Leonard Nimoy 1931-2015: The Legacy of a Legend Herbert Shaw February 28, 2015 Columns, Featured, TV How many puns does it take to describe prosperous longevity? An iconic actor has arrived at the end of his journey through life: Leonard Nimoy died at the age of 83. Best known as the character Mr. Spock from the Star Trek TV and movie series, Nimoy leaves behind a true legacy of inspiration and the American dream. Born on March 26, 1931, to Ukrainian orthodox Jewish immigrants, Nimoy grew up in the Old West End neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. Nimoy was raised orthodox Jewish, attending synagogue so strict in its rules that the men are required to sit separately from the women. The split-finger hand positioning eventually used in Star Trek as the Vulcan greeting was imitated directly by Nimoy from a gesture he recalled from his youth, which was used by the Hebrew priests of his temple, known as the kohanim. Nimoy began acting at a very young age, performing in full productions of plays at the West End house and Elizabeth Peabody house. During a brief stint as an enlisted soldier in the United States Army Reserve, he would produce and star in several shows for the Army Special Services. During that time, he directed a production of A Streetcar Named Desire for the Atlanta Theater Guild, where he also starred as Stanley. He was honorably discharged after serving his country for 18 months. But his service in performance art was far from over. Before landing the role that would ultimately define his career and life, Nimoy got his start just like most actors playing in bit parts and guest spots on popular TV shows of the late 1950s, such as Dragnet, Broken Arrow, and Highway Patrol. He first worked with future co-star and BFF William Shatner in an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. In 1966, producers of the new sci-fi space exploration series, Star Trek, offered Nimoy the role of Mr. Spock, one that Nimoy himself picked over a main part on the established soap opera, Peyton Place, which was going into its third season. The character himself was the hybrid offspring of a human mother and a Vulcan father, from a society of hyper-intelligent beings known for their stern standards and super logical thinking. Creator Gene Roddenberry had said of Nimoy, “He was the conscience of [the show].” After the series ended after only three seasons, Nimoy continued to pick up lead and guest roles on television. Whether he was Paris on Mission: Impossible or the narrator for In Search Of…, Nimoy always embraced his roles and brought an original persona to each character that came across so naturally, it is still hard to believe how much he came up with all on his own. Of course, much like other franchises today, the fan following of Star Trek eventually led to an animated reboot in 1973, where Nimoy once again took the reins as Mr. Spock alongside Shatner, reprising the role of Captain James T. Kirk. This, of course, led to the production of the Star Trek film series, which cranked out six movies featuring the crew of the first Enterprise, all starring Nimoy as Mr. Spock. He even directed the third and fourth films in the series. Finally, he served as a central character in the J.J. Abrams films of 2009 and 2013, where his character of Spock Prime explained a key point in the crossover of the Star Trek generational universes. Nimoy’s voice-over acting also went well beyond reprising the role of Spock for the animated Star Trek series. In 1986, his first feature film voice role was that of Galvatron in the star-studded Transformers: The Movie, where he played peon to the planet-eating Unicron, voiced by Orson Welles in his last big screen role. Over 20 years later, Nimoy would return to the Cybertronian universe as Sentinel Prime in 2011’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon. He continued to lend his voice to Star Trek video games and guest spots in cartoons, like The Simpsons. Like so many iconic actors whose stardom grew too big for even them to handle, Nimoy faced a personal struggle as to how he wanted to be seen and known by his fans. This prompted him to write his first autobiography I Am Not Spock, in which he exemplifies the differences between the character of Mr. Spock and the man Nimoy knew himself to be. While somewhat controversial in its diagnosis of popularity and stardom versus his own crisis of identity, Nimoy detailed how his dedication created the character of Spock, how his portrayal is what made the character popular, and the personal struggle he felt he was facing with accepting it. The way his life ultimately imitated his art helped him to identify and accept his dual existence in the world as both Leonard Nimoy and as Mr. Spock. This of course led to his follow-up autobiography, I Am Spock. This time, however, rather than fighting the urge to exist separately from the persona he created for TV, Nimoy detailed how his embodiment of Spock created a new perspective. He talks about how the character eventually caused him to perceive everyday life events in the same manner as the half-human half-Vulcan, seeking logic and reason while at the same time being able to realize humor and accept its place in society as well. Not bad for a man who was teaching method acting before getting his big break. There is so much to be said about such a great actor whose gift in the craft continues to inspire generation after generation to pursue their dreams and make the most of life. In addition to his work on stage and screen, Nimoy was also an acclaimed writer, a renowned musician, and a prominent photographer, with two honorary doctorate degrees from Antioch and Boston Universities. There is no more appropriate way to end this article than with the same words Leonard Nimoy bestowed upon Star Trek fans, which have and will forever be known as his catchphrase. Live long and prosper!