Star Trek’s Mr Spock, Leonard Nimoy, dies at 83

Leonard Nimoy, famed for his portrayal of Mr Spock on the Star Trek science fiction TV series and movies, has died after battling chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was 83.

Nimoy, who had grappled with a love-hate relationship for his logical human-alien screen self, died on Friday morning. His granddaughter confirmed Nimoy’s death in a post to his Twitter account, @TheRealNimoy.

“Leonard Nimoy created a positive role model who inspired untold numbers of viewers to learn more about the universe. Many of those people are ardent space supporters and industry leaders today,” Space Foundation chief executive Elliot Pulham said in a statement.

Last year, Nimoy disclosed on Twitter that he had been diagnosed with the progressive lung disease.

“I quit smoking 30 years ago. Not soon enough,” he tweeted to his 810 000 followers. “Grandpa says, quit now!!”


Nimoy had other roles during a long career in TV, film and theater, and directed successful movies, wrote books, composed poetry, published photographs and recorded music. But he will be forever linked to the half-Vulcan, half-human Spock in the original 1960s Star Trek TV series and subsequent movies.

Known for suppressing his emotions and using strict logic to guide his actions, Spock became one of the best-known and most beloved sci-fi characters of the late 20th century.

For years, Nimoy resented that Spock defined him but ultimately came to accept that his life would be intertwined with the alien who inspired a fervent fan following for Star Trek.

His feelings were summed up in the titles of his memoirs – I Am Not Spockin 1975 and I Am Spock two decades later.

“I was involved in something of a crusade to develop a reputation as an actor with some range,” Nimoy wrote in I Am Not Spock.

“I went through a definite identity crisis. The question was whether to embrace Mr Spock or to fight the onslaught of public interest. I realise now that I really had no choice in the matter. Spock and Star Trek were very much alive and there wasn’t anything that I could do to change that.”

Still, he wrote that if given the choice of being any other television character, he would choose Spock.

Nimoy had often confronted Star Trek creators during the original series over their conception of Spock, and his input was responsible for many aspects of the character.

He came up with the Vulcan nerve grip that rendered foes unconscious, as well as the split-fingered Vulcan “live long and prosper” salute, which he said was inspired by a gesture he had seen worshippers make in his synagogue when he was a boy.

Nimoy signed off his tweets with “LLAP”, an abbreviation of Spock’s trademark phrase “live long and prosper”.

Friendship with William Shatner
Star Trek followed the crew of the starship Enterprise as they explored other worlds and encountered aliens. Alongside William Shatner, who played Captain James T Kirk, Spock helped make Star Trek a cultural phenomenon.

Shatner and Nimoy sometimes had a professional rivalry but maintained a long friendship.

“I loved him like a brother. We will all miss his humour, his talent, and his capacity to love,” Shatner said in a statement.

The original series was cancelled in 1969 by NBC after three seasons. But it found success during syndicated reruns in the 1970s and inspired fan conventions with hordes of devotees. It jumped to the big screen by the end of the decade.

Nimoy was not thrilled about taking part in the big-budget first film Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979.

But it was a financial success, leading to many sequels. Nimoy agreed to appear in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in 1982 only after the producers promised him a great death scene and other sweeteners.

Even though Spock “dies” at the movie’s end, Nimoy returned to play the character in the next four Star Trek films, directing the third and fourth ones.

After those efforts, Nimoy branched out and directed the comedy 3 Men and a Baby, the top money-making movie of 1987.

Quirky guest appearances
Spock, whose father was from the planet Vulcan and mother from Earth, served as first officer and science officer under Kirk. Vulcans looked human, except for their pointy ears.

In the successful 2009 Star Trek movie, Zachary Quinto took over the role of Spock but Nimoy appeared briefly as an older version of the character.

Nimoy, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, was born in 1931 in Boston and began acting at age eight. In the 1950s and 1960s, he took a succession of roles on TV and in the movies, including Zombies of the Stratosphere. Later he hosted the TV series In Search Of… (1976-1982) and co-starred in 1978’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers film remake.

His everlasting renown as Spock led to quirky guest appearances on popular TV shows in recent decades, including the cartoons The Simpsons and Futurama (in which he provided the voice for his own disembodied head) and on the The Big Bang Theory, in which he was the voice of an opinionated Spock doll.

Nimoy was married twice and had two children. – (Reuters)

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

JJ Rawlings left an indelible mark on Ghana’s history

The air force pilot and former president used extreme measures, including a coup, enforced ‘discipline’ through executions, ‘disappearances’ and floggings, but reintroduced democracy

Review: The eternal splendour of ‘Lovers Rock’

Steve McQueen’s ‘Lovers Rock’, part of the ‘Small Axe’ anthology, is an ethereal interlude that takes us inside the blues party bubble

Khulekani Mayisa: Poetry in the polemic

Khulekani Mayisa’s new film, Power to the Purple, is an intensely personal collaborative project

Don’t Miss: Our weekly round-up of virtual and in-person events

From art exhibitions to film festivals, we’ve got your entertainment covered this weekend to the next

Obituary: Literary allrounder Stephen Gray was a scholar, critic, novelist and poet

Stephen Gray made an immense, long contribution to the South African literary landscape across many genres, but it was poetry that he described as ‘the main activity of my life’

Don’t Miss: Our weekly round-up of virtual and in-person events

From the virtual Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival to live theatre back on stage at the Baxter in Cape Town, we’ve got you covered
Advertising

Subscribers only

FNB dragged into bribery claims

Allegations of bribery against the bank’s chief executive, Jacques Celliers, thrown up in a separate court case

Dozens of birds and bats perish in extreme heat in...

In a single day, temperatures in northern KwaZulu-Natal climbed to a lethal 45°C, causing a mass die-off of birds and bats

More top stories

Blast rocks Durban’s Engen refinery

Residents are being evacuated as firefighters battle to control the blaze

ConCourt asked to rule that Zuma must testify for 10...

It is Zondo's legal end game and will leave the former president, his supporters and those implicated in state capture to increasingly play fast and loose at imputing political motive to the commission

Carlos on Oozymandias’ goodbye grift

"Look on my works ye Mighty, and gimme 50 bucks!"

This is how the SIU catches crooks

Athandiwe Saba talked to the Special Investigating Unit’s Andy Mothibi about its caseload, including 1 000 Covid contracts
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…