*WARNING – SPOILER ALERT! *
Noble. Dignity. Artist. Integrity. Human. Logical. Humble. Hope. Cool. Loving. Love.
(THE mensch of menschs?!)
As Sam reiterated during our anniversary Periscope shenanigans, after his passing in February 2015, what started out as a 50th Anniversary “Spock special”, evolved somewhat in to a well deserved “This Is Your Life, Leonard Nimoy”, and what a captivating story it is! Charting the highs and lows of the life of such an incredibly complex and talented man, genuinely loved and admired by all who knew him. When I sat down to watch ‘For the Love of Spock’ (a day late, as you would have come to expect from me!), I never intended to write a “review”, nor to write this much, but throughout the film I just found I had so much to say. It literally had me balling within the first three minutes, and sent shivers down my spine!
As a relative newbie to the world of Trek, I was fascinated to hear all about Nimoy’s life outside of Spock. What is probably common knowledge to the hardcore Trekkies/Trekkers out there, was all new and fascinating to me. I was gripped from the very beginning. He struggled with alcoholism; he wrote poetry; he sang; he was an amazingly talented photographer. He directed Three Men and a Baby?! What. The. Spock?! HOW did I not know this?!
He’d also had quite a few acting jobs before being cast in Star Trek. In fact, he’d even worked with Gene Roddenberry on TV series ‘The Lieutenant’. It was during this time that something about Nimoy caught Gene’s eye, namely his cheekbones: “He’d make a great alien…with those cheekbones, some sort of a pointed ear might go well?” – and so Spock was born. As I have suspected for quite some time now, Spock WAS created for Leonard Nimoy, or at the very least with him in mind. Whilst he thought he was going for a job interview, Gene was set on selling Star Trek TO Nimoy, he simply had to have him on board?!
Something that did make me chuckle – when talking about the lack of quality prosthetics at the very beginning: Gene said that if the ears didn’t work, they would simply write in to the script that Spock had an “ear job” or something. CAN YOU IMAGINE?!
The immortal words “live long and prosper” are also credited to Nimoy – I love the story of where the Vulcan salute came from, as well as the iconic arched eyebrow: “If you are minimal, then that becomes a big deal”. It was amusing to see how said eyebrows were rather more unkempt in the pilot, in comparison to the over-tweezed ones we are more used to seeing.
Again, I was completely ignorant to the fact that there was a whole other pilot/crew?! And that Spock was a very different Vulcan under Captain Pike. There is always so much made of the rivalry between lead stars, and Nimoy and Shatner did not escape this. As George Takei explained, “Shatner was the titular character, but people were absolutely magnetically attracted to Spock”. However, as Gene so wisely said: “If Spock is popular, then Kirk is popular, and the show is popular, and that’s what we all want” – and they never looked back, Shatner simply encompassed the popularity of Spock. It was lovely to hear the genuine affection between Nimoy and Shatner. The latter with his “energy and a sense of humour and a twinkle in the eye” changed the way Nimoy played Spock – a whole different dynamic evolved.
“Kirk is the physical embodiment of the show and Spock is the spiritual embodiment of the show” (James Duff).
Or as George Takei so eloquently put it, they we Yin and Yang.
And can I just say – Jason Alexander’s Kirk impression? WOW!!
The scene were Nimoy is reading Star Trek’s very first review in ‘Variety’ magazine is hilarious. As his childhood friend, Barry Newman, had said they were on “a treadmill to oblivion” – the show was not initially received well. Roddenberry’s vision was way ahead of its time. However, I love the thought that “gradually the show and its audience found each other”, and how times change eh? From the network executives initially not wanting to upset the “Bible belt” with this satanic-type character, to asking why they weren’t you doing more with “that Martian” on the show, as its, and Spock’s, popularity grew.
“He was a multi-faceted individual, he was never just Spock to me” (Simon Pegg).
Two words: Bilbo Baggins. Oh dear. But LOVE the scene where the TOS crew are watching the video!
LOL: Even Nimoy didn’t like “The Motionless Picture”, calling it frustrating, depressing and dispiriting. Although I did like the fact that its story “began in London”. I also never realised that he had such a big part behind the scenes, directing the 3rd and 4th movies.
I can’t believe The Animated Series is actually a thing? It looks like some kind of spoof? How could they possibly have thought it was okay not to cast George and Nichelle?! The fact that Leonard refused to do it unless they were included because they were “the two people that most personified what Star Trek was all about: the diversity, coming together and working in concert as a team”, demonstrates wonderfully the kind of man he really was and what the character of Spock stood for.
As JJ says, it was “wonderfully comforting and relatable to know that Spock was an outsider”, his journey was all about how you find your way, as the alien in a foreign culture. These are perfect examples of how Star Trek encompasses “meaningful issues about to live” and why Spock and the values laid out in Star Trek “continue to resonate” 50 years later. It is also why it’s hard for me to grasp how negatively Star Trek / Spock affected the Nimoy family, and specifically the relationship between Adam and his father.
