While working on what was to become the feature documentary, “Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life,” I asked the wife of the late Gene Roddenberry if Ayn Rand’s philosophy was a point of inspiration in creating the character of Mr. Spock. She adamantly denied it.* And I’m glad . The total character of Spock–and of Vulcan logic–is not a dramatic depiction of the Objectivist virtue of rationality.
Spock’s disavowal of emotion–and thus a central means of enjoying life–suggests a radically different philosophy. But still, at times, pulsing beneath the ethos of self-sacrifice and the self-effacing concern with the “needs of the many,” I sensed in Spock’s life and his loves, a wonderful integrity to his own life and the value of his own thought, and, as a natural consequence, an enormous benevolence toward others. This is Leonard Nimoy’s enduring contribution as an actor.
This character aspect of Spock projects a spirit that is the opposite of the world depicted on 24/7 news, on entertainment TV, and on the bloody sands of our world. Quite so. Mr. Nimoy’s sense of the earth was truly different. With today’s announcement of his death, this one character legacy alone is worth noting.
I saw Mr. Nimoy twice in person. Each time he lived-up to his projection, if briefly.
The first time I saw him occurred at the 20th Anniversary of the Star Trek television series, which Paramount Studios hosted at their Hollywood lot in the late 1980s.
Intrepid worker of Hollywood parties I, I was assigned to assist with picking-up a cake in the shape of the Starship Enterprise. The large, winged cake was loaded into a white cargo van and driven down Santa Monica Blvd. As I recall, the van’s name was “Astro.”
After delivering the cake at Paramount Studios, more or less intact, I went immediately to men’s wardrobe, where I was outfitted by an assistant costumer, thereafter assuming my role as Enterprise crew member, serving cocktails in the bridge of the Enterprise, which was specially reconstructed on a sound stage for the celebration. Mr. Nimoy was present: a radiant, natural figure.
The second time I saw him occurred during some forgotten Paramount job. We crossed paths in a parking lot somewhere near a painted blue sky. He darted by, a quiet, solitary figure. And I felt a check-mark scratched in my mind. “Of course…”
Was Mr. Nimoy, in fact, in keeping with my sense of him? I do not know. But he projected this sense as an actor. This projection has been captured on screen. It can be revisited at will, should you have the will to do so. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
At their best, Mr. Nimoy’s performances give me an uplifted, pure, and manifestly routine sense of humanity–where “routine humanity” means decency, devotion to the truth, good-will, and love. “Somewhere out there” these virtues and responses still shine. They await their return to earth, which is their natural home. But that requires a human, not Vulcan, logic.
Today, reflecting back to those black and white images embedded in my youthful mind from 1960s TV, I recall a fuzzy, wonderful image of the world and what it could be, if only people would “let it be.” Today, I know this means: opening one’s eyes, taking in this beautiful world for what it is–and then thinking and acting on behalf of this one and only life. Prospering.
Thank you, Mr. Nimoy, for your legacy. Living and prospering are human acts. And your performances are the humane proof.
Jeff Britting, a composer and author, is working on an opera based on Hawthorne’s The Marble Faun and a collection of Hollywood-themed short stories.
(The views expressed here are the author’s. He does not speak for any other person or organization.)
*Editor’s Note: Majel Roddenberry may not have been relaying the absolute truth to our humble correspondent.
The following quote has been attributed to Mr. Roddenberry but the source has yet to beconfirmed (our fact-checker Sulu, is on Rigel 7 at the moment):