Leonard Nimoy, ‘Star Trek’s’ Spock, Dies at 83

Leonard Nimoy lived up to his longtime catchphrase: Live long and prosper. Having achieved success in many arenas during his lifetime, the actor, director, writer and photographer died Friday in Los Angeles of end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was 83.

Most widely known for his performance as half-human, half-Vulcan science officer Spock on the classic sci-fi TV show “Star Trek” and its many subsequent film and videogame incarnations, Nimoy was also a successful director, helming “Star Trek” pics “The Search for Spock” and “The Voyage Home,” as well as non-“Star Trek” fare; an accomplished stage actor; a published writer and poet; and a noted photographer. He also dabbled in singing and songwriting.

But despite his varied talents, Nimoy will forever be linked with the logical Mr. Spock. Spotted by “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry when he appeared on Roddenberry’s NBC Marine Corps. skein “The Lieutenant,” Nimoy was offered the role of Spock and co-starred in the 1965 “Star Trek” pilot “The Cage.” NBC execs liked the concept but thought the pilot too cerebral, so they ordered a second pilot of the Desilu production with some script and cast changes (only Nimoy made it through both pilots). The series finally bowed on NBC in the fall of 1966. After three seasons, it was canceled in 1969 but would go on to be a hit in syndication, spawning films and other TV iterations and gaining a huge following of fans known as Trekkers or Trekkies.

After the series wrapped, Nimoy joined the fourth season of spy series “Mission: Impossible” as master-of-disguise Paris, leaving after the fifth season. He went on to star in the 1971 Western “Catlow,” with Yul Brynner and Richard Crenna, and the 1978 remake of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” with Donald Sutherland and Jeffrey Goldblum. The actor also made a series of TV films throughout the ’70s and received an Emmy nomination in 1982 for his role as Golda Meir’s husband in telepic “A Woman Called Golda.”

Also during the ’70s, Nimoy narrated the docuseries “In Search of …,” which investigated unexplained events, paranormal phenomena and urban legends long before these matters become the common fodder of pop culture.

Then the siren call of “Star Trek” beckoned again and Nimoy returned to the role of Mr. Spock for 1979’s “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” The film opened well at the box office, and though not well reviewed, it did spawn enough interest for Paramount to greenlight sequels that would continue into the 1990s: “The Wrath of Khan” (1982), “The Search for Spock” (1984), “The Voyage Home” (1986), “The Final Frontier” (1989) and “The Undiscovered Country” (1991). Nimoy was in all of them, albeit briefly in “The Search for Spock.”

Nimoy also appeared as Spock in a couple of episodes of series spinoff “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” several videogames based on the property and the J.J. Abrams-helmed “Star Trek” reboot, playing Spock Prime to Zachary Quinto’s young Spock in the 2009 film and its sequel.

After directing several TV projects, including episodes of “Rod Serling’s Night Gallery” and his “Star Trek” co-star William Shatner’s “T.J. Hooker,” Nimoy signed on to helm “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.” Variety said the production was “helmed with a sure hand by debuting feature director Leonard Nimoy, who also appears briefly but to good effect as the indestructible half-human/half-Vulcan Spock.” The review went on to say “Nimoy’s direction is people-intensive with less of the zap and effects diversions of competing films.” He went on to direct the next pic in the series, “The Voyage Home,” as well as four other feature films, including the 1987 comedy “3 Men and a Baby,” starring Tom Selleck, Ted Danson and Steve Guttenberg, and the Diane Keaton-Liam Neeson drama “The Good Mother” (1988).

Nimoy also had a long history of stage work. He appeared on Broadway in “Full Circle,” directed by Otto Preminger, in 1973, and as a replacement for Anthony Hopkins as Martin Dysart in “Equus.” In 1996 he directed “The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree” on the Rialto. But he also starred in many regional productions — he played Stanley Kowalski in a 1955 Atlanta production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” — and starred in several touring shows: He was Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof” in 1971, Sherlock Holmes in a play of that name in 1976 and Vincent Van Gogh in solo show “Vincent: The Story of a Hero,” which he also produced and directed, in 1978-80.

