When I was a little girl I discovered something wonderful. To others it may have seemed inconsequential, perhaps even trivial. A television show about space travel. I don’t recall the exact moment when Science Fiction became my go-to genre of choice for books, movies and TV shows, but I do remember my remarkable fascination with this old rerun that I watched after school called Star Trek.
Here was a world in which all the people were of different backgrounds and heritages working together to explore the universe. The charismatic Captain Kirk, the old school southern gentleman Doctor McCoy, the charming Sulu, the effervescent Uhura. (There was even Ensign Chekov! A Russian! That Roddenberry had such an egalitarian vision for the future in the midst of the Cold War blew my little mind!) This vision of the future inspired hope, setting an example that people with such vast differences could come together with a common goal for the good of all mankind (to borrow from the language used at the time).
What fascinated me the most was the character of Mr. Spock. To my memory, he was the only alien character represented as a main cast member. With his pointy ears and monotone voice he stood out from the rest of the cast, and his use of logic created a dynamic foil to Kirk’s brashness. As the show progressed the friendship that developed between these two men kept my attention. Kirk followed his instinct, but often sought out the advice of his First Officer. Spock often received mocking from the others, more specifically McCoy who often chided him for his differences, his green blood and odd placement of internal organs. Spock hid his emotions, relying heavily on his Vulcan coolness. Longstanding viewers of the show, know that Spock ran deep. A conversation with his human mother revealed that even as a child he received taunts to his dual nature for which he suffered. Having just moved from Switzerland to the U.S. I felt this way myself sometimes. An American born, but a resident for the first time. Outcast. Other. Different. Trying so hard to fit in, but not quite getting it right.
I never told many people. When I was young, super young, before I had the chance to understand all the nuances of this particular thought path, I had heard about the Make a Wish Foundation, an entity that grants the wish of children with potentially terminal illnesses, I had decided that should it ever happen my wish would be to meet and spend the day with the original cast of Star Trek. That wish has long since faded (for which I am ultimately grateful as that means I have never had a potentially terminal illness). But the years go by, and one by one the original cast flies away to the true Final Frontier.
Leonard Nimoy portrayed Spock with such nuanced grace. Fighting against and eventually accepting the human side of his heritage, what Spock perceived as his weakness. He personified what each of us has felt at some time in our lives. That is burying some part of ourselves in order to be who we think we must be. Never has a character been so richly portrayed to mean so much to so many. Thank you for all that you have done.