The best thing about ‘For the Love of Spock’ is the abundance of family photos, videos and interviews – it’s like we have exclusive access to the Nimoy family archive. You can 100% tell that it was directed by his son, and I think it would have been a very different project had this not been the case. I love that what started out as a collaboration between father and son to celebrate the former’s most successful part, transformed in to a wonderful tribute to his life – the good and the bad, warts and all as they say. Adam admits it became a journey of self-discovery about his own relationship with his father and you can really feel this throughout the film. And aww when Adam comes on set with the wig and ears…
N.B. I didn’t realise that that was actually Nimoy’s real hair! I always assumed it was a wig?! As did his father. I love that kids would come in to his barber’s shop and ask for a “Spock haircut”.
It seems that Nimoy was a man after my own heart, a perfectionist, with a strong work ethic and a somewhat addictive personality. A very intelligent and savvy man, who knew that at any moment the crest of a wave upon which he and his fellow castmates were riding could have come crashing down, and so he never turned work down. His philosophy: making hay whilst the sun was shining.
Adam describes the sacks of mail that would arrive addressed to his father and how answering it all became a “family activity”. These elated early days however soon gave way to a tiresome frustration of life in the limelight and of father never really being around. So committed to his job, that when he was, he might as well not have been. If a picture says a thousand words, then this one says it all:
I firmly believe that certain personality types are suited to certain professions and I think that most actors, have this “all or nothing” mentality. Nimoy became so fully committed to Spock that even his castmates didn’t “know” Nimoy that well, for he was only occasionally “Leonard like”, they felt they knew Spock better. It is a familiar story of actors so dedicated to a part they are playing they become internalised. When most of your waking life is in character, it’s very difficult to switch it on and off.
Just hearing Jim Parsons (Sheldon, The Big Bang Theory) talking about keeping a “panicked grip” on a character, because you don’t want to lose “it”, makes me think about the late Heath Ledger – who some believe, became so absorbed in playing the twisted character of The Joker, that this was a contributory factor to his tragic death at the age of 28. I had no idea that Nimoy himself had battled his own demons, namely his struggle with alcoholism.
I think his stepson Aaron Bay-Schuck sums it up perfectly: “Leonard was a very even-keeled guy, he didn’t always show a lot of emotion” – Spock was undeniably a part of him.
This film was incredibly moving. Hearing such a candid and personal account of how Spock, and Adam’s struggle to bond with his uber famous father (and vice versa), would ultimately drive a wedge between them. I can’t believe they were estranged up until as recently as 2006!? I am so happy that they reconciled, and that Leonard was there for his son, throughout such a difficult and heart breaking time. The letter from Leonard to Adam… oh the tears.
One question though: what exactly is a full-fledged deadhead?!
On a lighter note, as many of you will know, in my guise as TheOriginalTiT, I have (rather unsuccessfully of late) been making my way through TNG, and something that stood out to me in this film are the parallels that can be drawn between the characters off Spock and Data.
“Vulcans never bluff”.
Take this conversation between Spock and Kirk for example:
- S: I prefer the concrete, the graspable, the provable.
- K: You’d make a splendid computer Mr Spock.
- S: That is very kind of you Captain.
- K: *grins
As Nicholas Meyer comments about Spock being a cold, unemotional guy, but that Leonard insisted “he never played him that way, he played him as a guy trying to keep his emotions in check”. As Simon Pegg laments: Spock had “so many emotions”, but as Nimoy himself recalls “he also has emotional control, expresses very little of what he’s feeling. It’s fun for the audience to watch to see if a glimmer of something pops through”. Okay, do Data is an Android and technically not capable of feeling emotion, but it reminds me of something that Brent Spiner said at Destination Star Trek 3, that people would always say that thought they saw Brent play emotions in him, but that actually he “could feel the audience through the TV projecting their emotions on to him”. I guess it’s all in the eye of the beholder?
A bit like the “homoerotic relationship” between Kirk and Spock that some fans have created?! Fan fic can go to strange places… I wasn’t quite prepared for that! And no, I haven’t Googled it!!
I can even see a likeness between Nimoy and Patrick Stewart, both with a flair and passion stage acting. I would have loved to have seen Nimoy in the Man in the Glass Booth! ‘For the Love of Spock’ has made me so excited to watch TOS. It seems there was a much more obvious comedic element to the show that the new films have, but that TNG (my main experience of ST so far) lacks somehow. Not in a bad way, it’s just different.
Question: What’s the difference between a Jewish man and “a Jew”?
I absolutely love the term “The Triumvirate”, I hadn’t heard it before in a Star Trek context. Warping forward 50 years – I really feel that in “Beyond”, the latest of the new movie franchise, Pine, Quinto and Urban, finally nailed the recreation of the Shatner-Nimoy-Kelly dynamic. It was truly lovely to see so many of the new cast members involved in this project, to whom Nimoy was of course a castmate also, and no doubt had a tremendous influence over them during the filming of “Star Trek” and “Into Darkness”.
