“Live Long and Prosper.”
That was a sentiment long known to fans of “Star Trek,” and it also was the final Twitter goodbye from Leonard Nimoy, who died last Friday (Feb. 27) at age 83.
The loss felt like a stab wound to me, because I became a Trekkie the minute I watched the first episodes of “Star Trek” (aka The Old Show) on our clunky black and white TV in the Sixties. I was just a kid then, but the world of “Star Trek” and Nimoy’s signature character—the ultra-logical Spock—grabbed my imagination. Like many young girls, I thought Spock was kind of sexy, in that cool, removed way. Of all the characters on the show, half-human/half-Vulcan Spock was my favorite.
Imagine my joy then, when many years later, my newspaper editors at the Chicago Sun-Times assigned me the coverage for the movie “Star Trek IV: The Voyage home.” In those days we were allowed to accept free trips (or junkets to everyone who disparaged them) to see the film and meet the actors and directors They jetted me off to Los Angeles and I found myself interviewing Nimoy in the flesh.
At that time, I had interviewed scores of celebrities and really didn’t feel that “oh, gosh, I’m in the presence of greatness” sensation that many others did. Celebrities were just people to me, and interviewing them was my job. Nice, but a job.
I didn’t have that cool-cat attitude when I went to interview Nimoy. I was hyped. I was a fan. I was going to meet Spock! I thought I might stumble over my words and mess things up badly. I made sure to tape record the encounter, in case I blanked out and couldn’t read my notes later. My anxiety was unfounded because I met a gracious man with a sparkle in his eye who calmed me immediately. We talked about the movie he directed (his first) and then suddenly went down the garden path of time-travel theory.
It turned out that Nimoy was intrigued with the concept of time travel and had read many science fiction novels that used time travel as the driver of the plot. We discussed whether you could meet your own younger self if you went back in time, and the concept of changing one tiny bit of the past and altering the future (your present day) forever. He also posed some problems about time travel that I had never thought about. I could have stayed in that interview room forever because the conversation was that wonderful. Eventually, time was up and I had to leave.
Before I went, I quickly handed him a press photo of the cast and asked him to sign it for my son. Ha! I really wanted him to sign the photo for me. He guessed that and signed it “To Lynn, Live Long and Prosper, Leonard Nimoy.” You can imagine my delight! Did I become unprofessional for a second? Maybe, but I’ll bet every journalist has done something like this at one point or the other. It wasn’t a sin.
When I was fully established as the Sun-Times’ go-to reporter for all “Star Trek” stories (because no one else wanted to be classified as a Trekkie nerd), I interviewed him again for a television special he directed. I have long forgotten the special or what it was about, but the man was the same.
During the interview, I ran down a long list of accomplishments that he had racked up since the days of The Old Show: director, photographer, actor, writer. He looked at me quizzically and said, “Flattery?” I just replied, “No. Fact.” And I could swear he lifted one eyebrow in that classic Spock manner.
That was in the 1990s and it was the last time I saw Nimoy in person, but I enjoyed his work in all the “Star Trek” movies, even that horrible “Star Trek V,” directed by blowhard William Shatner.
I’m not a science fiction novelist, but I do write fantasy. The character of Spock infuses some of my own characters in small ways. Nimoy created a fictional touchstone with Spock that no one who does speculative fiction will ever forget.
So, now Nimoy is on his voyage to Eternity and to that I can only say, “Godspeed.” Nimoy did well in his work and his life, and left something bigger than the galaxy for all of us to attain to.
Lynn Voedisch is the author of The God’s Wife and Dateline:Atlantis.