Sunday, January 24, 2016

Book Review: I Am Spock by Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy's memoir I Am Spock is humorous, lighthearted, and informative account of his lifelong relationship with the iconic fictional character he created. The son of immigrant Jewish parents, Nimoy began acting as a child. He spent years playing bit parts until his big break came when he won the role of Spock for Gene Roddenberry's NBC series Star Trek (1966-69).  The book's title is a response to to an earlier autobiography he wrote with the sardonic title I Am Not Spock.

Nimoy relates the early years of Star Trek and how he developed the character of Spock for the series. Much to the network and Nimoy's surprise, the character quickly became a cultural phenomenon, even a sex symbol (most of Nimoy's fan mail came from women). He relates many colorful anecdotes from the original shows as well.  Days on the set were long and grueling. He developed a friendship with co-star William Shatner.  After three seasons NBC canceled the series and Nimoy assumed his days playing Spock were finished.

I Am Spock also covers Nimoy's career outside of Star Trek.  He appeared as a regular on the popular ABC series Mission Impossible for a few seasons.  He had a thriving theater career with leading roles in Fiddler on the Roof, even wrote and performed a popular play on the life of Vincent Van Gogh entitled Vincent.  Despite his impressive list of credits Nimoy continued to be associated with the Spock character, sometimes to his chagrin.

As Star Trek grew ever more popular in syndication and fans began organizing conventions, the franchise found new life.  When Star Wars was released in 1977 outer space adventures were back in so Paramount green lit a movie.  The final result, Star Trek: The Motion Picture came out in December 1979.  Although the reviews were mixed, in time Star Trek became a highly popular series of movies. They remain staples of cable television.

Nimoy's accounts of the Star Trek films are a nice complement to Shatner's own Star Trek Movie Memories.  Everyone remembers when Spock died in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Nimoy wrote of the death scene:

I'd spent many years inside this character's skin, and I felt a great deal of respect, admiration- and yes even fondness for him (210).

Nimoy directed the next two films in the series, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, arguably the best entries in the series.  He also appeared in a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode and in the 2009 J.J. Abrams reboot of Star Trek.

Reading I Am Spock, you will discover Nimoy was much more than the iconic character he created, a true artist who worked in theater, film, and photography. 

Nimoy's passing almost a year ago left a gap in a pop cultural landscape Nimoy and his character Spock did so much to create.  He will be missed.  I Am Spock belongs on the book shelves of all Star Trek fans.