Writer’s Block: Live Long and Prosper

Port Isabel-South Padre Press

“I have been … and always shall be … your friend.”

Those were the words Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy, said to Capt. Kirk as he lay dying of radiation poisoning aboard the crippled Starship Enterprise in the movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Nimoy, who arguably played one of the most recognizable science fiction characters ever, died last week from complications of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). He was 83 years old.

In its day, Star Trek, the Original Series, was groundbreaking television. In the time of the Cold War and Civil Rights Movement, creator Gene Roddenberry crafted a show that wasn’t afraid to present characters who were recognizably American and Russian — characters who were colleagues and friends, versus enemies. He wasn’t afraid to cast a black woman in a position of authority as one of the ship’s officers, and even — briefly — a love interest to Capt. James T. Kirk, a white man. Their on-screen kiss was the first interracial kiss ever shown on television.

And in the midst of a cast of characters whose very existence was a social commentary on the political climate of the day, there was Spock: a half human, half Vulcan. Spock, with his pointed ears and signature raised eyebrow, stood as an archetype for a theme often explored in sci-fi. He was ruled by the stringent rules of Vulcan logic, which eschewed emotion, but also seemingly plagued by those very emotions inherent in his human heritage.

Mingled in among his role as the ship’s science officer, Spock spent the series in a constant search for self. The Enterprise may have been on a quest to explore “brave new worlds,” but Spock was on a personal quest to find his humanity. And often times that journey provided poignant moments we, the audience, could relate to intimately. It’s one of the biggest reasons I love the Star Trek franchises and sci-fi in general: that philosophical exploration of not only us as human beings, but as the best versions of ourselves.

At first, Nimoy tried to make clear the distance between himself and the character he played for so long, even going as far as publishing an autobiography titled “I am not Spock” in 1975. Eventually, though, Nimoy published another memoir that acknowledged the inextricable link between himself and the Vulcan. He came to embrace the character we fans had long ago made our own.

Mr. Nimoy’s death brings a great sense of loss to people like me who have grown up embracing the more hopeful stories of science fiction. The journey both he and his character undertook to grow and become better is a lesson I myself take to heart.

One of the many things Spock was known for was the traditional Vulcan greeting “live long and prosper.” This may be a bit selfish of me, but though Nimoy most definitely prospered, he didn’t live quite long enough. I’ll end with the eulogy Kirk delivered at Spock’s funeral in The Wrath of Khan:

“We are assembled here today to pay final respects to our honored dead. And yet it should be noted, in the midst of our sorrow, this death takes place in the shadow of new life, the sunrise of a new world; a world that our beloved comrade gave his life to protect and nourish. He did not feel this sacrifice a vain or empty one, and we will not debate his profound wisdom at these proceedings. Of my friend, I can only say this: Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most… human.”

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