February 27, 2015. When I heard the news I was somewhere between classes. He had starred in the original series, two episodes of The Next Generation, six movies and two prequels. But his legacy encompassed something much broader than that. At its core Star Trek was Spock: a constantly questioning mind that was always taking elements of human nature and inspecting them “logically”. But that logic was invested in a biological conscience; even at its most firm and unbiased, it always carried a crucial element of humanity.
Spock was a character that often transcended mortal flaws, yet still fell prey to their impulses. We saw him become emotional at moments, through his struggles of being half-human and half-Vulcan. And this came to represent the show as a whole: an advanced, technological society that still has to cope with its human side. Survival will always demand a code, as long as humans are humans. Even when eased by the advent of better medicine, spaceships, and trans warp drive, there is still a part of us that has to cope with our imperfection. In Star Trek the Vulcans were basically 23rd century stoics, divorcing themselves from emotion, but in Spock we saw the product of two worlds collided. And the friction between them created Star Trek’s greatest character of all time.
Spock was always the voice of reason in any dispute. With a solid pinch in the right place he could K’O pretty much any creature that stepped in his path. But with wise words he served as a second conscience to Captain Kirk. To Spock, Captain Kirk wasn’t just “Captain Kirk”; he was “Jim.” The two, despite their differences, solidified a very touching relationship throughout the Star Trek franchise. This moment is especially evident at the end of “The Wrath of Khan” where a dying Spock says “I have been and always shall be your friend” before the two touch hands through the wall of the radiation chamber.
When Leonard Nimoy died it felt as though we lost Star Trek’s most important character. Everything about Spock was representative of Star Trek: its emotional core, its witty and moralistic commentary, and exploration of all things beyond the “final frontier.” All these things can be summed up in one character with pointed ears and a stoic, but ultimately human temperance. All these things were Spock. So when the actor behind the ears died, it felt as though we lost Star Trek’s most iconic image.
I am always drawn back to the campfire scene in Star Trek V. It’s clearly the worst movie in the franchise, but it features one of the most touching, human moments between the classic trio of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. We saw three explorers and, above all else, three men reflecting on their lives together. McCoy declares it’s a mystery what draws the three of them together, after “all that time in space, getting on each other’s nerves.” Despite all their gripes and quarrels they come and spend the only shore leave (off-duty vacation) they have together. McCoy notes that other people have families, to which Kirk says “other people, Bones, not us.” We came to know the Enterprise as a family and Spock was an integral part of that family. Now that I watch that scene I imagine the classic trio sitting around. And then sadly, I see one by one fading. As of now DeForest Kelley, the actor who played Dr. Leonard McCoy, and Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played Spock are both deceased. I listen to the words and see the characters fading one by one, until Captain Kirk is the only one left sitting by the fire. I once more see the scene at the end of Wrath of Khan where Spock’s burial pod is being launched out slowly while we hear Scotty’s bagpipe and see the Enterprise crew bidding a quiet goodbye to their departed comrade. Only now it feels a little more real. The words of Captain Kirk can almost be used as a present eulogy for Star Trek’s greatest icon and the contribution he made to the franchise. Truly, as Kirk describes, “of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most human.”