Leonard Simon Nimoy was born in Boston; his parents were Jewish immigrants from the Ukraine, and the language at home was Yiddish. He developed an interest in acting at an early age, first appearing on stage at 8 in a production of “Hansel and Gretel.” He took drama classes for a while at Boston College, and after leaving home to pursue his career in Hollywood, he landed his first lead role in the 1952 film “Kid Monk Baroni.”

After serving in the Army from 1953-55, he appeared in small roles in a few films, but mostly found roles in TV series, appearing in episodes of “Dragnet,” “Sea Hunt,” “Bonanza,” “Wagon Train,” “Rawhide,” “The Twilight Zone,” “The Untouchables,” “The Outer Limits,” “The Virginian,” “Get Smart” and “Gunsmoke” before rising to fame in “Star Trek.”

Most recently, he recurred on Fox sci-fi series “Fringe” as maniacal, genius professor William Bell, and he voiced Spock for a 2012 episode of “The Big Bang Theory.”

In addition to his work on “In Search Of…,” Nimoy lent his resonant, intelligent voice to a variety of films, TV projects and documentaries, including A&E docu series “Ancient Mysteries.”

He wrote two autobiographies. The first, published in 1977, was called “I Am Not Spock.” Though “Star Trek” fans thought he was distancing himself from the beloved character, Nimoy had always enjoyed playing the character but was also using the book to talk about other aspects of his life. The book features dialogue between the thesp and Spock and touched on a self-proclaimed identity crisis because he became so associated with his character. In his second autobiography, “I Am Spock” (1995), he embraced that association.

He also wrote several books of poetry, including “You and I,” “Warmed by Love” and “A Lifetime of Love: Poems on the Passages of Life.” Some of his poetry books featured his photos.

Nimoy studied photography at UCLA in the 1970s, and his work as a photographer was shown in museums, art galleries and in published works, including “The Full Body Project: Photographs by Leonard Nimoy” and “Shekhina.” He was active in philanthropy and endowed Hollywood’s Temple Israel’s Bay-Nimoy Early Childhood Center.

In music, Nimoy released five albums on Dot Records, the first of which was space-based music and spoken word, “Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space.”

Nimoy was married twice, first to actress Sandra Zober. They divorced in 1987. In 1988, he married Susan Bay, an actress who is the cousin of helmer Michael Bay.

He is survived by his wife; two children from his first marriage, son Adam, a director, and daughter Julie; a stepson; and several grandchildren.

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  1. Violater1 says:

    This is highly illogical! Vulcans live longer due to having two hearts!! He will now live in Vulcan on his backup heart! Now he will live long and prosper.on Vulcan! I will miss you Mr. Spock!!!!

  2. Sheila W. Bradley-Smith says:

    In 1957 I did an original short story as a homework assignment at Turner Elementary School here in Washington, DC 3rd Grade under Mrs. Taylor who inspired us to be original in our creativity. My main character from Andromeda system earths nearest neighbor and Mr. Spock are related in our creative connection. When Star Trek came on 9 years later it was like seeing my short story come to life on TV. I am soooo sorry for his loss Andromeda/Spock live on in our hearts. The short story scored an A my teacher loved it.

  3. Larry says:

    I grew up with the series. I do believe they brought a new level of authenticity of science fiction to television and we all wanted to believe everything we seen on Star Trek! Great acting and we wanted to believe in a better future for all of us!

  4. LAVERNE JOHNSON says:

    WE WILL MISS YOU MR.SPOCK …

  5. Mary says:

    Sad to see him go – he was an incredible figure that will live on in many hearts and minds. Timeless ~

  6. Margaret Southwell says:

    Rest in peace among the stars,those same stars you helped us see.

  7. Dan James says:

    I would leave nothing behind which could not be construed as a contribution to the future.

    I cannot hold any greater respect for another human than I did for Leonard Nimoy – his departure from this planet can not go unnoticed though his contributions certainly will never be forgotten – RIP, LLAP, TNOTMOTNOTO – (the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one) – just one of the few things he said in film and in life that cannot find an equal anywhere.

