Monday, April 27, 2015

Article: A Tribute To Leonard Nimoy and Star Trek by Joseph A. Zuchowski

A Tribute To Leonard Nimoy and Star Trek

Article conceptualized and written by Joseph A. Zuchowski
Edited and revised by Dave Wolff

When I learned Leonard Nimoy passed on last March, I cannot say I was surprised. I had known his health was bad and he was elderly so it was only logical that the end of his life would be near.  As a boy I loved science fiction, and as an adult I still do; the old Republic series, the various invasion films of the 50's and 60’s. They were all pretty much the same: aliens invade; usually evil aliens; square jawed American hero defeats them. It seemed that these films brought us only messages of xenophobia, fear of anything strange or different. Yes there were exceptions, the most notable being "The Day The Earth Stood Still". But by and large they were all formulaic. But then in 1967 came Star Trek. It was intended by creator Gene Roddenberry to be a "Wagon Train to the stars." Star Trek was timely; shortly after the signing of the Civil Rights bill it gave America the first interracial kiss on TV.

The 1930's to the 1960's was called The Golden Age Of Science Fiction, originally called "pulp fiction" because of the cheap quality paper many stories were printed on. Science fiction was seen as a sub-genre of horror. When most people think of science fiction from that period, serials such as Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers come to mind. In print there was Weird Tales and Amazing Science Fiction. The horror writer H.P. Lovecraft wrote his only true science fiction story towards the end of his life. It was called In The Walls Of Eryx and it was based on an experience he had in a funhouse full of mirrors. The story is of an astronaut captured by Venusians and put into a mirrored maze. He dies just several feet shy of the exit. But the Haige Commission with its restrictive rules regarding what could and could not be shown would constrain horror and science fiction for decades.
Going back to Star Trek, Trek was very much a show for its time. There were plenty of other TV shows like Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, One Step Beyond and The Invisible Man. There was even an attempt to make a television show out of The Fantastic Four with Russell Johnson (Gilligan's Island) and Elizabeth Montgomery (Bewitched). There was also Lost In Space which was loosely based on The Swiss Family Robinson, a takeoff of Robinson Caruso by Daniel DeFoe. Lost In Space lasted about two seasons and never had the impact Star Trek did.
Star Trek gave us hope for our future, hope that we would survive long enough to colonize space and become players in an intergalactic game. One of the reasons the science fiction convention scene is bigger than ever and has broken into the mainstream, and longtime fans in their thirties and older can go and connect with like-minded fans the world over.
But what made Star Trek work was the characters. They have become iconic; their personalities were all unique with their own unique traits. De Forest Kelley (Dr. McCoy), James Doohan (Scotty), and now Leonard Nimoy (Spock) have gone on to that undiscovered country from whose boundaries no one returns. Nimoy’s Spock was special; his father was a Vulcan ambassador, his mother a teacher. This was important to many mixed race children, something that was rare back in those days as most states still had laws against interracial marriages on the books. It was this tolerence of difference or as Spock would have said "Infinite Diversity In Infinite Combinations”. I want to wrap this up by saying “thanks” to Leonard Nimoy. I'm sorry there is no Genesis Project to restore you to us, but you will live on in the celluloid world, and mostly in the hearts of those who knew you. Even years from now we will still hail your name. You have been and always will be our friend. “Hailing frequencies out.”