By Leonard Nimoy
Buaccaneer Books, Inc. 1975
Actor. Photographer. Political activist. Poet. King Arthur. Extra-terrestrial.
What are the chances these words can all be connected to one person? In the case of Leonard Nimoy, the chances are high because he is all of the above. And much more.
Skimming the Biography section of the local library the other day, a slim black volume caught my eye. Maybe it was because I was sitting on the floor, trying to escape the notice of a marauding band of sticky-faced toddlers, and the book’s spine just happened to be at eye level. Maybe it was because my youngest son, age 11, had just checked out the third season of Star Trek on DVD.
Whatever the reason, I picked up I am not SPOCK, checked it out and read Leonard Nimoy’s brief, engaging memoirs in a couple days. It’s an enjoyable, occasionally quirky read, providing a glimpse into a complicated and gifted artist who’s much more than a pointy-eared Vulcan pronouncing “fascinating” with raised eyebrow.
While Nimoy chronicles some of his creative differences with scripts, producers and directors of the ST series, “never was heard a disparaging word” about any other ST cast member. He tells us about some of his favorite scenes and episodes from the series as well as some of his disappointments in character development and effective dramatic interactions. Without acrimony, he describes a perceived dip in quality during the show’s third and final season and what it felt like to be hurried off the Paramount lot within days of ST’s production shutdown.
Nimoy also discusses his post-Star Trek work on Mission: Impossible (remember that?), big screen ventures, Shakespearean theater, and subsequent roles as King Arthur in Camelot, the king in The King and I, McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and his special delight in playing Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. (As a native San Diegan, I took special notice of his descriptions regarding his work with San Diego’s renowned Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park)
We meet some of the ST cast and crew in I am not, but we don’t stay aboard the Enterprise long and are soon introduced to Yul Brynner, Richard Crenna, Martin Landau, Isaac Asimov and others. Nimoy avoids narrating such interactions in a pompous “me, too” manner and sticks to matter-of-fact narrative, often rimmed with dry humor and pithy observations. He also includes a humorous exchange between himself and pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock at an ACLU conference.
As an actor, Nimoy demonstrates his devotion to quality as he is always on the lookout for new roles and challenges. As a person, Nimoy provides glimpses into his family and home, travels, personal appearances, Jewish roots, interactions with “fans,” political interests and activities, and a creative, complex personality that truly has gone where no Spock has gone before. As example is Nimoy’s inclusions of imaginary dialogue between Nimoy and Mr. Spock, such as:
NIMOY: Spock, … how does it feel to be popular?
SPOCK: I do not have feelings.
NIMOY: I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you.
SPOCK. I am not offended. I understand your tendency to judge me by your human standards. It would however, facilitate matters if you would refrain from doing so.
NIMOY: I’ll try… Are you aware that you are popular?
SPOCK: I am aware of a certain public interest that exists.
NIMOY: People like you. Do you care about that?
SPOCK: Should I?
And so on.
More than thirty years have elapsed since I am Not SPOCK was published. By the final chapter, Live Long and Prosper-L’Chaim, we’d like to pour a second cup of coffee for another “kitchen table” chat with an old friend.