Leonard Nimoy, who has just passed away, did more than create a character. He became an archetype for an entire race and part of the human character and behaviour (ironically whilst playing a half-alien) that can be summed up in a single word: Spock.
Nimoy didn’t just ‘play’ the part of Captain Kirk’s right hand man, he became the ultimate expression of reason and logic, attributes that were frequently revealed to be as necessary and vital as the impulsive, emotional spontaneity of his commander. And today, when we are encouraged to ‘just do it’ and ‘have it your way’ in popular culture and with faith-based irrationality threatening to tear the world apart, one can’t help but think the deeper, reflective, secular intellectual values Nimoy credibly conveyed in Spock’s character are needed more than ever.
And yet, perhaps the greatest achievement was dramatising the tension of opposites inherent in Spock’s Vulcan and human ancestry. Here was a character who could feel the urge to throw caution to the wind but who had been able to master those instincts through discipline and self-sacrifice. I make no moral judgement as to whether restraint is better than implusiveness but I think the enduring appeal of Spock the Vulcan may be that he offers the most complete portrayal of human potential in the Star Trek canon.
Some actors become trapped in their character but through Spock, Leonard Nimoy transcended typecasting to become part of the fabric of popular culture itself. It was an astonishing piece of acting skill. Another star in heaven tonight, boldly going where no man has been before. Leonard Nimoy may have passed on but may Spock live long and prosper.