How Leonard Nimoy Tried to Escape the Grip of Mr. Spock

leonard nimoy Spock

Leonard Nimoy titled his 1977 autobiography “I Am Not Spock,” referencing the “Star Trek” role that, in its own way, became a pair of velvet handcuffs. Indeed, for actors, few parts better sum up the conundrum they can face – eager to find a steady role that propels them into the public consciousness, only to become at least partially shackled in terms of the doors that association closes.

Nimoy had bounced around in Westerns and smaller movie roles before landing the gig as Mr. Spock, the emotionless Vulcan. Even more than most of his “Star Trek” castmates, he seemed to chafe against some of the expectations the series engendered – amusingly spoofed in William Shatner’s mock “Get a life!” outburst at Trekkers on “Saturday Night Live” – before ostensibly resigning himself to them.

In that regard, there were always mixed feelings in seeing Nimoy drawn back into the franchise, although he wisely parlayed that involvement into directing (including the third and fourth installments of the movies that began in 1979) and other avenues that allowed him to stretch creatively.

Then again, colleagues generally spoke with great admiration regarding Nimoy’s considerable talent, which made the idea of him being asked to repeatedly arch an eyebrow or spread his fingers and recite his popular catch phrases a little more sobering. (On the plus side, his rendition of “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins” is almost without equal, except perhaps for Shatner’s “Rocket Man,” in terms of “Star Trek”-related kitsch.)

Nimoy gradually appeared to make peace with the cards dealt him, and became adept at spoofing his image, including his cameos on “The Big Bang Theory” and “The Simpsons.” His “Star Trek” persona also created opportunities, such as his hosting gig on the series “In Search Of…”

Still, it’s probably fair to say Nimoy never got the chance to exhibit his full range as an actor, in part because of the success he wound up enjoying with what at the time looked like a cult TV show that was canceled after three seasons.

There is, at least, an age-old mystery in that. Because for all the universes and times that “Star Trek” visited, we can never fully know the “What if?” regarding what would have happened to those the series made famous had their journeys led elsewhere.

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  1. Ronald says:

    What many do not know is Leonard Nimoy appeared with Lloyd Bridges on several Sea Hunt episodes

  2. Ruthann Hamilton says:

    Although Leonard Nimoy was greatly known for his staring role as Spock in Star Trek…. he preformed in many TV movies and films he’ll be sadly missed for his contributions to acting.

  3. Ray Carbone says:

    The beet Star Trek spoof was Tim Allen’s Galaxy Quest movie. I’m surprised more Trek sties mention it. Like most intelligent folks, Nimoy showed not only his talent but his respect and sensitivity to others.

  4. Richard Danus says:

    I was a staff writer for Star Trek. It was a good job, made easier by the back and forth I and other writers had with the cast.. When a script was finished it was sent to the actors and there would be a reading. These weren’t let’s hold hands love sessions. They were serious and funny and frustrating and very professional. The actors sat mostly on one side of a room and a writer would sit opposite them. At my first reading I was challenged over a line. One line. I knew what was going on. They wanted to know if I would cave or take a stand. I gave them the line. It wasn’t a good one. If you want to now who I am, I wrote Deja Q.

  5. Sharpton says:

    You make the assumption that an actor will ever have the option of fully exploring all their talents no matter if they landed a career making role or not. Although you mention he did find other creative outlets, a better researched article would have seen you mention his excellence in photography, poetry, writing, public speaking and producing.
    Then again, as pointed out by John, Lowry’s writing tends to be especially poor and usually derogatory when writing about the genre. And this beyond the cliche of his always dropping in something negative about fans.
    It is almost like he has missed the last 15 years that have proven the importance of fans to Hollywood, the fact that they are now catered to, and more importantly that long-time fans have graduated to powerful positions in the area he now covers, albeit now on the internet to a much, much smaller and less important audience than he used to have. Fascinating, as Spock would say.

  6. Phillip Wynn says:

    Let’s not get too emotional about this aspect of Nimoy’s career. By the end, it seems he realized that by random chance he’d become part of something bigger than being good at playing pretend, and was grateful for it.

  7. cadavra says:

    I remember one night in the late ’60s when Nimoy was a guest on “The Joey Bishop Show.” It was the time of anti-Vietnam sit-ins, and Dr. Benjamin Spock had recently been arrested for participating in one. The next guest was Prof. Irwin Corey. He shambled out as usual, sat down, and before Joey could say a word, turned to Nimoy and said, “I’m so sorry they put your father in jail.” The place fell apart, and even Nimoy cracked up.

  8. Tali Adina says:

    Reblogged this on Uncanny Pop and commented:
    Via Variety.com. R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy

  9. John says:

    This is a stupid article written by somebody who hasn’t a clue about Nimoy, Spock or “Star Trek.” And the picture chosen isn’t even Nimoy in the proper Spock “character.” This is the kind of hackneyed, one-note response that has followed “Star Trek” since it’s inception by those who basically think sci-fi is ridiculous. Thankfully, old farts like Lowry and their disdain for the genre are on the way out.

    For the record, Nimoy came to grips many years ago with playing the Spock character, even going so far as to write a biographical sequel entitled “I Am Spock” (which was not mentioned in this glib, poorly reasearched article). Nimoy openly embraced the role and utlimately basked in the creative freedom that the role bestowed upon him.

    When he attended his last “Star Trek” convention in Las Vagas, he openly wept at how grateful he was to the fans who had elevated him to the highest level of pop cultural icon for all these many decades.

    Brian Lowry and his dreadful writing will not be remembered by anybody at all.

  10. sammyglick says:

    Calm down internet nerds, the headline was fixed. Geesh…as Shatner once said, “Get a LIFE!!!”

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