  8. hatesgames says:

    So, one of my favorite actors has died of COPD. Leonard Nimoy. To be real, he had a good run. He made it all the way to 83 years old. He accomplished some major, major things in his life. One of my favorite movies of his that people probably don’t know about is called, “Never Forget”. Check it out. You won’t be disappointed. What’s the big deal? Lots of celebrities die. Hell, lots of people die every day under much worse circumstances. So why am I, a grown ass man, sitting in my office with the door locked and the blinds down, crying like a little girl right now? “Probably because you’re a nerd.” Some might say, and I guess they are right, but that’s not it.

    I grew up with Star Trek:TOS and it was a fixture throughout my young life. My first experience with science fiction was Star Trek. I thought Spock was so fucking cool. He was stronger than human, had mind powers and could knock people out with that freaky nerve pinch of his. –And he was always in control. Well, almost always. When he did lose it, people got thrown around more than bad guys in an episode of the A-Team. Strange how the only way Kirk could beat Spock is with a hastily pulled out “dampening rod” (or whatever the hell it was) from the wall of engineering…lol.

    I soaked up everything “Trek”. Cartoons, shows, books,. To this day I still have the “Power Records” episodes of Star trek on my HDD. Through it all, Spock was always the man to watch. It’s also because of him that I try (and fail most times) to look at everything dispassionately, and with logic. I would always hear those words he said to McCoy: “Really, Dr. McCoy. You must learn to govern your passions; they will be your undoing.” Now, I’m not an idiot. I realize those words were written for the character, but only Nimoy’s presence and distinctive baritone could deliver them in the way he did. They stuck with me. It takes a hell of a person to make a character an icon. Perhaps bigger even than Captain Kirk.

    I don’t know the man of course, but what I did know I liked. When he was Spock he was tough enough to battle alcoholism and not let it affect his job. He beat his demons and moved on. He went on to do much more than Star Trek. He played Sherlock Holmes in a Royal Shakespeare Company production and acted on Broadway in Equus. He is noted in the theatre world for his touring show as Theo Van Gogh in Vincent. He did more than 143 stints as an actor in ALL media, including animation and video games. He was active in charities for civil rights, cancer, LGBT, and more. Not to mention his time as producer and director.

    I have to admit I knew he was probably going to die when I heard the news that he went to the hospital, but you know, you always hope. I mean, I wouldn’t curse anyone with eternal life, even if eternal youth came with it, but you just want to keep your childhood icons with you like Linus and his blanket. Unfortunately, time has a better grip than you do and inevitably, like a selfish and spoiled child, it manages to cruelly snatch everything from you.

    I always wanted to meet him, to shake his hand. –And now I know I won’t be able to, and that saddens me. The lights of my past are burning out one by one, and THAT makes me sad. Not just me now, that kid who stood in front of the bathroom mirror probably making the dumbest faces in history. All the while thinking to himself, “C’mon eyebrow! Lift! Just a little bit! C’mmmoonNNNNN!!!”

    I guess I’m crying not just because Spock is dead or that Mr. Nimoy is dead, but that I am getting older and the things I loved, that mattered to me, are fading away.

    Of Mr. Leonard Simon Nimoy, son of Dora Spinner and Maxwell Nimoy, I can only say this:

    You were one badass Ukrainan Jew. Thank you for the fun and the dreams. Love you.

  9. Philip Giacalone says:

    I am truly saddened by the passing of Leonard Nimoy. His character, Mr.Spock, taught me many things about how to behave and interact with people, especially those superior to me. To this day, when I need to correct a superior officer before they “shoot themselves in the foot,” I begin my observation by saying, “May I point out…,” which is something Spock always said to correct Captain Kirk’s problem solving snafu. I will miss him. Live long and prosper, Mr. Nimoy.

  10. As a Star Trek fan from the outset, I am deeply saddened by the death of Mr Nimoy as I was saddened by the previous losses of Mr Kelly and Mr Doohan. Mr Nimoy will never be forgotten.

