Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek’s Renaissance Man, Dead at 83

Star Trek's Renaissance Man Leonard Nimoy, dead at 83

Credit: Getty Images
  • Leonard Nimoy died of COPD complications.
  • Nimoy’s indelible mark on Star Trek.
  • And Hollywood responds.

Leonard Nimoy passed away on February 27, 2015, at the age of 83 as the world mourns the loss of a beloved entertainer.

“He was an extraordinary man, husband, grandfather, brother, actor, author-the list goes on- and friend.”

On February 27, 2015, Leonard Nimoy passed away. Dani, Nimoy’s grandchild, wrote on his official twitter account that Nimoy passed away from “end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease” at 8:40 AM in Los Angeles.

Born on March 26, 1931 to Ukrainian Jewish immigrant parents, the Boston, Massachusetts native didn’t begin his film career until the age of 20. The next 15 years would be spent flitting from role to role, but never striking that instant game changer. Until sci-fi knocked on his door and transformed everything.

Playing Spock in 1966’s Star Trek effected a profound trajectory on future career moves. Not only would the cult hit status of the series break barriers between fans and actors, but would typecast future roles, too. Voice acting as Mr. Spock and Spock II in Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973-1974) didn’t really erase the association.

But what happens in that time between the original series is over and new industry support pushes for more Trek in mid-1980s?

“I went through a definite identity crisis.”

In 1975, the actor released an autobiography titled I Am Not Spock, where he conversed and discussed life as himself and Spock. Spock made Nimoy’s name legendary in the world of sci-fi, but he was not the half-Vulcan, half-human in real life and wanted to distinguish the two sides.

Nimoy believed that “the question was whether to embrace Mr. Spock” during the original run “or to fight the onslaught of public interest.” For a man looking to diversify and expand his repertoire, he had to realize “that I really had no choice in the matter” because “Spock and Star Trek were very much alive and there wasn’t anything that I could do to change that.” However, in the next twenty years of mental rebuilding and re-evaluation of what the two identities really represented, Nimoy learned to fully embrace the necessity of Spock in 1995’s I Am Spock.

One of the most identifiable symbols of Trek is Spock’s “Live Long and Prosper.” But not everyone knows that the Vulcan hand gesture comes from his childhood memories of the kohanism (Jewish priests) during the rituals of the High Holidays—Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).

One meaning and explanation given at a speech was that “using the symbol of the Almighty’s name” managed to “bless the congregation.” It was a show of faith, trust, and dedication to a higher power. And the history of Jewish diaspora planted roots in Star Trek via a man willing to break a few rules and offer something precious and part of his heritage.

And Leonard Simon Nimoy was made to break the rules.

In the fifty years since Star Trek premiered, Nimoy’s fans united and embraced other television characters like Fringe’s William Bell and Mission Impossible’s Paris. However, no one forgot Spock. And even Nimoy himself got in on the fun, lampooning himself on The Simpsons and appearing at conventions with William Shatner (Captain James T. Kirk) and George Takei (Hikaru Sulu).

Shatner wrote on his Facebook a simple but powerful message after the announcement of Nimoy’s death: “I loved him like a brother. We will all miss his humor, his talent, and his capacity to love.”

Takei posted on Facebook throughout the day, but spoke openly of a friendship that lasted over fifty years. “Today, the world lost a great man, and I lost a great friend. We return you now to the stars, Leonard. You taught us to “Live Long And Prosper,” and you indeed did, friend. I shall miss you in so many, many ways

When J.J. Abrams rebooted the Star Trek movie series in 2009, Nimoy decided to retire the original Spock, letting Zachary Quinto (Heroes) create his own version of the modern Spock for new generations. Upon hearing today’s news, Quinto posted on Instagram, “my heart is broken. i love you profoundly my dear friend. and i will miss you everyday. /4/flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

Nimoy also did voice work for the Kingdom Hearts video game series, playing Master Xehanort. In The Transformers’ 1986 animated movie, Nimoy originally voiced Galvatron before Frank Welker took over for the television series, before later voicing Sentinel Prime in Michael Bay’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

While Leonard Nimoy is best known as Spock from the original Star Trek series, being in front of the screen is only part of his legacy. Of course, directing films Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) would only further bond Trek-creator Gene Roddenberry and Nimoy’s names and careers together.

Nimoy also directed the highly successful 1987 comedy Three Men and a Baby, which starred Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg, Ted Danson, and Nancy Travis. Grossing over $167 million domestically, the movie was based on a French 1985 film titled Trois hommes et un couffin (Three Men and a Cradle). As each one of the men try and determine why a child was left on their doorstep, the three somehow become a family of sorts and give up bachelorhood for the sake of Mary. The still-popular family movie marked a strong departure from the unemotional and rational direction of Spock while emphasizing another view in the rich mosaic of the real Leonard Nimoy.

Photography was another life-long passion, with his work presented at both the R. Michelson Galleries in Northhampton, Mass. and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. Writing poetry seemed to soothe his muse, as well. On February 22, he shared “You and I have Learned” on Twitter. Nimoy’s thoughtful inspiration stemmed from the world around him.

The outpouring of support and personal experiences by Star Trek actors, fans, and colleagues bears witness to the sincere goodness and greatness of a man worth celebrating. The world lost a scholar, an entertainer, a beloved family man, and a hero.

Live long and prosper, Mr. Nimoy, and /4/the seeds you planted grow into boundless creativity for generations to come.


Sources: Twitter, Greater Talent Network, William Shatner, George Takei, Zachary Quinto


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