As 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, it seems appropriate for there to be a documentary on Leonard Nimoy since he played the very first character of the innovative, and thought provoking franchise that we know and love today. Spock was there even before Captain James T. Kirk helmed the U.S.S. Enterprise. He first appeared in Gene Roddenberry’s original Star Trek pilot, “The Cage,” which starred Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike. The original pilot was rejected by NBC, but Gene Roddenberry was given another chance, and he created a second pilot. The new pilot included no one from the original except for Leonard Nimoy’s Spock.
Adam Nimoy, Leonard Nimoy’s son, came up with the idea for the documentary as a way to celebrate Star Trek’s 50th anniversary. It was originally supposed to be focused on Spock; who he is, how he came to be, and why people have continued to love the iconic Vulcan character for the past 50 years. When he suggested the idea to his father, Leonard Nimoy was all in from the very first moment. But then Leonard Nimoy passed away on February 27, 2015, and it became clear to Adam that the documentary should also include the life of his father as well as the character he played. This led Adam to boldy dive into the depths of his relationship with his father.
The documentary, For the Love of Spock, is a must-see for anyone that considers themself a fan of Star Trek. It explores the inception of Star Trek, and Spock’s fundamental role in its birth. Star Trek carried the message of a better future; a future in which humanity was no longer afflicted by poverty and war, a future in which people of all different races and cultures lived and worked together. Being half-human and half-Vulcan, Spock is the embodiment of such a future; a half alien man living in a human world and being totally accepted into it.
It begins talking about Leonard Nimoy’s introduction into the world of acting. I found this to be very inspiring, and it deepened my appreciation for him. Nimoy was a very driven man, with a lot of passion and determination toward achieving his dreams. He started acting at the young age of 8 in neighborhood settlement houses in Boston, and quickly developed a passion for the art form. At the age of 17, he told his parents that he wanted to study drama at the Pasadena Playhouse and become an actor. Being the practical people that they were, and influenced by the era of the Great Depression, they quickly disapproved, and tried to dissuade him by denying him any help with tuition. But Nimoy’s dreams could not be thwarted. He saved up money by selling vacuum cleaners, and bought a train ticket to California. In the 60’s, he worked all kinds of jobs (anything from servicing fish tanks, working in pet stores, driving cabs, managing an apartment building) all while trying to break into Hollywood as an actor.
It wasn’t until he got a role in a TV series called The Lieutenant, which was created by Gene Roddenberry, that he got his big break. Roddenberry saw the footage of Nimoy’s acting, and thought he would make a great alien. Nimoy received a call from his manager stating that Roddenberry really liked his acting, and had a role for him in a pilot for a new science fiction TV series.
For the Love of Spock covers topics that every Trekkie should know such as why Spock was made to be a logical and emotionally restrained character, how Leonard Nimoy created the Vulcan nerve grip, the origin story behind the Vulcan salute, Nimoy’s creative process for playing Spock, and the on-screen chemistry between Nimoy and his co-star, William Shatner. The documentary also reflects upon one of the biggest questions about the half-human, half Vulcan: “Why has Spock been one of the most beloved characters of Star Trek after all these years?” J.J. Abrams gives an answer that nails it on the head about why Spock is so relatable to so many people after all these years.
Not only was For the Love of Spock an educational journey into the inner workings of Spock and Leonard Nimoy, it also seemed to provide Adam Nimoy a way to celebrate the life of his father, and perhaps work out any lingering, residual grievances in their relationship. Adam Nimoy and his sister Julie recall that their father was away a lot during their most formative years. If he wasn’t working 10-12 hour days on the set of Star Trek, or practicing to remember his lines for the next day, he was traveling for other paid gigs. Nimoy knew that someday Star Trek would get canceled. He wanted to make sure his family was provided for, so he took any gig that was offered to him. The trade off for this decision was less quality time with his two children, which resulted in them harboring feelings of resentment towards him. The documentary goes in depth about the hardships between Nimoy and more specifically Adam, the transformations made by both men, and the process that led them to reconciling, and completely mending their relationship.
For the Love of Spock features appearances made by William Shatner, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Zachary Quinto, J.J. Abrams, Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Jim Parsons, Mayim Bialik, Bill Prady, and others.