Waking up to the news of the passing of Leonard Nimoy was like being hit in the face with an unexpected left hook. It reverberated throughout my body and is breaking my heart in a thousand different ways. Like losing a dear friend.
I watched Leonard Nimoy put his hands in the cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theater along with the rest of the original cast of Star Trek. And I stood beside him while he waited patiently in his underwear to shoot a bed scene in a sitcom many years ago. That was as close to the man as I ever got. And yet, through his work on Star Trek, he has been with me throughout my life. I have, quite literally, grown up with him.
It’s an odd thing to feel affinity, even love, for a character. Yet Spock reached millions the world over. And Leonard Nimoy off-camera seemed intelligent, thoughtful and (though Spock himself would be loathe to admit it) extraordinarily empathetic with an enduring and contagious sense of humor.
I read somewhere that when we watch a television show regularly, our brains begin to respond to the faces of the main cast in the same way it does with friends we know personally. We’re wired to react a certain way to faces that are familiar, faces that come into our lives on a regular basis, even when it’s only once a week. I’m guessing that starts in infancy with the faces of those who take care of us. In much the same way, we begin to create very real connections with our “TV friends.” They, in their own way, take care of us, ease our pain, comfort us, even befriend us.
To this day, I watch the original Star Trek. I have them all in beautifully restored transfers from the original 35mm negatives now on Blu-ray and they look and sound absolutely magnificent. Tonight, I will be watching at least one of those episodes. These characters will never stop feeling like my oldest and dearest friends or, better yet, family.
So today I mourn the loss of a man who gave me more than he will ever know. And I feel quite confident I am not alone in that sentiment.