Saturday, 28 February 2015

R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy

You and I have learned the song of love, and we sing it well.
The song is ageless, passed on heart to heart
By those who have seen what we see 
And known what we know 
And lovers who have sung before.
Our love is ours to have and to share.
The miracle is this: the more we share, the more we have.

Yesterday a great man passed from this Earth, a man who will be remembered for generations to come. I'm sure that if he could hear me praising him he would casually dismiss it and say he was just a normal man. Such modesty only makes him even greater in my eyes. Leonard Nimoy, in his portrayal of Spock in the original "Star Trek" series, was both fascinating and inspiring. He was a half-breed, with a Vulcan father and a human mother, a man struggling to find his identity. He chose to follow the path of his father, but he still carried his mother's traits in him, the emotions that he considered to be weakness. This was, of course, an allegory for modern man. Are we to follow our head or our heart?

Today I watched three "Star Trek" episodes in remembrance of Leonard Nimoy.

  1. The Galileo Seven (first season)
  2. Where no man has gone before (the second pilot)
  3. Mirror, Mirror (the second season)

"The Galileo Seven" is probably my favourite episode from the whole series. It's also an episode that shines a spotlight on Spock's struggle between logic and emotion more than any other. He's stranded without Captain Kirk on a hostile planet and has to take command of the six men with him to escape from the planet. All his decisions are correct and logical, but he has to admit that the situation is steadily worsening. In the end he saves the others by making an irrational act of desperation, which he later tries to deny.

"Where no man has gone before" is a pilot episode, the second pilot that was made after the original pilot, "The Cage", was rejected. It shows a slightly different Spock. His skin is more yellowy than in the later episodes, and he shouts a lot. He says that "one of his ancestors" married an Earth woman, although it was established in later episodes that his mother was human. Apologists try to argue that he said "one of his ancestors" to play down his human heritage, but the fact is that it was a mistake. The series was in its formative phase, and it hadn't yet been decided that he would be half human. We see something similar in "The Sopranos", where the cafe Satriale's is called Centrali's in the first episode.

"Mirror, Mirror" is one of my favourite episodes, despite the logical problems it creates. I like it because it's the only episode in which Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) wears thigh high boots. But it's also the only episode in which Spock has a beard.

William Shatner may have been the series' leading actor as Captain James Kirk, but for me it was Leonard Nimoy who made "Star Trek" truly great. He could express the deepest emotions with his facial expressions, the very expressions that his character was trying to hide. The following six screenshots from the end of "The Galileo Seven" show what I mean.

Apart from being an actor, Leonard Nimoy was a taxi driver and a poet. Driving a taxi was his regular day job while he was a small-time actor struggling to make ends meet. Ironically, when "Star Trek" was cancelled after only three seasons he went back to driving a taxi. "Star Trek" was ahead of its time in 1969. The series wasn't fully appreciated until years later. Still, I wish I'd been around to hail a cab in New York and be picked up by this amazing man. That would have been an experience.

I first heard about Leonard Nimoy's poetry in the late 1970's. I was talking with some fellow "Star Trek" friends, and one of them said, "Did you know that Leonard Nimoy writes poetry? But don't bother with it, it's crap". But I was curious, so I bought a book, and it was very good. Maybe my friend thought it was crap because it wasn't at all like Spock. Spock speaks of logic, but Leonard Nimoy writes about love. The poem at the head of this post is a typical example.

Leonard Nimoy
March 26, 1931 – February 27, 2015

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