  11. Ronnie James says:

    I had not thought about Leonard Nimoy too much in recent years. Not like I had about Johnny Carson in the years leading up to his death. And yet, as Friday wore on, I was surprised by my increasing sense of loss and sadness. My feelings were not adequately explained by any tv or internet coverage. Then I realized the one word that was neglected and missing, the one word that explained everything … noble. Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock had evolved into a truly noble character. Sorta like Atticus Finch, though not exactly a father figure. But Spock was perhaps more fascinating, because he was truly literally a character torn between two worlds, and not just in the usual figurative sense. It may not have started out that way, but what a great role for an actor, one of the greatest roles for any actor, a role that every actor should have wanted, if only they had realized the possibilities. It fell to Leonard Nimoy to stealthily develop Spock into such a great role. A character who grew on you subtly, as opposed to the immediate classical hero bombast of William Shatner as Captain Kirk. Spock’s Laurel to Shatner’s Hardy. And DeForest Kelley as Dr. McCoy became an equally important third member of the comedy team. Nimoy & Shatner & Kelley. Together they became even greater. Nobody should ever under-estimate the value and contributions of one to the others. This is my big appreciation and gratitude to the three of them. It was cathartic to write all this. I usually just admire people’s work, without becoming a fan of the people themselves, because people are not perfect and inevitably disappoint. However, sometimes it’s really difficult to separate the work from the person. # # #

    • mgrevich says:

      funny you should say that, a few days before he died I was thinking of him wondering if he was still alive and looked him up.

  12. Keith Gooselaw says:

    He has gone where all men are destined to go. A great and gifted human being and influenced so many. He surely lived long and prospered. He will be greatly missed by us all.

  13. Marquitos Diaz says:

    It is a sad day. We lost a great human being, never be forgotten.

  14. So glad I had the fortune of seeing this class act of a man when he madw a guest appearance at the LA Film Festival several years ago during a screening of an old Star Trek piece. He will be greatly misses. Blessings.

  15. So glad I had the fortune of seeing this class act of a man when he madw a guest appearance at the LA Film Festival several years ago during a screening of an old Star Trek piece.

  16. Jimmy says:

    Reading poetry. One of your guests at your reading at your home on that stool. Did you invite 35 and 50 showed up. Where are the extra 15 chairs. After you read for 30 minutes I was thinking champagne. No such luck. You continued reading for another 30 minutes. One could hear a pin drop. How effortlessly you entertained. When the spotlight dimmed to a close what a standing ovation. Everyone cautious to approach. Thank you. Your stool and a poetry reading up there where there are no tears.

  17. louise says:

    love and peace will miss you greatly . a fan

  18. ralph says:

    You were a great friend on star trek,will miss you Ralph electric dept.

  19. Vulcans Forever says:

    If everyone were as logical as Mr. Spock the world would be a better place. Thank you, Leonard Nimoy for giving us a great, inspiring character. Your life has left the world richer.

  20. windchyme says:

    Go on and prosper……One man can summon the future. T’Pol, Star Trek: Enterprise, “United”

    We will miss you Leonard….

  21. Celestia says:

    You lived long and prospered, my dear Spock. As a child, your and Star Trek’s universal messages for the future didn’t elude me and have stayed with me. Thank you for that. :) My sincere condolences to your family and close friends. You will be missed.

  22. flowerchildgeek says:

    I remember sitting spellbound, watching this new TV program; It represented everything I hoped the future would bring. Spock was brought to life by Leonard Nimoy. Rest in peace, Sweet Prince. You helped bring the world logic and reasoning; You were truly the original Geek. We will miss you and mourn your passing, but we will rejoice in the memories of all you brought to us all- hopefully we all will also “Live Long and Prosper”.

  23. Sal says:

    he was an original. A truly good, honest human being. I saw him in various TV programs, one of them, The Outer Limits, and of course, Star Trek. RIP, Leonard. Condolences to family.

  24. Don Kietzmann says:

    Live long and prosper my friend. The universe is sad.
    May God carry you on an warp speed. It is only logical that He should!!

  25. Linda says:

    I’m sorry to hear that he dead he will be missed i will pray for the family

  26. Patrick S. Selitrenny says:

    Dear Mr. Spock, yes you will always be Mr. Spock, in dignity and decency,… at least to me. You have gone where no one has gone before. For us remaining behind, it is harder. We have lost a great friend, an honest and talented friend. Who will ever be able to step in your shoes? No one indeed.
    But what remains is the vast amount of works you have left us to remember you by. The needs of the one, outweigh the needs of the many. Your need was to finally rest. So rest in peace and enjoy your new acquired universe. We will always be grateful to you for what you have done for us: entertained and challenged. To Leonard I can only say: “Live long and prosper”, wherever you are. Hailing frequencies closed.

