Life is not a dream. It’s really not. I know this because right now I’m drinking an awesome beer surrounded by my dogs. This is real. So are we. And so are the ideas that keep us going.
Leonard Nimoy knew this. Better than most I suspect. It bled through his art. And if Nimoy was anything, an artist in the old sense he was. He wrote books and poetry, he took photographs, he mastered the craft of the motion picture.
It is this reason, not just because people love Spock, that made him a household name. He had the power to tell us who we are. He made it seem like he wasn’t one of us, when he was actually among the best of us.
More than anybody else, Nimoy made Star Trek. Everybody thinks it was Priceline Senόr Bancό de Rόbber Bill Shatner. It wasn’t. In the beginning, nobody working on the show really liked Shatner or Gene Roddenberry. Although folks don’t talk about it openly, except perhaps George Takei, you get the idea that things tended to almost fall apart because Shatner and Roddenberry were arrogant jerks.
Later, Nimoy and Shatner would actually build respect and ultimately a deep friendship. When you read about how Nimoy tried to help Shatner with the troubles and ultimate tragic death of his wife, it brings tears to your eyes. It’s rather strange but poetic, that two men who were friends only on screen for so many decades would actually find friendship later in life when they needed each other the most.
Don’t get me wrong, Bill cleaned up his act and I really like the guy. A lot of people still call him a bad actor. Mostly those who have never watched all of Star Trek or one episode of The Practice. But it’s clear to me, that without Nimoy, Star Trek would have been an unknown bad hack science fiction nothing.
I have the idea that Nimoy kept everybody together. Everybody else on set showed up because Nimoy was there. And the idea that was Star Trek, it was his as much as Roddenberry’s. Nimoy’s view of what Star Trek was is best exemplified by his goal with The Voyage Home where he said:
“…no dying, no fighting, no shooting, no photon torpedoes, no phaser blasts, no stereotypical bad guy. I wanted people to really have a great time watching this film and if somewhere in the mix we lobbed a couple of big ideas at them, well, then that would be even better.”
This was Star Trek. A fun show the whole family could watch, but also riddled with big ideas that could melt the brain of any serious adult. When I was a young idiot, I couldn’t stand The Voyage Home. I’d be like, “what’s with these stupid whales, man, when is somebody going to get cut in half.” But when I rewatched it last year, I couldn’t believe what a joy it was. It’s a masterpiece. I breathed in the happiness.
In a modern storytelling age where the fog of doom is pervasive, it’s comforting to go back and watch a view of the future not owned by failure and bleached skeletons. Nimoy’s future of a still flawed but noble humanity with a bright existence remains inspiring, and a future worth fighting for.
So here’s to Nimoy and the hopes that he’s embarked aloft alongside DeForest Kelley and James Doohan and they’re off to Valhalla at whatever warp factor they prefer. Kelley’s chuckling, Doohan’s got a glass of scotch, and Nimoy comments offhand as they blast into the stars, “Life is but a dream.”
farewell shipmate, fair winds