Leonard Nimoy (1931 – 2015)

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.

Leonard Nimoy, RIP.

I rarely keep up with the celebrity news, so I got a real shock when I read some terrible news on Dayton Ward’s excellent blog a wee while ago. I’m sitting here stunned, in tears. I’m gutted. Totally gutted. Leonard Nimoy is dead. I keep saying it to myself over and over again, but I still can’t believe it. Mr. Spock is dead. 🙁

Spock was always my favourite Star Trek character, and more than any other actor/character in all of Star Trek’s history, he epitomized the whole ethos of Trek for me. Star Trek has always been a major part of my life, ever since I watched its first run on UK television as a starry-eyed eight year-old back in 1969-1970, and Spock was always the main man for me.

Leonard Nimoy/Mr. Spock has been a huge influence on me since I was a kid. This feels like I’ve lost a close, lifelong friend, even though I’ve never met the man in person. I’m gonna need a while to take this in. Gutted. 🙁

Early Star Trek – How The Original Series Might Have Been

History is totally in the blood for me. I’m a hardcore history buff, and I’m fascinated by history of any kind. I majored in history at university, and I’m a history teacher by trade, although I packed it in very early on (almost thirty years ago) to become a DJ (more fun than teaching, and more money too). I loved the history, but not so much the dealing with classrooms full of rowdy teenagers who didn’t appreciate the subject the way I did.

It isn’t just “real” history that fascinates me, but also imagined or potential history, either past or future. As both a science fiction fan and an historian, the “what might have beens”, “what-ifs” and “what might bes” also really fascinate me. Like many a good SF geek, I’ve even made up a few “future” and “alternate” histories of my own over the years. So it’s hardly surprising that I often mix my love of history with my obsession with SF/sci-fi, both from a fictional and a philosophical perspective.

But it also fascinates me on a more academic level. And when I’m talking about history here, I’m not referring to the above-mentioned made-up future/alternate histories (which I absolutely love), but the real thing, the factual, background history and details of how SF literature or my favourite sci-fi series were conceived and how they evolved to become what we’re familiar with in our books and on our TV screens. Imagine the fun that any student of SF/sci-fi would have researching the history of SF, Star Trek, Doctor Who or some of their other favourite sci-fi shows? It would be a surefire A++ on any university course, wouldn’t it? You couldn’t stop me from studying obsessively for that one!

As a huge fan of Star Trek: The Original Series (from now on referred to as TOS), it was a given that I’d be totally fascinated by the history of Trek, in particular the very early history of TOS. How Gene Roddenberry came up with the idea, what all of his earliest concepts and ideas were, and how they evolved into the TOS that we all know and love. In my youth (this was 30-plus years ago, in the antediluvian pre-internet era), I used to dig up a lot of information from older TOS books with lots of behind-the-scenes info, and a particular favourite topic of mine was the initial (pre-James T. Kirk) creation and evolution of TOS history.

I recall one excellent early book – The Making of Star Trek, by Stephen E. Whitfield and Gene Roddenberry – that one had such a great influence on me. Up until that point I’d only ever read TOS fiction and a few behind-the-scenes magazine articles. Reading this book was like a shot in the head. This was the first time I’d ever come across anything documenting early TOS history in so much detail, and The Making of Star Trek certainly did give an abundance of info on Roddenberry’s earliest TOS concepts and scripts.

One of the earlier chapters in the book dealt with the radically different earliest concepts of the series, back in the days when Robert April was the first captain of the Enterprise (fans will remember him appearing later in the Star Trek: The Animated Series (TAS) episode The Counter-Clock Incident). This one chapter was full of so much incredible background information (none of which I’d known before), complete with copious script excerpts, all of which was absolutely amazing, fascinating stuff to feed my obsessive, eager young geek mind!

Some of the differences with later, televised TOS were startling. I remember being totally shocked that Spock was originally a half-Martian, not half-Vulcan, with crazy, shaggy pointed eyebrows and red-tinged skin (instead of green), and he had LOTS of emotions. There were also no transporters in these initial concepts, and other ships had to routinely dock with the Enterprise. But this was quickly deemed to be far too costly as it would be happening in pretty much every episode, so the concept of the transporter was introduced (basically a beam of light and throw in some tinsel – can’t get much cheaper than that). The transporter is now such an integral part of the Star Trek universe that it’s incredible to think back and realize that it was only thought up to save money on the SFX budget.

As revisions and changes were made to the early Trek concepts, Robert April evolved into Christopher Pike, so we also get a lot of great background info on this part of TOS conceptual history. And, since the first pilot, The Cage, was based on these concepts, and was already a particular favourite story of mine, I was hooked. One of my favourite “What-If?” scenarios has always been “What if The Cage had been accepted by the networks?” What if Jeffrey Hunter had decided to stay on in the role of Captain Pike, (and also assuming he didn’t die in May 1969, and was able to carry on in the role) and there never was a James T. Kirk (I can hear the legions of female Kirk fans wailing in anguish)? What if Majel Roddenberry had remained as Number One, and Spock a less important character? And what if there had never been a McCoy, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu or Chekov? How different would the show have been, and how long would it have lasted?

It’s enough to make the mind boggle and get tied up in knots! As a hardcore hybrid historian and sci-fi/SF fanatic, I’ve always thought in terms of “what-ifs” and alternate histories, and this alternate version of Trek, splitting off from those initial pre-TOS concepts and developments, has always been one of my favourite “what-ifs”. This line of thinking opened up for me a whole new universe of a Totally Alternate TOS. As far as I’m aware, nothing like this concept exists anywhere in Trek fiction, either commercial or fan fiction, I’ve always thought that a TOS series and entire future TOS/TNG/DS9/VOY/ENT chronology built upon this alternate concept would be a great experiment for a new series of Trek fan fiction, with maybe even a few stories in collections like The New Voyages and Strange New Worlds.

I’d certainly love to see something like this, particularly in fan fiction or book form. I’m just amazed that nobody seems to have done it yet! 🙂