Leonard Nimoy, world famous as Mr. Spock on ‘Star Trek’, dies
For generations of “Star Trek” fans and others throughout the world, actor Leonard Nimoy will always be known as the pointy-eared, purely logical science officer Mr. Spock.
Nimoy’s death Friday at 83 of end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease brought an outpouring of reaction from friends and fans.
“He affected the lives of many,” said son Adam Nimoy. “He was also a great guy and my best friend.”
Fans at NASA tweeted, “RIP Leonard Nimoy. So many of us at NASA were inspired by Star Trek. Boldly go…”
Nimoy himself left fans one last Twitter message on Feb. 23: “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP (Live Long and Prosper).”
Although Nimoy followed his 1966-69 “Star Trek” run with a notable career as an actor and director, in the public’s mind he would always be the half-human, half-Vulcan character, a calm counterpoint to William Shatner’s often-emotional Captain Kirk on one of TV and film’s most revered cult series.
Pittsburgh native Zachary Quinto, who played the role of Spock in the reboot of the “Star Trek” movies, expressed his sadness on Instagram: “My heart is broken. I love you profoundly my dear friend, and I will miss you everyday. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
Shatner said on Instagram: “I loved him like a brother. We will all miss his humor, his talent, and his capacity to love.”
In Pittsburgh, he was remembered for helping to kick off the first season of Pittsburgh Public Theater in memorable fashion. Nimoy starred as Malvolio in William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” in 1975 in a production directed by his friend, Ben Shaktman, the Public’s artistic director.
“I have very strong recollections of it,” said Joan Apt, one of the founders of Public Theater who entertained Nimoy and the cast at her Shadyside home. “Everyone loved working with him. He was just the warmest kind of person, and he was thrilled to be part of the beginnings of the Pittsburgh Public Theater.”
Nimoy played a variety of stage and screen roles, wrote poetry and pursued photography, but his portrayal of Spock remained indelible and inescapable.
“I believe Leonard Nimoy’s character on ‘Star Trek’ was so popular because he was different from the entire Enterprise crew. His ears, his gestures and his intellect set him apart,” said Jack Hunt (aka Johnny Angel), who owns Johnny Angel’s Ginchy Stuff collectibles shop in Brighton Heights.
Nimoy’s “Spock” was vital to the success of “Star Trek,” said Joe Wos, founder of the ToonSeum and a pop culture fan.
“Without Spock, Kirk would have ended up in a shotgun wedding with a green alien girl, ending their mission in the first few episodes,” Wos said. “He was a geek, and for the first time sci-fi fans watched the screen and saw a reflection of themselves and a role model for who they could grow up to be.”
Proud Trek fan Paul Soroka, 32, of Findlay has vague memories of seeing Nimoy at a Star Trek convention in the late 1980s.
“(Nimoy) took a raw, barely fleshed out idea of a character and transformed him into something believable,” Soroka said. “The way he portrayed Spock touched many types of people in life. Young kids would find his look interesting. Young men and women could relate to his struggle to ‘fit in,’ and adults and sci-fi purists couldn’t get enough of his unearthly knowledge and keen mind.”
People identified with Spock because they “recognize in themselves this wish that they could be logical and avoid the pain of anger and confrontation,” Nimoy concluded.
Nimoy tried to shun the role, but he eventually embraced it, lampooning himself on such TV shows as “Futurama,” “Duckman” and “The Simpsons,” and in commercials.
When the cast finally was reassembled for “Star Trek — The Motion Picture,” in 1979, the film was a huge hit, and five sequels followed. Nimoy appeared in all of them and directed two. He guest-starred as an older version of himself in some of the episodes of the show’s spinoff TV series, “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
“Of course the role changed my career— or rather, gave me one,” he once said.
In 2009, he was back in a new big-screen version of “Star Trek,” this time playing an older Spock who meets his younger self, played by Quinto. Critic Roger Ebert called the older Spock “the most human character in the film.”
Upon the movie’s debut, Nimoy said that in his late 70s he was probably closer than ever to being as comfortable with himself as the logical Spock always appeared to be.
“I know where I’m going, and I know where I’ve been,” he said.
Staff writer Rex Rutkoski and the Associated Press contributed.