For the Love of Spock (and Leonard Nimoy)

B+ Documentary

Directed by Adam Nimoy

When Leonard Nimoy died earlier this year, he was working with his son Adam on a documentary about the character that made the elder Nimoy famous–Star Trek‘s Mr. Spock. After his father’s death, Adam changed his mind and made the film about both Spock and the actor who played him. He also used it to explore the sometimes troubled, sometimes loving relationship he had with his father.

When Star Trek premiered in 1966, NBC didn’t like Spock, and worried about “the Martian” on their new show. Yes, that seems laughable in retrospect. The pointed-eared alien holding his emotions in check became a sensation, and made the show a hit. Fifty years later (almost to the day), he’s still an iconic figure in our culture.

Spock represents much of what’s best in a human being–even if he isn’t one. A scientist, he’s rational and logical. He puts what’s best for everyone above what’s best for himself. He’s not quite a pacifist, but he abhors violence.

He’s also a deeply lonely individual. Half human and half Vulcan, Spock doesn’t quite fit in either culture. Like a good Vulcan, he tries to master his emotions, but the human side of him makes that difficult.

Adam Nimoy paints his father as a hard worker and a practical man. Born to Orthodox Jewish parents early in the great depression, he learned to do things for himself. He was the sort of father who could repair your bike or build a brick fence around the house.

He also believed in the importance of finding your passion and pursuing it. His parents didn’t approve of his decision to study acting, and refused to pay his way through college unless he picked a more practical major. So he left home and worked his way through acting school. And he struggled for years in menial jobs between bit parts to support his family until Star Trek changed his life.

The documentary doesn’t entirely paint Leonard as the perfect father. He was often away, and had a drinking problem. Father and son became estranged for several years. Eventually they reconciled.

Adam managed to get a fair amount of interview footage of his father before Leonard died. Other interview subjects include the remaining four surviving members of the original cast, stars of the new Star Trek reboot movies (new actors playing the original characters), friends and relatives, and famous people who just love Star Trek (Jason Alexander does a great Shatner impression). We learn about other roles Leonard played in movies, TV, and the live theater, but the film doesn’t even mention Zombies of the Stratosphere, a laughably bad 1952 serial where Nimoy first played an alien (if you’re curious, it’s on Fandor).

Breezy and enjoyable, For the Love of Spock provides a loving view of the man behind the Vulcan, and the character that launched a still-loved franchise. It also tells us quite a bit about Adam Nimoy himself.

Advertisements