Leonard Nimoy, ‘Star Trek’ and beyond: A video retrospective

Feb. 27, 2015 | 11:37 a.m.

Leonard Nimoy, known more familiarly to fans around the world as half-Vulcan logician Mr. Spock, died at home in Bel-Air at age 83 on Friday.

While former cast mates and famous fans shared their memories of the actor, director, writer and artist through social media, many just wanted one more minute with Nimoy through his most famous work on screen.

Full coverage: Leonard Nimoy

Actor Leonard Nimoy delivers his famous Vulcan greeting at his home in Bel Air in 2002. (Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times)

Actor Leonard Nimoy delivers his famous Vulcan greeting at his home in Bel-Air in 2002. (Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times)

Here are a few of Nimoy’s career highlights, both performing and revealing the back story behind those performances.

“Bonanza” episode “The Ape” (1960)

This western series’ run on NBC was long, but Nimoy’s time was short. He appeared in the show’s second season as a gambler looking to avenge the murder of his call girl ladyfriend Sherry at the hands of a man described as looking like “an ape.”

“The Twilight Zone” episode “A Quality of Mercy” (1961)

Much like his future Enterprise shipmate, William Shatner, Nimoy starred in an episode of the much respected anthology series created by Rod Serling. In the episode, written by Serling himself, Nimoy played a U.S. Army soldier ordered by his lieutenant to attack a cave of sick and wounded Japanese soldiers during the final days of World War II. Nimoy appeared in the episode alongside Dean Stockwell, who would go on to star in the science-fiction series “Quantum Leap.”

“The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” (1964)

Shatner and Nimoy’s parallel career paths fully crossed two years before “Star Trek” for the NBC secret agent drama “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” In the episode, Shatner played a former engineer turned pest control business owner trying to convince Russian spies that he knew the secret of a special nerve gas formula, the fictional “Project Strigas,” as part of a con game on the part of U.N.C.L.E. While their first ever scene together featured Shatner drunkenly throwing his arm around Nimoy’s shoulders, their final scene had Nimoy pointing a gun at him.

“Star Trek” (1966)

Of course, it was Nimoy’s role as the logical half-Vulcan space traveler Spock that turned him from a day player into a full-fledged star. But despite the importance and everlasting influence of the role, Nimoy wasn’t always at ease with his “Star Trek” legacy. In 1975, years after the show’s premature cancellation, he wrote a book, “I Am Not Spock,” that wrestled with his identity as an actor. But the big-screen revival of the character helped turn the actor’s opinion around.

In 1982, he hosted this TV special in which he discussed the origins of the role that would reshape his career.

As the highly logical and goodhearted Spock, Nimoy stood out as a great contrast to the passionate and hammy Shatner. But though everyone seems to have a great Shatner impression, it was Nimoy who delivered some great, quotable lines, not the least of which was “Live long and prosper.”

Looking back on the role 34 years later, Nimoy told the Archive of American Television that one of his all-time career highlights was finding out that he’d been nominated for an Emmy for the show’s first season. How did Nimoy, who played the always cool, calm and collected Spock, react to the news? He cried.

“Mission: Impossible” (1969)

Following the cancellation of “Star Trek” in 1969, Nimoy immediately found work in the ensemble cast of the CBS spy series “Mission: Impossible,” replacing Martin Landau. Nimoy played “The Great Paris,” a master of makeup and disguise, as demonstrated in the Season 5 episode “Butterfly,” in which he played a Japanese man, who spends part of the episode in traditional Kabuki garb.

“Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1978)

One year before “Star Trek” made its much-heralded debut on the big screen, Nimoy broke out of the TV guest star ghetto with a prominent role in director Philip Kaufman’s well-received remake of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Playing off the cold, emotionless vibe he grew famous for with Spock, Nimoy portrayed a San Francisco doctor who may or may not be a very different kind of cold, emotionless alien.

“Star Trek: The Motion Picture” (1979)

In 2012, Nimoy talked to Hero Complex about the origins of the big-screen revival of “Star Trek” and how the first film failed to capture the magic of the series. He also revealed the origins of Spock’s famous “live long and prosper” hand gesture. Stay through to the end to see Nimoy’s impression of Shatner’s oddball line reading from the end of “Star Trek II.”

“Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” (1984)

After Spock’s “death” at the end of “Star Trek II,” the actor returned behind the camera for his first feature film directing job, made easier by the fact that Spock wasn’t on screen for most of the film. The film was a success and Nimoy was allowed to direct the next film in the “Star Trek” series, “The Voyage Home,” which had crossover appeal and huge box office.

“Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” (1989)

Though Shatner’s directing debut on the fifth “Star Trek” film was widely derided, it did give audiences the bizarre thrill of seeing Spock deliver the famed Vulcan nerve pinch to a horse, of all things.

“Mind Meld” (2001)

Not everyone in the “Star Trek” cast has fond memories of Shatner — ask Walter Koenig, for instance — but Shatner and Nimoy have always been friendly. They made frequent convention appearances together and in 2001 sat down to record this video which featured the two reminiscing about their lives together in make-believe space.

“The Big Bang Theory” (2012)

Nimoy also performed Spock in a variety of other capacities, including an animated series, computer games and even a cameo on the CBS sitcom “The Big Bang Theory” in which he voiced a small Spock doll on Sheldon’s desk.

College of Fine Arts Convocation Address (2012)

He also embraced his role as a respected elder to a new generation with great relish, as can be seen in this graduation speech he delivered at Boston University, where he received an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

— Patrick Kevin Day

Follow us on Twitter | @LATHeroComplex

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Comments


2 Responses to Leonard Nimoy, ‘Star Trek’ and beyond: A video retrospective

  1. Alix Bartlett-Cook says:

    Grew up watching Leonard Nimoy and admiring his acting. A great Man, a great actor a truly exceptional human and a truly great Vulcan. Rest in peace you will be very sadly missed. I offer my sincere condolences to his friends and family.

  2. Marg Armstrong says:

    I grew up watching Star Trek, love his character – RIP Leonard, you were a great presence on this earth, you've opened our minds, our imagination, and our hope for this world (I know, you didn't do it alone, but you were a large participant – giving Gene's words and direction a meaning) – "Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end". – You will be sadly missed

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