Should I be jealous of Spock?
I joked about that, in a book I wrote in the mid-’70s called I Am Not Spock. I enjoyed writing the book. I wanted to answer a lot of oft-asked questions and also explore the relationship between an actor and the character he breathed life into — especially since that character seemed to take on an existence of his own.
But I made an enormous mistake choosing the title for the book. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my lifetime, but this one was a biggie and right out there in public. Perhaps it wasn’t quite as bad as Roseanne Arnold singing ”The Star-Spangled Banner” off-key, grabbing her crotch, and spitting in a stadium full of baseball fans, but mine did start a firestorm that lasted several years and caused a lot of hard feelings.
When I wrote the book and handed it to the publisher, we discussed the title and agreed Spock should be mentioned. I thought I Am Not Spock might work. Certainly, it would attract the attention of potential readers and arouse their curiosity.
I Am Not Spock was published in 1975, at a time when the Star Trek phenomenon had just taken hold. Having had only marginal success on NBC, where we limped along for three years, the show took on new life in syndication. By the mid-’70s, it was becoming a media event. Colleges avoided scheduling classes during Star Trek hours to avoid predictable absenteeism! Thousands and thousands of new devotees sat in front of their TV sets, memorizing each episode’s dialogue word for word. Soon, throughout the land came a heartfelt cry:
”Give us more Star Trek!”
In the midst of this desperate demand, my timing and choice of title couldn’t have been worse. What came back was a deep, sad moan of public frustration followed by outbursts of anger, even hatred. Unfortunately, press articles followed which served to fuel that anger. After all, it made good copy: ”Actor rejects character who threatens to consume him.”
For some years afterward, the public assumption was that more Star Trek was not forthcoming because I had vowed never to play the Vulcan again because I hated Spock.
One of the reasons I’m writing this is so I can forever put those ugly and unfounded rumors to rest. Here it is in print: I don’t hate the Vulcan. In fact, I’ve always been downright fond of him, and as I mentioned in I Am Not Spock, if someone came up to me and said, ”You can’t be Leonard Nimoy anymore. But you can be anyone else you want,” I wouldn’t hesitate a beat with my answer. I’d want to be Spock. In I Am Not Spock, I wrote about the birth of my two children, Julie and Adam, and how I could pinpoint the precise time and place those wonderful miracles occurred. But coming up with a date, a precise moment, that Spock first sprang into being was far more difficult, even though I was in many ways more ”pres ent” for his birth than those of my children. To say that he was ”born” on Thursday, Sept. 8, 1966, at 8:30 p.m. EST — the date Star Trek first aired — seemed at best arbitrary and artificial.
However, I’ve had 30 years to think about it since then, and I realize now that there was a defining moment, a flash of revelation where I suddenly realized, ”Aha! So this is who the Vulcan is….”
It came during the shooting of the third Star Trek episode ever filmed, ”The Corbomite Maneuver.” It was one of the scenes on the bridge where the crew members were all reacting to an enormous glowing globe on the view screen. (Of course, we actors saw nothing but a blue screen.) We were all supposed to be concerned about this strange new threat, and my line consisted of that single fateful word, ”Fascinating….”