Over the course of the 50th Anniversary celebrations I have really enjoyed watching all of the ‘closeted’ celebrity Star Trek fans coming out and proud as “Trekkies”. I absolutely loved all the “50 in :50” videos released by Star Trek – from Pete Wentz, to Slash – and you’ll all remember how excited I was about Rihanna getting her Trek on, to the point where she recorded an epic tune for the soundtrack of “Beyond”. I love how Star Trek is increasingly becoming more of an everyday topic of conversation, no longer reserved just for the geeks and nerds amongst us, it’s like totally cool now! Helped in no small way I’m sure by cult TV and firm fan-favourite ‘The Big Bang Theory’ – I can’t wait to watch this show and “get” all of the Star Trek references!
Note to self: must watch majority of Star Trek first.
The breadth, depth and diversity of Star Trek fans never ceases to amaze me. In this documentary for example, you have actual astrophysicists discussing their love of the show, what it means to them and how it has affected the path that their lives took. It is a profound thought that Neil DeGrasse Tyson has, that maybe Star Trek, and Spock, may in some way be responsible for the “slow but real appreciation of what science is and why it matters”. Freakin’ NASA even wished ST a happy anniversary!
As I said in my review of “Beyond”, any new Trek is good Trek, and I love the new films. It was great and somewhat of a vindication to hear how Nimoy viewed the reincarnation: “Along came JJ Abrams who found a way to crack it open to an entirely new and different audience… You didn’t have to know all about Star Trek, you could come and enjoy this movie as a person who had never seen anything of Star Trek before.” Now THAT’s a real seal of approval?!
Having not really seen that much of TOS (and I know that Sam will disagree with me on this one), I personally, have never seen Spock as a “sex-symbol”, although I have to admit that Quinto’s portrayal of the character is somewhat sexier – I understand the appeal there. However, one particular highlight of ‘For the Love of Spock’ was hearing Zoe Saldana talking about the character of Spock and seeing in him what SHE personally likes about men. I couldn’t help wondering whether she is talking about Nimoy-Spock or Quinto-Spock? Is there even a difference? It made me chuckle when an, albeit fairly young, Angelina Jolie confessed to wanting to make Spock “scream”?!
The best line of the entire documentary has to go to JJ Abrams though: “When you have wounded Spock, you just want to kill yourself!” He broke his nose!
Also, picturing the scene with Nimoy, Pegg and Pine – Spock snores!
It was great to see some of the friends that the TrekkieGirls have made over the years be a part of the film, including Bobak – MSL flight engineer NASA jet propulsion laboratory – the TGs new BFF (hope he doesn’t mind me calling him that – Sam and Carole met him in Vegas), and the delightful Scott Mantz!! And did I spy the wonderful @SpockVegas in there too…
Back in 1972, conventions were an entirely new concept: “this gathering of fans to celebrate Trek for a weekend”, and as Simon Pegg says, Trekkies really were “Pioneers of the cosplay culture”. It was amusing that the organisers had hoped for 500 attendees, and they got 3000! Star Trek is undeniably responsible for the formation of the modern day ‘con’, and Nimoy’s love of conventions, and for the fans (as praised by Karl Urban), is common knowledge. This was demonstrated by his appearing via Skype at DST3 in October 2014 – his last public appearance – where he embraced new technological platforms, just to keep that momentum going, when he was no longer able to travel to personally attend. I loved seeing Adam at his first convention and his total awe of it all. The scene spliced between him and Spock is beautiful.
On my relatively short journey as TheOriginalTiT, I have been fortunate enough to be part of some amazing experiences that I know many a hardcore Trekkie would give their right arm for. The gravitas of which is not lost on me. I am so humbled to have been blessed with the opportunity to ask him a question at DST3:
…and to have been present at the naming of Leonard Nimoy way at Paramount studios, LA in May.
There was only one bit of the whole film that I didn’t quite agree with, and I suppose it’s a matter of opinion. I guess it’s like everyone has their favourite Bond or Doctor who, and I appreciate where Walter Koenig was coming from when he said: “There’s only one person who can play Mr Spock”. I don’t think there is anyone that could have been better cast to reprise the role than Zachary Quinto and I think this comment does him a little of a disservice. He has done / is doing, a simply amazing job following in some pretty big footsteps?! The scene with the two Spocks in the first film is literally one of my absolute favourites!
Quinto speaks about his “personal relationship” with Nimoy, I felt this in person in LA, listening to Quinto speak on behalf of the Nimoy family, about Leonard’s legacy, and about the legend that is Spock. He is part of the Nimoy family now and that can be both seen and felt in this film. At points it’s hard to tell who is interviewing whom? When Adam is talking about his late wife Martha, and his father’s unwavering support during this terrible time, they are almost like brothers.
The Spock tribute at the Burning Man Festival, 2015 must have been an amazing thing to witness and be a part of. It was such a lovely way to end the emotional rollercoaster that was ‘For the Love of Spock’.
A self made Renaissance man. A ubiquitous curiosity.
You did make the world stand up and listen.
SO what IS your word Adam?!
If you haven’t seen ‘For the Love of Spock’ yet (and if I haven’t totally ruined it for you!) check it out over at We Are Colony now.