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Leonard Nimoy's Alter Ego Is an Enduring Cultural Icon

Larry Wines: Power to the warp engines. Take 'er out, Mr. Spock. Third star to the left, and keep on 'til morning.

Upon the death of Mr. Spock, the Star Trek character, Capt. Kirk said, "Of all the souls I have known, his was the most -- human."

Leonard Nimoy

Those were lines in a film script, years ago.

Now the man who created the character of Mr. Spock has embarked to "that undiscovered country, from whose borne no traveler returns," as Shakespeare so timelessly expressed.

In the black & white photo from 1976, "Mr. Spock" and the Star Trek crew attend the dedication of the real Enterprise. Alas, the global campaign to bestow the name "Enterprise" on the first space shuttle resulted in it, alone, never going into space - because the first one was the atmospheric drop-test/gliding lander test vehicle.

Nimoy was active on Twitter, even as he was succumbing to COPD lung disease. His final Twitter post, this past Sunday, was reflective:

"A life is like a garden," he wrote. "Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP"

That ""LLAP"-? He used it regularly. "Live long and prosper." The motto of his most logical alter ego, Mr. Spock, from the planet Vulcan.

One wonders at the ironies of Star Trek:

  • It has caused more generations to dream of space exploration than the short-lived Apollo program that took 12 people to walk on the Moon, and an additional 15 to orbit it.
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  • Our real "spaceship" Enterprise was not a spaceship because of Star Trek.
  • Like the spaceship Enterprise, not a single one of the world's favorite spacemen, the Star Trek crews, have ever been to space.

You've got to wonder. Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Gene Roddenberry, James Doohan, DeForrest Kelly, and now Leonard Nimoy. As each of them lay dying, what were their thoughts about how our society has abandoned the space program, and with it, for the first time since the Renaissance, turned our backs on exploring new frontiers?

You've got to wonder if there was any satisfaction that Star-Trek-like tricorders and communicators came true - given that we are rooted to sedentary existences where our exploring is limited to what's on between commercials. And given that we use our wonder devices to play silly games that zap aliens instead of going where no one has gone before to look for real aliens.

It has been the province of a handful of actors, much more than any real astronauts, to keep the dream alive.

If, someday, our narcissistic, pugilistic society overcomes its disgraceful obsession with those among us who make a living marketing themselves as objects of salacious and titillating interest for the pathetically bored and boring masses; if, someday, we rediscover the human need to reach into the unknown simply because it IS the unknown; if - and it will be generations from now, because we dropped the ball - someday we rekindle the fire and reach for the stars; it will be because the creative community has given us compelling characters who have reminded us who we are supposed to be when we are reaching for the best within us.

Leonard Nimoy, actor, has died. Mr. Spock, whom he created for us, still beckons us to find the infinite.

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Power to the warp engines. Take 'er out, Mr. Spock. Third star to the left, and keep on 'til morning.

Larry Wines