Leonard Nimoy Wasn’t Just Spock — He Was My Dad
September 8th, 2016 is Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary. Read Adam Nimoy’s ode to his father, Leonard Nimoy — the original Spock — originally published in the Forward in June, 2015. Leonard Nimoy passed away on February 27th, 2015.
Last year, I approached my father, Leonard Nimoy, about collaborating on a documentary about Mr. Spock, his most famous role.
We were both aware of the upcoming 50th anniversary of “Star Trek: The Original Series” and we wanted to create something to celebrate the event. Dad thought the Spock Doc was an excellent idea and we immediately began the work.
Just the previous year, Dad and I had collaborated on a documentary I directed about his early life growing up the son of Russian immigrants in the West End of Boston. My father had been slowing down the past several years due the ravages of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder and I felt the Boston documentary was important for the family to have as a reminder of where Dad came from.
The Spock Doc was intended to explore how Dad brought to life the half-human, half-Vulcan first officer of the Starship Enterprise who, at warp speed, would soon become a pop culture icon. It was also a way to celebrate just how far my father had come from those humble roots in Boston.
I didn’t really understand it then, but another important part of the story was just how far my father and I had come in our relationship, to the point that we were able to work on these projects together, something that was unimaginable just six years ago.
Since Dad’s passing on February 27th due to end stage COPD, the outpouring of emotion from fans all over the world inspired me to continue with this project. In an attempt to engage the entire Trek community to support this film, my partners and I .
One of the comments received from a supporter was that she had read my memoir, “My Incredibly Wonderful Miserable Life,” published in 2008, in which I revealed the troubled state of my relationship with my father. She said she loved Mr. Spock and that she wasn’t’ sure somebody with such mixed feelings towards Dad, Spock and Star Trek should be helming a Spock documentary.
She had a point.
The fact is, for a number of reasons, my relationship with my father had been a roller coaster of ups and downs most of my life. We hit a new low around 2004 and by 2006 we were essentially estranged.
I was in a 12 -Step program by then, and as a part of my recovery, I began studying Torah with Rabbi Mark Borovitz who, with his wife Harriet, runs Beit T’Shuvah, a sober recovery house in Los Angeles. As we worked our way through Genesis, I was reminded of the difficult relationships between the patriarchs and their sons.
Abraham nearly slit the throat of his son Isaac, a portion of Torah that has always troubled me. Isaac, in turn, favored son Esau over Jacob, and Jacob tricked his father into giving him a blessing intended for Esau. And of his twelve sons, Jacob favored Joseph, inciting some of the other boys to want Joseph dead. It was fascinating to be reminded that conflict between fathers and sons is a part of our tradition. The question is: what can we do about it? How can we break the cycle? Are we doomed to repeat these patterns of dysfunctional behavior or can we learn from them?
Some years before I began working a 12-Step program, my father had also chosen a sober lifestyle. And I firmly believe that while working on our recovery, we independently came to the realization that we had a choice; we could be self-righteous and continue to live independent lives estranged from one another, or…we could be happy. But in order achieve that happiness, we would have to let go of the anger and resentment we had held on to for so long.
But over time, let go was exactly what we did. When my first marriage ended in 2004, and I had to move out of my house, I didn’t even call my dad. When my second wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer just four months after we were married in 2011, the first call I made was to my father.