I just received a text message from a good friend. He asked if I was okay and I had no clue what he was getting at. Then, he informed me that Leonard Nimoy was dead at the age of 83. I had read the news that he had been rushed to the hospital last week and I knew he was suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This wasn’t entirely unexpected but it doesn’t take away the feeling that I’ve just been kicked in the gut. Part of my childhood is now gone.
Having been born in 1967, I missed Star Trek when it was first broadcast. However, one of my earliest memories dates back to late 1970/early 1971, watching the “Who Mourns for Adonais?” episode on a black and white TV in our small living room. I have vivid memories of watching Star Trek on Saturday afternoons and having to leave for Cub Scouts, hoping my dad would finish the episode and tell me how it ended. Or the time I kept sneaking out of my naptime to watch “The Menagerie” on a Sunday afternoon. My first paperback novel was World Without End by Joe Haldeman, which my mom bought for me when I was home sick. I could go on but you get the picture, I was a Trekkie from day one. And anytime the cast was on another TV show, such as Nimoy’s classic series In Search Of…, I was watching.
I met Leonard Nimoy on three different trips down to Trek Expo in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This was an incredibly well-run event which finally gave me the opportunity to meet my childhood heroes. I’ll admit, the first time initially wasn’t that great. His Q&A session was mostly just talking about Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. There were rumors he didn’t feel well. He didn’t even glance up when he signed an autograph as the line was incredibly long. But that night, he gave a live performance of Spock vs. Q with John DeLancie. He was much more talkative and open. It was amazing. He returned to Trek Expo two more times, once with William Shatner. On both occasions, he was more relaxed and quite talkative, making sure he connected with everyone. A class act from start to finish.
I never got the opportunity to meet DeForest Kelley before he died but I remember that day like it was yesterday. My wife and I were in Las Vegas and we had just visited Star Trek: The Experience the day before. We made a point to return again that day. I was also lucky in that I met James Doohan during one of his last conventions appearances. So, I’ve come to terms that my childhood heroes are getting older. When I heard last year that Nimoy was ill and had retired from acting and conventions, I knew this day was coming. But I had hoped it wouldn’t be for a while.
Nimoy’s death brings our mortality front and center. My father is the same age and his health has been declining for the last several years. My dad and I have a very strong bond when it comes to Star Trek. We went to the first five Star Trek movies together and, after a long gap, we went to the last two. My dad and I visited the last four Trek Expo events together and I can proudly say my dad was the oldest Trekkie there. Now that Nimoy is gone, it serves as a reminder that I am no longer the young man I once was.
I’ve been slowing working my way through the classic Star Trek episodes over the last several years. I’m ready to start season 3 and I think I will do so this afternoon. I fully expect that there will be hundreds of articles and personal recollections about Leonard Nimoy over the next several days and weeks. For now, let me simply say Live Long and Prosper Mr. Nimoy. The world of sci-fi has lost a legend today and the stars will shine a little dimmer tonight.