SPECIAL: Leonard Nimoy’s Passing

Leonard Nimoy passed away 14 months ago. Preparations are going on currently to celebrate that this year is STAR TREK’s 50th anniversary. I wish he could be here. I have been remembering, and I realize I spent almost no time with Leonard away from the STAR TREK sets. Once a couple of years after directing my final STAR TREK, THE THOLIAN WEB, I met Leonard at an annual Pasadena Playhouse Alumni breakfast. I think we sat at the same table.
And yet I feel I knew him. I have read many comments from guest actors, who found him aloof, not too friendly. That was not my experience with him. And to be truthful, I was probably associating more with Mr. Spock than with Leonard Nimoy. But that was how Leonard worked as an actor. He was totally committed to creating that very unusual and unique character. Only when I read Marc Cushman’s THESE ARE THE VOYAGES did I learn that when we filmed the first of my treks, THIS SIDE OF PARADISE, Leonard had severe reservations about the script. He had been so intent during the long gestation period of that first season while developing the Vulcan who prided himself on his lack of emotions, and suddenly he was being asked to make a complete reversal, to present a Mr. Spock whose emotions had no boundaries. His concern was to do that without compromising the character he had so meticulously created. Not one word of his concerns, of his doubts surfaced on the set. Not once did he object to what I asked him to do, so that even when I suddenly changed my mind in the middle of filming a sequence where he was standing in the middle of a field talking to Bill Shatner and I asked him to do the same scene hanging from the limb of a tree like a monkey, he performed it with such exuberance and flamboyant panache, it took close to half a century for me to realize what he must have been thinking, but not revealing.
Here are scenes from THIS SIDE OF PARADISE and BREAD AND CIRCUSES. You can view the range of emotions emanating from the stoic Mr. Spock. The irony is that the emotionless Mr. Spock that Leonard created was far from that. He was one of the – no, I amend that to say he IS the most iconic character ever created on American television, and he and Leonard will be with us forever.

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3 Responses to SPECIAL: Leonard Nimoy’s Passing

  1. Corylea says:

    Thanks for sharing your memories of Mr. Nimoy.

    I’ve read both of Mr. Nimoy’s autobiographies and most of his poetry (the latter is more earnest than skillful, but it’s still quite revealing), and it’s clear that he was an incredible person. He didn’t just play intelligent, thoughtful, and principled on TV; he really WAS intelligent, thoughtful, and principled*.

    Those of us who observed Spock closely knew that there was a sweet and sensitive man under there, and I think that was all Mr. Nimoy; it wasn’t necessarily written into the scripts. 🙂

    His autobiographies make it clear that it cost him an enormous amount, personally, to put himself into an emotionally inexpressive frame of mind in order to play Spock, but so great were his art and his integrity as an actor that he did so willingly, even though — like most actors — he was a highly emotional man.

    I’m still very sad about his passing, but there are two things that comfort me in the wake of his death:

    1. Mr. Nimoy DID know that Star Trek fans loved him. We gave the poor man so much attention, affection, and appreciation that we very nearly crushed him under the weight of it. 🙂 He knew he was loved.

    2. Although Mr. Nimoy is dead, SPOCK is ageless. On my DVD’s of the original series, he is forever a blue-shirted 35, and he will live in my mind and my heart for as long as I do. And while I have my qualms about the reboot movies, Zachary Quinto is an excellent actor who had a very close relationship with Mr. Nimoy, and he is ensuring that no one can say that SPOCK is dead.

    *(Do you know about his getting parity for Nichelle Nichols when he found out she was being paid less than George Takei? And do you know about his refusing to work on the animated series until they hired Takei and Nichols, given that they were planning to use their characters but have them voiced by Doohan and Barrett?)

    • Daniel Rudolf says:

      I agree with all you wrote, but the “Nichelle Nichols being payed less than George Takei” bit is untrue. It’s a myth circulating now for half a century, but it’s completely fictional. Read Bob Justman & Herb Solow’s excellent book ‘Inside Star Trek: The Real Story’ or Marc Cushman’s also excellent ‘These are the Voyages’ books. In fact, Ms. Nichols was payed MORE than Kelley, Doohan and Takei at the start of the first season for what was considered to be – at the time – a supporting role of basically uttering ‘Hailing frequencies open, sir.’ a few times per episode. When the heads of Desilu studio finances came to know about this very generous contract Roddenberry offered to his former lover, they eventually made the producers reconsider her salary, and finally she got a contract specifying her to be payed per day and not per episode. Which still meant that if she was required to be on the set all 6 or 7 days of production, she received more money than her fellow supporting cast members.

  2. Lisa M. says:

    Totally agree about Mr. Spock being THE most iconic TV character ever created. The particularly poignant and special moments that you were able to bring to life in the episodes you directed are proof of that.

    We salute your part in creating him!

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