When I was very, very young, I would spend many hours before the television, sucking in whatever I could see and marveling at the entertainment provided.
Even today I distinctly recall the first movie I ever saw and realized told a coherent story, It was Steven Spielberg’s 1971 film Duel. I’m not sure if I saw the first broadcast (it was a TV movie) or a rerun, but the film entranced me and, I realized many years afterwards when I found out Spielberg had directed it, further realized that it was an early “draft” of his future megahit Jaws.
I also remember watching and enjoying the hell out of shows like Get Smart, by that time in syndication and, to my eyes, one of the funniest things ever made, along with Batman, The Wild, Wild, West, Twilight Zone, Mannix, etc. etc.
Way above all those shows, in my estimation, was Star Trek. The original series absolutely captivated me, alternately making my younger self laugh out loud and/or shiver with its action and suspense…if not outright horror! The show presented incredibly varied themes and, I would later realize, often very cleverly held a mirror to society as it was at the time.
But the best thing about the show was that it presented what to my young eyes appeared to be a very tight knit family. A group of diverse individuals that nonetheless helped each other and tried, always tried, to make things better. I liked the crew of the Enterprise and it felt they liked each other just as much (contrary to future tell-all’s!).
Central to the show, of course, was the starring trio of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Though they wouldn’t appear together in all episodes, they did appear together in almost all of them. (A bit of trivia: Leonard Nimoy’s Spock would appear in the most number of episodes of the original Star Trek series with 80. This included the first non-Captain Kirk starring pilot. William Shatner would appear in all 79 regular episodes, including the second pilot while DeForest Kelley’s McCoy would appear in 76 episodes, all according to IMDb.com.)
What a team these three made!
In watching the original Star Trek and the performances within, it was the first time I realized how well on-screen charisma could get. As much as I liked other shows, there was this little extra something to be found in the interactions between the Star Trek characters that was at times lacking in other shows. They -the actors as well as the crew behind the scenes- were that damn good.
And while I wouldn’t pick one actor’s work over the other (they worked best together anyway), I was always drawn the most to the character of Leonard Nimoy’s Spock.
There was something so incredibly…fascinating…with Mr. Nimoy’s stoic, unemotional performance, and especially when the stories had him stray from this stoicism and have a little fun with its limits. Which explains why this scene, from the conclusion to Amok Time, is my all time favorite original Star Trek Spock moment (forgive the quality of the images…I didn’t want to provide a link to the whole episode and this featured exactly what I wanted):
In that scene, most obviously, you see Spock smile. But what makes the whole thing work so damn well is that we are in Spock’s shoes. We think, like he does, that he’s killed Captain Kirk, his very best friend. Along with the absolute agony of this act is the realization that it also means his future, both with Starfleet and personally, is effectively over. And just like that it is revealed that Spock did not kill his best friend and Leonard Nimoy’s reaction is just so perfect, moving from shocked surprise to relief to absolute elation. And then, to make the whole thing absolutely perfect, Spock realizes he’s just shown emotion and has to clamp it down and go into his “logical” routine, knowing full well the mask has slipped.
Ah that smile.
And the smiles of the other, who realize the stoic Spock isn’t quite as stoic as he pretends to be.
Despite his alien blood, Spock is every bit as “human” as the rest of them and just as capable of happiness as they are.
I will always admire this scene and that wonderful bit of acting.
So Rest in Peace, Mr. Nimoy. To the child I was back then and the grown man I am now, you did real good.