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R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy: Star Trek Actor, Occasional Whale Music Narrator, and All-Time Hero

A man who gave hope to outsiders everywhere, and who recorded the best song about Bilbo Baggins ever set to wax.
February 27, 2015, 8:55pm

Image via Wiki Commons

All my life, I’ve felt like an outsider. As a kid, I didn’t really hang out with people very much. I lived in a town of about 1,200 in the middle of fuck-all, North Carolina. Due to my dad having an irreconcilable beef with our town’s school system, I attended a private elementary school about 45 minutes away from home. I was the poorest kid there, which, along with some natural weirdness and shyness inherent to my personality, led to me being bullied to, like, an uncomfortable degree. We’re talking fake-a-stomach-ache-at-least-once-a-week-to-avoid-the-other-kids levels. Due to my distance from my school, I rarely got to hang out with what few friends I had on the weekends, and because I didn’t go to school with the other kids in my town, I didn’t have many friends at home, either. This led to me spending a lot of time on my own as a child, when led to me watching a lot of Star Trek.

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Star Trek was the perfect show for a kid like me. It was, in essence, a show about being alone. Here was a group of people from different countries, planets, and socioeconomic backgrounds, who were in something of a self-imposed exile, traveling the galaxy in what looked like an upside-down frying pan, exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations, boldly going where no man had gone before. It was fun, imaginative, and completely unreal, offering a utopian retrofitted version of the future that in retrospect was more than a little cheesy. There were tropes to look forward to in every episode: Dr. McCoy examining a prone redshirt and saying, “He’s dead, Jim,” or responding to an unanswerable question with, “I’m a doctor, not a [insert insane thing here]”; the Beatlesque Chekhov being a hit with the ladies; Captain Kirk engaging in the most awkward hand-to-hand combat imaginable, etc.

But my favorite character, by far, was Mr. Spock. Here was a pointy-eared outsider in a sea of outsiders, a creature driven purely by logic, struggling to understand the illogical humans with which he had surrounded himself. He’d left his people, the Vulcans, for another, and struggled to fit in. He was the closest thing the show had to a superhero, armed with an arsenal of powers ranging from mind melds to incapacitating nerve pinches. He was an often ridiculous show’s moral center, as well as its dry wit, raising one eyebrow as a commentary on situations he found highly illogical. He always had the answers, which to a kid with none of them, was highly alluring. Growing up, I would stand in front of a mirror and twist my ears together so they were pointy like his were, and I’d practice my one-eyebrow raise until I finally managed to get it right. I’d deploy the eyebrow-raise at school, and in retrospect, doing stuff like this in front of other kids only exacerbated the bullying. But hey, fuck it, I was eight, and it made me feel good about myself.

Earlier today, Leonard Nimoy died in his Bel Air home. He was 83. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Vulcans live forever, or at least long enough to appear in two prequels, passing the torch on to Zachary Quinto, a more than able successor to his legacy. Nimoy has the unique distinction of having directed both the second-best and second-worst Star Trek movies, The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home [If you were wondering, the correct order of Star Trek movies is as such: II (the one with Khan), IV (the one with the whales), VI (the one with the space Gulag), III (the Spock Jesus one), and V (the one directed by William Shatner where they meet God). The first, disastrous one doesn’t count.].

Because this is a music site, I am obligated to tell you that Nimoy recorded five albums, one literally as Mr. Spock. His discography also includes a compulsively unlistenable (if that is indeed a thing) ode to Bilbo Baggins, “The bravest little hobbit of them all.” He also narrated Whales Alive, an album of whale songs that, if you are a recreational consumer of marijuana, I cannot recommend strongly enough. His two memoirs, hilariously enough, are titled I Am not Spock and I Am Spock, which should tell you all you need to know about his relationship with the character that made him famous.

Today, the world lost a man who had an indelible impact on pop culture, a man who gave hope to those who didn’t fit in that they might find a place in this strange thing we call life. Leonard Nimoy, you will be missed. I wish you luck on your next great adventure.

Drew Millard is Noisey's Features Editor. He's on Twitter.