I just learned a few minutes ago that Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played Spock in the original Star Trek TV series and the early movies, has died. I feel so incredibly sad.
Some of my earliest memories are of Star Trek. In fact, I can remember the first chapter books I ever had were Star Trek books my older brother gave me for Christmas one year. I couldn’t have been older than five. Maybe I was four. I’m not sure. I didn’t know what they were, but when I read them things changed for me forever. I was taken away into Gene Roddenberry’s magical, semi-utopian future. (It would have been utopian if not for all the Klingons and Romulans and weird space entities!) Star Trek was the drug that kickstarted my imagination.
I don’t know how old I was when I discovered the TV series. I was definitely still in elementary school. I watched them all, even though they were a forbidden fruit. I grew up in a bit of a violent household, and my father didn’t approve of Star Trek. I don’t know why. He had a hard upbringing himself and was all about working all the time and working hard. He was the hardest working person I’ve ever known, in fact. I was a whiny little brat who just wanted to read books. Some things never change. I would sneak Star Trek onto the TV when he was outside, working in the garden or building something in the shed. Every now and then he’d come in and catch me watching those shows where anything was possible and the machines did all the work for you. We’d clash, and I’d lose.
I’m OK with all that now. My father mellowed out before he died a few years back, and we had a much better relationship. I don’t think we ever became close, but I developed a deeper appreciation of what he had been through in his life and how strong a man he was before a series of strokes reduced him to memories. I have respect for him now, because I’ve learned how hard it can be sometimes to be a man and a parent.
Those Star Trek shows and books were an escape for me, the vehicles that carried me away from a life I didn’t want to be in. They took me away from that home with a violent father, a bed-ridden and absent mother, a sister who died far too early and a brother who found his own ways of escaping. They led to Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and all the other classic works that fuelled my imagination and made me dream of other worlds that were, if not better than mine, at least different. Star Trek was the gateway drug. If not for Star Trek, I might not have read those other books. If I hadn’t read them, I might not have discovered Roger Zelazny and all those other writers that turned me into a writer myself.
Hearing the news of Nimoy’s death triggered a flashback through my life, returning me to that childhood day where I sat in my pyjamas under the Christmas tree, holding those Star Trek books in my hand. It’s the earliest moment I can remember right now. I think it’s the first moment of my life that leaps out at me because it’s the moment where my life truly began, where the person who I am now was born.
Looking back on my life, I see now that Spock was always there. He was there in my childhood, in those books and TV shows. He was there in my teenage years, coming back in the movies when I perhaps needed him most. He helped coax me out of my damaged shell when I joined a theatre group that did improv Star Trek comedies in my early adulthood — that was when I actually learned how to interact with people like a normal human being. He returned again when I was an adult, in the reboot movies, when I began to have children of my own. And now he is gone.
Except he’s not. Leonard Nimoy is gone, yes. But Spock is still there. Spock is there in every moment of life in some form or another. All the Star Trek characters are. Even the redshirts! (I always kind of saw myself as a redshirt, to be honest.) Spock will live on in my imagination. Spock will live on in the imaginations of millions of people around the world. And he will keep living on in the minds of others long after we are all gone to our own graves.
Thank you for reading this. Now I’m going to watch some Star Trek with my son.
Live long and prosper.