Last Friday, I got a text from my son: “I’m sorry to hear about Leonard Nimoy, Mom. I know he was a big part of your life.” And that is how I learned that Mr. Spock had died.
I spent many of my childhood summers visiting relatives in Illinois. The best times were spent at my grandparents with my girl cousins, one who lived in southern Illinois and two in the Normal-Bloomington area. When I was about 9 or 10, I got to visit my northern Illinois cousins all by myself, spending a week or two at their house instead of at my grandparent’s where all the rabble of kids (including the pesky boys) usually congregated. My slightly older cousins Karen and Sue seemed wildly sophisticated to me; they could do all kinds of things I couldn’t (cook their own food, take the bus, stay by themselves) and they introduced me to a TV show that changed my life: Star Trek. I remember the particular episode vividly–“And the Children Shall Lead.” (Yes, I know them all by title and can identify within the first seconds of opening credits.)
Star Trek was the first show my brothers and I watched on the family’s new color TV back in Austin. While I thought Captain Kirk was dashing, it was Mr. Spock who won my heart. He was so otherworldly; I loved his measured voice, the logic he applied, his dry humor, how he struggled to master his personal emotional universe. I worked to insert a little of his cold logic into my own thought processes and conversations (though cold logic isn’t always well received from the mouths of pigtailed little girls).
Loving Mr. Spock led me to love science fiction as a genre. As a young teen, I spent my weekly allowance at the strip mall book store in the sci-fi/fantasy section, devouring Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Ursula K. Le Guin, Harlan Ellison–meeting many of these authors through anthologies of award-winning stories. Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time with Mark Watney, Andy Weir’s unforgettable hero, and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Katniss Everdeen and Tris Prior when my daughter recommended them.
I was on a date in high school when I first saw Sigourney Weaver in Alien and experienced Dolby Surround Sound to its powerful effect (and everyone could hear me scream). Star Wars, The Matrix, Planet of the Apes (both the originals and the remakes) are some of my all-time favorite films. Do people realize that the hit TV show Walking Dead is actually science fiction to some degree? Yes, I’m a fan of the new Star Trek films (though the second was nowhere near as good as the first, which had so many deft homages to the past woven into the plot).
But few of these books and movies affected me quite the way Star Trek and the Enterprise’s first mate ever did. I never watched the “new” version (though I think that my idea of the “new” Star Trek is really just not the oldest “old” incarnation). As an adult, I’ve come to appreciate Mr. Nimoy’s many other talents (writer, photographer, but, alas, not singer) but nothing comes close to the friend he created for me in Spock. For this, I am forever indebted.
Live long and prosper.