Last updated on March 23rd, 2015 at 03:04 pm
Leonard Nimoy, remembered by many as Mr. Spock in the Star Trek franchise, has died at the age of 83. Born in Boston to Jewish immigrants from Russia, he appeared in local theatre, TV, and movies by age 20. Nimoy early on had roles in The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Bonanza, Dragnet and Perry Mason.
His life was much like the iconic phrase spoken by Mr. Spock: “Live long, and prosper,” and on social media, he would always end with “LLAP.” He is survived by his wife actress Susan Bay, two children, and several grandchildren.
Leonard Nimoy transformed pop culture in addition to having a massive impact on science fiction. In what could have been a forgettable supporting role as an emotionless alien science whiz, he turned Spock on Star Trek into an eternal icon.
Before Spock, alien beings were portrayed as one-dimensional, and basically represented the “other,” strange and unknowable beings. Spock could easily have become the butt of Star Trek’s jokes, or just a weird side character if played by a lesser actor. But Nimoy imbued Spock with a life and complexity that became one of the most complex and nuanced characters on television. With his inner torment, quiet amusement at the humans around him, and occasional flashes of anger, Spock was a constantly surprising mystery with a lot of layers.
Nimoy’s portrayal of Spock’s half-human heritage is fascinating, which contributes to his complicated, divided nature but also has helped to inspire other mixed-race people in the United States. His commitment to the philosophy of IDIC (Infinite Diversity In Infinte Combination) makes Spock a unique symbol of acceptance and curiosity. These are qualities that Nimoy himself embodied, helping make Spock a lasting icon.
Nimoy’s invaluable contribution to the success of Star Trek also helped change the way pop culture represented people who were strange and different. His sympathetic, nuanced portrayal of Spock meant a lot to anyone who didn’t identify with the narrow range of types available in mass media.
Nimoy went on to do a number of other great genre roles, but his most famous post-Star Trek role, for science fiction fans, was probably William Bell, one of the villains of Fringe. Nimoy also used his Trek power to help popularize science (along with a certain amount of pseudo-science), hosting the insanely popular show In Search Of… in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Nimoy directed two of the Star Trek movies, playing an important role in shaping how Star Trek looked on the big screen. He also directed the first comedic Star Trek movie, Star Trek IV, widely considered one of the best films in the series. Nimoy returned infrequently to the role of Spock, including Star Trek: The Next Generation. He was vital to the J.J. Abrams reboot, providing emotional grounding as well as continuity to the newly reimagined Star Trek universe.
Leonard Nimoy never stopped being curious — and fascinated — by humans and our incredible diversity.