The success of Star Trek surprised everyone, not least its stars. Leonard Nimoy, the actor who died on Friday at the age of 83, probably didn’t expect that the half-alien character of Spock would so thoroughly define his image. But almost half a century after he first donned pointy Vulcan ears in 1966, Nimoy and Spock have become virtually synonymous in the public imagination. The distinctiveness which appealed to viewers was his robotic mind which had no place for emotions or the recourse to baby talk when conversing with children.
Robots are the favourites of the viewers any way, vide R2D2 of Star Wars, unless they turn malignant, like Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Spock, on the other hand, combined the deadpan appearance of a robot with human features without becoming a mechanised killer in human form as in the Terminator series. It was possible, therefore, to follow him–it?–without qualms in the journeys into the depths of space “where no man has gone before”. Spock also inspired trust because his lack of sentiments enabled him to decipher the heart of a problem as when he said that “without followers, evil cannot spread” or that “logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end”.
As in the case of Sherlock Holmes, the leaked news that Spock would die in one of the episodes caused shock and outrage among his fans, with one of them taking out advertisements calling upon the producers to abandon the plan. Even death threats were issued against Nimoy’s family because of the belief that the actor himself wanted Spock to die. In fact, he had written a book, I am not Spock. In the end, Spock did die but his death scene was filmed over three days during which no visitors were allowed on the set. It can be anticipated that as the Star Trek episodes revisit out television screens, Spock’s appearances will evoke a feeling of nostalgia and affection which logic cannot explain.