When actor Leonard Nimoy died last week, his death resonated a little more powerfully than just that of any celebrity passing.
Mr. Nimoy was so co-mingled with the introspective alien and first officer of the USS Enterprise that he played on Star Trek, his death seemed to mark not just his end but that of the philosophy of the iconic Mr. Spock.
The casual fans, co-stars, and diehard Trekkies tweeting condolences in all languages were joined by President Obama, and even the real NASA noted Mr. Nimoy’s influence:
“RIP Leonard Nimoy. So many of us at NASA were inspired by Star Trek. Boldly go …”
Mr. Spock was a product of the lofty American vision of space travel ignited by President John F. Kennedy.
President Obama noted Mr. Nimoy’s mark on America for the past half century via his cerebral, nerdy alien, but more important, through Mr. Spock’s “inclusive vision of humanity.”
Mr. Spock didn’t just show us how to live in space. He showed us how to get along on Earth.
He was different from everyone else, but insults about his looks, heritage and emotionless expressions rolled right off as he stared ahead, unmoved. There was a beauty in his resolve and self-assuredness.
Mr. Spock didn’t sweat the small stuff. He was single-minded and focused. His wish to all on the show: “Live Long and Prosper,” which Mr. Nimoy adopted as “LLP.”
In tumultuous late 1960s America, struggling with civil rights and racism, immigrants, gay rights, women’s rights, the Vietnam War and the Cold War, Mr. Spock’s pointy ears and sideburns, his raised eyebrow and his half-Vulcan, half-human demeanor made him seem strangely comforting, even heroic.
Like many of us felt, Mr. Spock was the Outsider on the show, one with a tremendous heart and compassion, even though he told us he had no human feelings and found much of our huffing and puffing simply “illogical.”
In real life, Star Trek co-stars say, Mr. Nimoy understood better than others that the heart of the popular sci-fi show, which ran for three seasons and 79 episodes and encountered all manners of living creatures in space and Earth, was this:
Star Trek is about diversity,” he once told co-star George Takei, who played helmsman Mr. Sulu.
Mr. Nimoy, the son of Jewish Ukrainian immigrants who settled in Boston, admitted that playing Mr. Spock had colored his own life and view of the world.
And he came to accept how the character had over taken him. He wrote two memoirs, showing the evolution he experienced because of his alter ego. His 1975 autobiography was called I Am Not Spock. Twenty years later, he had resigned himself to a different reality. His 1995 memoir? I Am Spock.
Mr. Spock might have even evolved. In a 2009 movie version of Star Trek, the old Vulcan seemed to have mellowed. Speaking to a younger version of himself, he gives him advice with a 1960s flavor: “Put aside logic and do what feels right.”
At 83, Mr. Nimoy, an actor, photographer, poet and director, seems to have followed that mantra.
An avid user of Twitter, his last tweet seems oddly fitting: “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.”