by Jamie Brewer
brew [at] wmdradio [dot] com
When I was a kid, I used to play “Star Trek” in the yard with my friends. We would look for t-shaped sticks that we’d use as makeshift phasers, and we would re-enact some of our favourite scenes from the movies. I would always get to be Kirk, and always to my surprise, I never had to argue with anyone about it. In fact, my friends seemed far more keen on pretending to be Mr. Spock and, until now, I never really understood why. Being the captain meant I got to lead our make-believe landing parties on whatever dangerous adventure I saw fit for all of us embark upon. I felt like the hero. What I didn’t really notice at the time, however, was that it was actually our “Spock” who got to lead us all safely out of the woods when it was time for us to holster our weapons and go inside for supper. Whether it was by swooping in at the last minute with volley of phaser fire and neck pinches, or by using his unmatched ingenuity to simply outsmart our made-up enemies, our Spock was always the unsung hero of our outdoor adventures.
And Spock was the hero…
In “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” it was Spock who ventured out on his own to solve the logic puzzle that was V’ger. In “The Wrath of Khan”, it was Spock who paid the ultimate price to save his crew mates from certain death at the hands of a vengeful madman. In “The Search for Spock” – well that title speaks for itself. Here was a man worthy of abandoning everything for in the faintest hope of bringing his body back home to be repatriated with his consciousness (something, I might add, that he had the wherewithal to stow away in McCoy’s head moments before his death). The truth is Spock was, and remains the most pivotal of all characters in the original series and movies – so much so, that J.J. Abrams even crafted an alternate, rebooted universe where two Spocks can coexist…and no one seems to mind that. Why? Because not only did we get our next generation of “Star Trek” films, but we got to keep our favourite part of the original series. In fact, both movies in the rebooted universe depend so heavily on Nimoy’s Spock that they wouldn’t have worked without him.
Why is this? What is so special about Nimoy’s portrayal of Spock that gives him such influence on the trajectory of the shows and movies? As a parent of three young children, the answer to this is somewhat obvious. Leonard Nimoy’s Spock is the quintessential “adult in the room.” He brings us wisdom, impeccable judgment and all of the comforts and assurances that come with his mere presence. Sure, Kirk could lead an army of red-shirted officers to their predictable deaths without the slightest hint of insubordination, but only Spock could steer his impulsive friend clear of his own hubris. Kirk was indeed the captain, but Spock was the leader.
Veteran “Star Trek” actor, Tim Russ demonstrated these very same qualities in his portrayal of Commander Tuvok on “Star Trek Voyager.” Being a Vulcan is no easy feat. When I was in theatre, “acting” was defined as how we conveyed our emotions to the audience, so playing someone who isn’t supposed to have any at all must have been daunting. Granted, being half human, Spock could always be forgiven for the occasional emotional slip. Nonetheless, Leonard Nimoy created a unique template that serves as the model for everything Vulcan, and Tim Russ was able to use this to create his very own Vulcan persona in Tuvok.
I had the privilege of interviewing Tim Russ in November about “Star Trek Renegades,” a soon-to-be-released production that features, not only a reprise of his role of the stoic and deadpan Commander Tuvok, but also, like Nimoy before him, Russ also showcases his own talents as a director. Given the similarities in their roles both on set and behind the scenes, it seemed quite logical for me to reach out to him last night for some thoughts, and he kindly obliged with this to say about his Vulcan colleague:
“I knew Leonard Nimoy personally, and worked on stage with him years ago when I was in college. He was a very easy going, and genuine, as well as a wonderfully talented actor. I still cannot believe that after having worked with him so many years ago, I would have the opportunity to follow in his footsteps playing a Vulcan character on another Trek series.
I personally owe him a great debt of gratitude.
We all will miss him…myself in particular.”
Star Trek Voyager
Now, I don’t think I can think of a bigger Spock fan than my mother. Yesterday was her birthday and a few hours after we had already exchanged some lighthearted “Happy Birthday” texts, I received this:
…and I truly believe she is. Much like the rest of us.
While a return trip to the Mutara System is not an option, I’m sure it would make a splendid gift if we were running around the yard with t-shaped sticks and choosing our own reality as Leonard Nimoy inspired countless numbers of us to do as kids (and some as adults!). Alas, she’ll have to settle for the Captain Spock bobblehead I hastily packed in with her other gifts when we visit tomorrow; but I know it will make her smile. She will display it with pride, hoping someone will ask her “why the Spock?” so she can tell them how much she loves the character and respects the actor who portrayed him. Not bad for a last-minute gift I suppose.
This afternoon, I’m going to post this article and then I’m going to watch “The Wrath of Khan.” Not only is it one of my favourite movies of all time, but I’m not ashamed to admit that James Horner’s musical score always invokes tears of the best kind of joyful nostalgia. The first bars of the Mutara battle sequence are just so uplifting and then you are treated to a classic display of tactical warfare (with just a touch of dry wit for good measure!). It is also the turning point where Spock takes control of all destinies, leading to one of the most thrilling and heartbreaking sequences in Trek history.
Today I may have need to take some acting cues from the man himself in order to keep it together at the end, but I look forward to every minute of his performance and will be forever grateful for the gifts he has shared with us for well over 40 years and counting.
Farewell Leonard Nimoy. I have been, and always shall be your fan.
Do you have a favorite Leonard Nimoy moment or performance that you would like to share? Feel free to send me an email at brew [at] wmdradio [dot] com. We’ll be taking some time on next week’s show to remember his work and we’d love to tell your stories as well.