Thursday, September 15, 2016

For the Love of Spock

For the Love of Spock
seen @ Symphony Space, New York NY

What does the character Spock mean to me? Well, first, you have to understand how I came to Star Trek. I remember watching Trek marathons on TV as a kid, but the show never stood out in my memory. I'm honestly not sure why. 

Disdain for old stuff? Doubt it. I liked the monster movies they'd show on Thanksgiving and the occasional horror flicks from the 50s and 60s. It's possible comics had a stronger hold on my imagination than TV or even the movies. Whatever the reason, my attitude wouldn't change until my college years.

I recognized all the important aspects of Spock's character: the bi-racial heritage, the bonds with Kirk and McCoy, the rift with his dad - but The Original Series in general didn't grab a hold on me the way The Next Generation, and especially Deep Space Nine, did. So while I like and admire Spock as a character and Leonard Nimoy's portrayal of him, it was always at a bit of a remove. It took me longer to "get" TOS.





Still, I've certainly seen what he has meant to others. If I were William Shatner, I'd have been jealous of Spock's popularity too. There have been outsider characters in American fiction before: Holden Caulfield in literature, Chaplin's Tramp in film, Spider-Man in comics. 

Spock, though, was an outsider who was accepted by his peers. They know he's different, in profound and fundamental ways, and they accept him anyway. He doesn't have to live his life on the fringes. I think that, more than anything, has been the reason for his fame. People look at him and say hey, if he can fit in and still be himself, maybe there's hope for me, too.





Deciphering what makes Spock the phenomenon he is, as well as his relationship with the actor who brought him to life, is the subject of For the Love of Spock, a documentary by Nimoy's son Adam, an experienced filmmaker in his own right, and one uniquely qualified, to say the least, to address the subject. He interviews family members, including his sister Julie (who's making her own doc about their father), friends and co-workers, including the surviving TOS cast members, about what made Spock, and Nimoy, special.

Adam Nimoy provides insight into what growing up the son of a TV superstar was like. I was not aware Leonard's family was as exposed to the media spotlight as they were, so this was a revelation. Adam and Julie acknowledge both the good times and bad - in Adam's case, he talks about the years in which he and Leonard didn't see eye to eye, and how they were able to bridge the gap between them. It's pretty emotional.





When DeForest Kelley and Jimmy Doohan died, I felt their deaths, but in a detached way - again, because TOS never had the impact on me as it did on others. When Leonard died, it was different. Part of it was because of his presence on social media, but part of it was also the fact that I knew the impact Spock had on pop culture, the things he did outside of acting and directing. I had a greater sense of him as a person beyond Star Trek. That's what Adam goes for in Love, and he gets it for sure.

I saw Love at Symphony Space in Manhattan, a multimedia arts venue on the Upper West Side, in an auditorium named for Leonard Nimoy. Apparently he was a financier who helped keep the venue open when it had fallen on hard times. What I saw of it was nice: stadium seating, small but cozy seats, a cafe. I was pleased to see they had a book sale going on outside by the box office. I found a biography of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn that I got for three bucks.

2 comments:

  1. I imagine it must be daunting for an actor to realize that this job is different from others; that this is cement him as something special in the mind of the public. It is something that while created cannot be manufactured.

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  2. And that's probably true of any creative profession, especially one where you cultivate followers. It's probably easy to believe your own hype after awhile. Adam talks about how Leonard drank to cope with the pressures, and that led to other problems, but he managed to find his way out in time.

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