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Remember This Scene: In Memory Of Leonard Nimoy

Jeremy Fuster |
February 27, 2015 | 3:02 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Leonard Nimoy was the original sci-fi outsider as Mr. Spock, providing a view on humanity from a man who only had one foot in it. (CBS)
Leonard Nimoy was the original sci-fi outsider as Mr. Spock, providing a view on humanity from a man who only had one foot in it. (CBS)
We have lost one of our sci-fi gods. Leonard Nimoy is gone.

It's impossible to imagine 'Star Trek' becoming the generation-spanning legend that it is today without the wonderful performance Nimoy put in as Mr. Spock. So many times, Spock was the unshakeable pillar in the midst of chaos, approaching problems with a detached, calculated mentality. He was a Vulcan/Human hybrid who chose to dedicate his life to emotionless, scientific enlightenment, which allowed him to serve as a wonderful foil to the dramatic Captain Kirk.

There will be many writing up blog posts and tweets tonight talking about their favorite moments with Spock in the original series. Some will talk about when his body malfunctioned, resulting in him turning into a violent psychopath who could only be cured by a trip to his home planet. Others will talk about the now legendary "Evil Spock," who could only be told apart from his prime counterpart by his goatee and his use of his analytical mind to hurt people.

But most will talk about his gut-wrenching death in 'The Wrath Of Khan,' which as I write this has gone viral thanks to the retweets of countless Trekkies. Yeah, he eventually came back, but it's a testament to the legacy Nimoy built as Spock that the idea of losing him is just so tear-jerking. Without the slightest hesitation, he sacrifices himself to save the Enterprise, declaring that "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."

No, that phrase doesn't come from a 17th century philosopher. It comes from a 1982 movie, yet Spock's line has become regularly used in politics, law, and academic discussion of utilitarianism. Kirk's remark that he was the most human person he had ever met might seem strange to say about a man who strived to distance himself from his human roots, but it is so fitting. In separating himself from humanity, Spock came to embody Gene Roddenberry's ideals for humanity: selfless, intelligent, supportive, and most of all, logical.

For me, though, there are two moments in Nimoy's career that always come to mind whenever I think of him. The first comes from one of the greatest 'Simpsons' episodes ever: "Marge Vs. The Monorail." Nimoy guest stars on this as the celebrity aboard Springfield's new monorail. The lines he gives when the monorail goes out of control are a great send-up of the kind of lines once uttered by Spock, and Nimoy delivers them so hilariously straight. Before I got into 'Trek,' this was my introduction to Nimoy, and it is one of the 'Simpsons' guest appearances that has forever stuck with me.

A few years after watching this episode, I first got into Star Trek in high school through 'The Next Generation.' I grew attached to all the members of the Enterprise-D crew for different reasons, but the one I loved most was Lt. Commander Data. Just like Spock, his detachment from humanity allowed him to become a vehicle through which 'TNG' could explore what it means to be human.

So when Spock returned to the Enterprise in the two-parter, 'Unification,' it seemed logical (pun totally intended) for the Vulcan and the Android to team up. This led to my favorite conversation in all of 'Star Trek,' when Data and Spock discuss how ironic it is that they both have the identity that the other wants.

I really wish that the writers had explored this relationship beyond just this scene. So much of the 'Star Trek' mythos has been built up taking themes and elements of previous installments and turning them on their head. Klingons are the enemies in the original series? Let's make one of them a lieutenant in 'TNG' (it worked!). The Borg is the big enemy in 'TNG'? Let's have one of them join the crew in 'Voyager' (it didn't work). One of the main characters is a proud outsider in the original series? Let's have the outsider in 'TNG' strive to fit in. These constant tweaks to the formula are what make comparing captains and crew counterparts between the various series such a major conversation point among Trekkies; and beneath the eternal Kirk vs. Picard debate, the compare/contrast between Data and Spock has always been one of my favorites. What leads to Spock and Data's differing views on the role of humanity in their identity? Would Data seek to become more human if there were an Android race he could be a part of? Would Spock be as effective a crew member if he didn't have that human ancestry that allowed him to empathize on some level with his crew mates?

'Star Trek' was a show that prided itself on getting its fans to think about the world around them and the social conflicts within it. It accomplished this in many ways, but none more so than through the observations provided by Mr. Spock. Thank you for all the lessons you gave us, Leonard Nimoy. You will be missed.

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