If you’re a Star Trek fan, Leonard Nimoy’s legacy is obvious. He is Spock. Always will be. It is the character he most defined and which most defined his career. He was so popular as the half-Vulcan science officer that even people who have never seen an episode of the show or any of the movies know his hand signal and catchphrase. He’s so inextricable from the character that even when rebooting the movies for a modern audience, J.J. Abrams and company replaced him in a way that proved that they couldn’t really replace him at all. Chris Pine embodied a new Captain Kirk while Zachary Quinto – as great as he was – remained a kind of secondary Spock. Spock Prime endured.
That Star Trek reboot was the first Star Trek movie I ever saw ( I know, sorry), and I watched it sitting three seats away from Nimoy. At the event – which was supposed to be an Alamo Drafthouse screening of Wrath of Khan that was, of course, a surprise premiere for Abrams’ sleek upgrade – Nimoy was a genial deity. I got Nimoy to sign a poster for my friend Allan, and when I delivered the goods, the only thing that would have made Allan light up brighter is if I’d gotten Jesus Christ’s autograph. It was obvious how much Nimoy was loved, admired and worshiped, not just as a celebrity, but as an inspiration.
Which is part of what makes his legacy, for Trekkers and non-Trekkers alike, really odd. He’s monolithic as a figure, but if we had to choose three things that he’s best known for, it might be Spock, directing Three Men and a Baby and, let’s say The Simpsons. It’s just a truly bizarre resume. Add to that the load of nurturing messages Nimoy left behind (to bi-racial girls, to college graduates), and you have a portrait of an actor who wasn’t exactly a superstar, not a leading man in the traditional sense, but a beautiful human who made a movie where a baby pees on Tom Selleck and used his status as an paralleled cultural icon to spread a message of compassion.
The clip above is from Nimoy’s big screen debut in 1951’s Queen for a Day. It was a forgettable movie comprised of three short segments which acted as part-adaptation of and part-advertisement for the TV game show of the same name. It’s now most famous because of Nimoy.
It’s fitting that his final film appearance is as Spock, but with as idiosyncratic as his career was, it’s probably just as fitting that his first film appearance was holding an ugly lamp at a carnival.
Related Topics: Star Trek