That most human of actors, Leonard Nimoy, turns 80 years old today. And he does so with the greatest of joy, surrounded by friends and family. As Nimoy himself tweeted the other day: “I told my Dad I'm going to be an actor. He said I'd be palling with gypsies and vagabonds. They'll all be at my party this weekend.” All of us, in spirit, join him at that party and wish him the happiest of birthdays.
It goes without saying that Nimoy means many things to many people. He was, is and forever will be Mr. Spock, his legendary Star Trek character. Countless viewers identified with Spock. He was the alien, the outsider looking in and commenting on the human condition. Half-human and half-Vulcan, Spock, in his own way, sought to fit in as well. And don’t we all yearn to fit in? He rarely displayed emotion, an often positive trait in its own right, but when he did emote – a smile, a romantic swoon, a flash of anger or violence, a bit of warmth, cracking something resembling a joke – it packed that much more punch. Fascinating, right? And so powerful, unique and indelible was Nimoy’s portrayal of Spock on TOS that by the end of the first season it’d become the template for any and all Vulcan characters seen throughout the series and the rest of the Star Trek franchise.
Nimoy, for a time, wrestled considerably with his famous alter-ego. He wanted to move on, while the rest of the world, it seemed, wanted him to carry on as Spock. Nimoy eventually made peace with the character, and it helped considerably that Nimoy had achieved tremendous success in other endeavors. In our interview with him that ran this past week on StarTrek.com, he cited some of those other endeavors by name: the Broadway play Equus; his one-man show Vincent; photography books and exhibitions, the film The Good Mother, and the telemovies A Woman Called Golda and Never Forget.
To that list of non-Trek projects we’d add: Three Men and a Baby, a blockbuster comedy that he directed; his role as Paris on Mission: Impossible; early acting appearances in such films and shows as Zombies of the Stratosphere, Dragnet (check out the mustache!) and, The Man from U.N.C.L.E (with a pre-Trek William Shatner); the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers; any of his radioplay-style Alien Voices productions and audiotapes; the autobiographies (I Am Not Spock and I Am Spock); hosting gigs on Standby: Lights! Camera! Action! and In Search Of…; his generous donations to countless charities and organizations; and, of course, his recurring role on Fringe as William Bell.
Really, if you only know of Nimoy as Spock, please do yourself a favor and check out some of his other work. It’d be – say it with us now – the logical thing to do.
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