Monday, 2 March 2015

RIP Leonard Nimoy

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It can hardly have escaped your attention that Leonard Nimoy, he of the pointy ears and raised eyebrows, has passed away at the age of 83. Tributes have been paid by his Star Trek colleagues, others in the acting community and even by President Obama. And now that Spock has been laid to rest, on a planet other than Genesis, I figured I would give my two cents on Nimoy's passing.

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I'll say from the outset that I have a very mixed relationship with all things Star Trek. I admire much of the spirit under which the original series was made, and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is a very fine offering. But even as an ardent sci-fi fan, there's something about Star Trek which has always seemed horribly po-faced and naff, and like Doctor Who its limitations are nearly always as prominent as its successes. My earliest memories of 'Trek were watching re-runs on BBC2 with my Dad, laughing at the plastic rocks, the monsters made out of pipe cleaners, and William Shatner's total inability to act.
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As such, while I do accord Spock his rightful place in Nimoy's filmography, it's not the performance for which I'll remember him most fondly. At the sillier end of the scale, his work on the Mission: Impossible series is really enjoyable, and has stood the test of time just as well as any of the most lauded 'Trek episodes. At the other extreme, there's his Saturn-nominated role in Philip Kaufman's Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, which still has one of the scariest and bleakest endings in horror cinema. And let's not forget that he was also a decent director, helming two of the better 'Trek films and Three Men and a Baby.
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Some of Nimoy's best work, at least in his later career, came when he completely took the piss out of himself. His two appearances in The Simpsons, 'Marge vs. the Monorail' and 'The Springfield Files', are among the finest celebrity cameos that the show has enjoyed. His later appearances in Futurama and The Big Bang Theory follow the same pattern. And unlike Shatner, who has embraced self-parody as a means to keep himself in the limelight, Nimoy always seemed at ease with himself and his level of fame. That and he's the only person ever to make Bruno Mars' music sound cool.
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If you want to pay tribute to Nimoy and you don't fancy a 'Trek marathon, I would recommend either a marathon of Mission: Impossible, a late-night screening of Invasion of the Body-Snatchers or a Simpsons double bill. If you're still in need of 'Trek, click here for a Letter of Note between the series' creator Gene Roddenberry and sci-fi master Isaac Asimov about Spock overshadowing Kirk. Failing that, listen to this poignant snippet from I Am Spock, in which Nimoy recalls the filming of Spock's death scene in The Wrath of Khan. RIP.
Daniel

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