effect on me?
To get an answer to that, we have to go right back to my early childhood, in the late-1960’s and early-1970’s, when I still hadn’t yet entered my teens (I turned 13 in December 1973). I’ve been a huge fan of the original Star Trek and Doctor Who since those early days, and back then I was totally obsessed with both shows, and both have always been a major part of my life, even to this day. But back to the beginning. My family life in those days was pretty rough, poverty stricken, constant domestic disputes and fighting between my parents, and all set against the dark, terrible earliest years of the Troubles, in Northern Ireland. Star Trek and other sci-fi was a way of escaping from real life and domestic problems into a much more pleasant world of make-believe, where Spock, and the Doctor, were major characters in my fantasy world.
I’d actually been a sci-fi fan since the mid-1960’s, that delicate age of 5-7 years old, where you start to really notice and get into stuff for the first time. I first began to notice Doctor Who on UK television about 1966 or so, and soon after that, sci-fi films such as George Pal’s The Time Machine, Irwin Allen’s The Lost World, and the classic film version of Journey to the Centre of the Earth also became favourites of mine. So the way was well-prepared.
Then in 1969, during the summer break between seasons of Doctor Who, something called Star Trek began its first run on UK television, making its debut on BBC1. I was a starry-eyed eight year-old back in 1969, and I’d never seen anything remotely like Star Trek. And this weird alien guy with the pointed ears, Mr. Spock, he made a huge impact on me right away. He immediately became my favourite character on the show, and has always remained the main man for me, in EVERY incarnation of Star Trek. He has always been my favourite Star Trek character, and more than any other character in TOS, he has always epitomized the whole ethos of Trek for me. Star Trek was always more than just a TV show to me, and Spock was always far more than just another television character.
Leonard Nimoy may once have written a book titled I am NOT Spock, but, as far as I’m concerned, he IS and always WILL be Spock. No disrespect intended to Zachary Quinto or any other talented newcomers who try to fill Nimoy’s huge shoes, but the man is irreplaceable.
Live Long and Prosper my friend, wherever you may be.