For the Love of Spock
A couple of weeks ago, my wife informed me that she had a conversation with Comcast while I was at work. Without consulting me, she drastically altered our cable agreement. Suddenly, we have a fraction of the channels we had before. Now we have the networks and little else.
“Kelly,” I exclaimed, “thank you! This will absolutely make our lives better.”
Giving up cable hasn’t been a sacrifice at all. The truth is: I don’t watch a single scripted show that’s on television right now.
However, I am watching one old TV show these days. Star Trek.
Growing up, I dismissed Star Trek as irredeemably geeky – the television equivalent of Dungeons & Dragons. I was flat-out wrong. When my wife bought the 50th Anniversary DVD box set, I became hooked.
The original Star Trek series isn’t just good for the sake of nostalgia. It isn’t just good by 60s standards. It isn’t just good by sci-fi standards. It is an excellent program by any standard.
Part of what makes Star Trek great is Leonard Nimoy’s unique character Mr. Spock.
“For the Love of Spock” is a documentary about Mr. Spock made by Leonard Nimoy’s son.
It is half about Mr. Spock and half about the late Leonard Nimoy’s life. The film is sentimental and unfocused, but ultimately it is educational and enjoyable for Trekkies. Even brand new Trekkies like me.
A diverse group of interviewees (including Jason Alexander, JJ Abrams, and Neil Degrasse Tyson) share their memories of Star Trek and explain what Mr. Spock meant to them.
For some, he represents nobility. For some, science. Some love Spock because he represents the ultimate outsider – a half-breed alien at war with the two sides of himself.
In old interviews, Nimoy explains that his goal wasn’t to portray Spock as an emotionless drone. He played Spock as a disciplined man who is always working to keep his human emotions in check.
Apparently, Leonard Nimoy was an unusually sensible celebrity. When Star Trek was picked up by NBC in 1966, Nimoy was eager to squeeze every penny out of his fame while it lasted. He recorded several albums of hideously dated-sounding pop music. And he flew to New York on weekends to do talk shows, variety shows, commercials, or anything that earned a paycheck.
It wasn’t a surprise to Nimoy when Star Trek was cancelled after three low-rated seasons. He began earning a meager living as a theater actor, doing plays in San Diego, Milwaukee, or wherever he could get work.
It was a big surprise to Nimoy when Star Trek came roaring back to life. In the early 70s, Star Trek began running in syndication. A new generation of kids and nerds discovered the once-unpopular program. And now they could watch the original 79 episodes over and over.
Star Trek was transformed from a forgotten flop into a beloved part of our pop-culture universe. I don’t know why it was a surprise to Leonard Nimoy; to me it’s obvious.
Star Trek is a first-rate show. It has intriguing, suspenseful, Twilight Zone-esque plots. It has interesting, lovable characters. And it has a sense of humor.
I feel grateful because I am getting to do what Trekkies my age can only dream about: I am watching the entire series from beginning to end for the first time.
The Golden Age of television drama (“Sopranos,” “Mad Men”) is behind us. But that’s okay. Thanks to Netflix and Blu-ray, we can enjoy the great shows of the past. And save money on cable to boot.