  27. DM Buell says:

    I grew up watching TOS and Nimoy. A small (but great) part of my childhood died today with Mr. Nimoy’s passing. Thanks for all the memories. RIP.

  28. michael boyd says:

    Leonard Nimoy was a driving force. He will be missed greatly.

  29. sorry about the loss of spock

  30. marilyn farrell says:

    You’ll be missed hravely. Grew on you.Rest in the Lord. Be strong, family. My prayers are with you!!!

  31. Alex says:

    All sci-fi fans are in morning, a giant has left us.

  32. Ivan Larmore says:

    Farewell Mr. Nimoy you will be missed, and deepest sympathies to all of your family and friends.

  33. Carlos Aguilar says:

    shom svi’ let’theiri

  34. Johnnie says:

    He and his acting have and always will be respected in my house 🏠

  35. kevin says:

    extremely sad to hear about this. prayers to his family and loved ones.

  36. marjma2014 says:

    Reblogged this on kyrosmagica and commented:

    Oh, so sad, Leonard Nimoy, Spock, died. Loved Star Trek. Reblogged via Variety.

  37. I would wish there were some how an error, for the world is dimmed at the loss. There is so much that should be said at this time but no words seem adequate. I hope that his family knows that we are thinking about them, and offering and praying for their comfort. Mr. Nimoy you were a hero in many ways, a teacher, and your character of Mr. Spock brought many of us pleasure and also a bit of knowledge. You will be missed., Fare you Well and Thank you Mr. Nimoy..

  38. George Rich says:

    May his Family take comfort in the joy that he brought to so many he will truly be missed.With deepest sympathies.

  39. doug says:

    We have tendency to think of him as a real person, his intelligence was way beyond any real human on earth — Spock says ” what ever you do or think always let logic be your guide”. Is it logical ? It is my go to word when I ponder important thoughts like is there life on other planets ? Logic says yes But when our best scientists say that everything began with the big bang, I have to stop and think, is it really logical that our present day science community thinks they have the answer to that ? The answer to that will never be known !! What would Spock say about our big bang theory “Insufficient information to draw a conclusion on that, therefore logic does not apply” If it weren’t for Lucille Ball Star Track would have never made it on tv, she was the owner of Desilu and S/T will always be one of my favorite shows..

  40. deb griffin says:

    Rest I n Peace Dear Spock. You gave us many great years of Entertainment!

  41. Midge Baker says:

    Leonard Nimoy

    My tribute — fond memories

    In 1976, I twice saw him on stage as Sherlock Holmes, opposite Laugh In’s Alan Sues (as Moriarty).

    I went two days in a row, sitting front row center.

    The first night, I was sitting no more than 30 feet from him, when the Sherlock character used the word “logic.”

    My right hand automatically did a sweeping Vulcan salute. Mr. Nimoy caught it from the corner of his eye, looked down at me, and winked.

    I met him three times at ST Conventions, and in 1981 I actually got to shake his hand.

    He will be missed. I’m crying as I type this.

    My condolences to his family.

    “Live long and prosper.” And he did, by god, he DID.

  42. Dave j. says:

    The Leonard Nimoy name will long live and prosper!

  43. Steven M. Frisby says:

    The only time I ever heard weeping in a theater was during the deeply moving final moments of Spock’s death scene in The Wrath of Khan. There were tears then, and there will be more today: for the loss of a fine actor, for his family, for us, and lastly for Spock — who lived in the heart of this good man.

  44. doug says:

    We will miss him ..

  45. Joy E says:

    You will be missed.

  46. OH NO! I didn’t know! What a gift he was to all of us.

  47. BeamMeUp says:

    “Of my friend, I can only say this: Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most — human.” — Admiral Kirk, Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan (memorial service for Captain Spock).

    RIP Mr. Spock

  48. RR says:

    As impressively thorough as this obit surely appears, I must add another fond memory of The Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon presentation theater at the Griffith Observatory which I happened to discover soon after moving to Los Angeles in 2007: yet another lasting tribute to a fine man and artist who inspired so many to ponder our place in the vast universe, indeed our mission, as it were, with both awe and appreciation.

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