Maybe it's wrong, but lately I've thought of the magnificent seven in terms of how much time they have left on this earth. The concern rattles around in my mind from time to time. Bill and Nichelle had minor scares in recent years, but they seem okay now. They both appeared at the Vegas con last month. Walt is fine, as far as I know, and George will live to a hundred.
When I saw her in July, Bibi had said she hadn't fully mourned Leonard's death. I know how she feels. Only several weeks ago, I finally removed his account from my Twitter feed.
I saw Jimmy at a con once, back in the mid-90s. Might have been New York, might have been Boston; I don't recall. I passed his table on my way somewhere else. I was too intimidated to approach him. Really regret that now.
As for De... what can I say? Gone too soon. (And props to Majel and Grace as well. Grace died a few months after Leonard last year. Hers was a hard life.)
I imagine the feeling is analogous to what the rest of the world will feel when Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr finally leave us: people who were part of something greater than themselves, something that changed the world. It makes us wanna hold on to them for as long as we can, because gifts like the ones they gave us don't come along every day.
Let's be honest: it wasn't until the movies that the roles of Nichelle, George, Walt and Jimmy were really played up, but it's pretty obvious they made a difference simply by being on the show, serving a visible function and contributing to the fabric of the story. I'm used to the TNG era, where the shows were true ensembles: one week Riker would be featured in an episode, the next week, Worf, the next, Deanna. TOS wasn't like that, but those four were there, consistently. They were given their moments and they made the most of them. They were remembered after TOS went off the air. And we still honor them today.
In conversation with Eric back in July, I had made the point that others have made about Kirk, Spock and McCoy: they represented ego, superego and id. That probably wasn't Gene Roddenberry's original intent (it was a different cast at the start, don't forget), but many subsequent writers, in various media, have ran with that thumbnail characterization, and it works. TOS, at its best, served as a metaphor for the human condition. Though these characters were paragons, they had their own inner conflicts they struggled with as well.
I don't feel as close to the TOS cast as I do to the TNG or DS9 casts, but that's irrelevant. I enjoy watching the show and I treasure what this talented cast gave us for almost thirty years (more if you count their appearances in fan films, plus the reboot movies). It's a legacy few TV shows can match.
The first TV roles for the TOS cast
William Shatner's Kirk
Alternate Enterprise NCC-1701
Deep Space Nine