All actors create characters. Some of these characters even achieve iconic status. However, what Leonard Nimoy created was legendary. Spock appeals to so many different people in so many different ways.
Prior to Star Trek, most television characters were formulaic. Dad wore a hat, mom wore a dress, and the children were all sugar coated. Spock was alien not only because he had pointed ears, but because he was smart. Very smart! Spock knew thousands of years of world history as well as any form of higher math and physics. Spock was so endearing because he was one of television's first true intellectuals. And Nimoy was so convincingly smart as Spock that he often had scientists ask him for his opinion about things. Nimoy made it cool to be smart.
In a crew as diverse as the Enterprise's, Spock was also different, and the struggle Spock had with his identity (both on screen and in real life it seems) is something everyone feels at some times in their lives. To find peace, we must accept who we are and appreciate that our differences are what make us special. There were so many times where Nimoy showed us that this was the case.
It was Nimoy’s idea to make Spock and the Vulcan culture focused on logic and to control all emotions. In our own culture men and even boys are taught not to show any emotions (“boy’s don’t cry”). It is no wonder Spock was so appealing, particularly to males. Even Spock cried sometimes.
Sometimes Spock needed rescuing. Sometimes it was Spock who did the rescuing. Whatever the circumstances, it was obvious that Spock was a true friend who his crewmates could always count on. What's not to like about that? Through Spock, Nimoy created someone all of us can identify with and admire.
My late mother, who was also an avid Spock fan, used to say, “Star Trek is about hope.” I think she was right. However, that hope is set in the future. While I appreciate the optimistic outlook Star Trek portrayed about the future, the underlying message that we can apply to today is that we should treat everyone with dignity no matter how different or alien they are.
Leonard Nimoy (right) and William Shatner at a panel discussion with fellow cast mates at the opening of the Museum's Star Trek
exhibition in 1992. Photo: Mark Avino (SI-92-1547-28A)
The author, Bob Craddock (center), and Leonard Nimoy (right) at the opening of the Museum's 1992 Star Trek
exhibition. Photo: Carolyn Russo
I had the opportunity to serve as Mr. Nimoy's escort when the Smithsonian opened the Star Trek exhibit in 1992. I spent the better part of two days with him and his wife, Susan Bay. Probably the thing that impressed me the most about him was that he always had time to talk to a fan. Despite hearing the same questions or comments over and over all day, he never lost patience. He treated everyone with dignity. In that short time I had the privilege of being with him, it was obvious that he lived the message of Star Trek. Mr. Nimoy was indeed Mr. Spock.
Bob Craddock is a planetary scientist and avid Star Trek fan in the Museum’s Center for Earth and Planetary Studies.
The entrance to the Museum's Star Trek
exhibition in 1992. Photo: Mark Avino (SI-92-7742)