FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK ˝
no MPAA rating, 111 mins.
2016, no MPAA rating, 111 mins.
A documentary written and directed by Adam Nimoy
I discovered the original STAR TREK TV series rather late in life during my final year of high school, during which time I began gorging on late night reruns of Gene Roddenbery’s iconic sci-fi series on the CBC.
have fondness for the dashing courage and cocky bravado of William
Shatner’s Captain Kirk, but Leonard Nimoy’s Mr. Spock was – and
always will be – my favorite TREK persona.
Despite his staunch and self imposed emotional detachment and
somewhat devilish appearance, Spock strangely felt the most warmly inviting of all of Roddenbery’s characters.
His constant cerebral battle to subvert his more sentimental half
human tendencies with his cold and analytical half Vulcan stoicism struck a
cord with me; the character’s a metaphor for life. Even
though he’d never admit it, Spock was really the heart of STAR TREK.
THE LOVE OF SPOCK is a new Kickstarter funded documentary about, yes,
everyone’s favorite half breed STAR TREK character, born initially out
of director Adam Nimoy’s (son of Leonard) desire to chronicle Spock’s
emergence and long standing status in pop culture to coincide with the
series’ 50th Anniversary.
With his father’s passing in 2015, Adam wisely understood that
the focus of his very personal doc should not just be about Leonard’s
most famous role, but should also traverse his career as a whole. Nimoy jumped at the chance to work with his son on a film,
which would mark their first creative collaboration together since helming
an episode of THE OUTER LIMITS ten years prior.
FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK deals with their partnership, which ended
with his death, and joyously delves into STAR TREK lore to explain why
Spock has resonated with such a startling variety of people from all walks
of life. More compellingly,
though, the doc never shies away from Nimoy’s less than
stellar reputation as an absentee father, who would later let alcoholism
nearly destroy his ties with his family.
film incorporates many talking head interviews alongside archival TV and
movie footage, family photos, and most crucially, Leonard’s own voiceover narration, which comments at various points of his career highs and
lows with great – ahem! – fascination and logic.
Nimoy recounts his early fears of relaying to his conservative
parents a desire to work in the arts, which led to him financially fending
for himself to peruse it. When
he moved from his hometown of Boston to Hollywood in his late teens he
amusingly quips, “I must have looked like I just got off the boat from
struggled early on, but nevertheless got many bit parts through hard work
and perseverance, appearing in several B-grade movies like KID MONK BARONI
and even donning red face to play a Native American on TV’s GUNSMOKE.
He was getting steady employment as a working actor, but, by his own
admission, he never had a job before STAR TREK that “lasted more than
workaholic tendencies and drive paid off in the early to mid 1960’s, and
a brief appearance on a 1965 episode of TV’s THE LIEUTENANT got him
noticed by the show’s creator Gene Roddenbery, who thought that “he’d
make a good alien” for an upcoming science fiction series he had in
mind. The rest, shall they
say, is history, and FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK delves into well-established and widely known aspects of STAR TREK creation lore
during these stages of its narrative (arguably the film’s least
enthralling segments). Perhaps more
intriguing was Nimoy’s post TREK career after the series’
cancellation, which led to a regular stint on MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE as well
as IN SEARCH OF. We also
learn of Nimoy's resistance to signing on to re-play Spock for STAR TREK:
THE MOTION PICTURE in the late 70’s, which ostensibly stemmed from a heated lawsuit he had with Paramount Pictures over his likeness being used
for merchandise without his permission.
They settled and Spock did indeed make his silver screen debut.
THE LOVE OF SPOCK is wise to point out that Nimoy was an artistic Jack of
He parlayed into his contract negotiations with Paramount a job
behind the director’s chair for STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK and
arguably one of the most beloved entries of the original film series, STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE
HOME. He followed that up with directing stints on other
films, like THREE MEN AND A BABY, a film that far too many people forget
that he quarterbacked to massive box office returns.
We also discover at later stages of his life that became devoted to
photography, not to mention that he was a fairly respected stage actor,
turning out acclaimed performances in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF and THE KING AND
I. As STAR
TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN director Nicholas Meyer wisely comments
in the doc, Nimoy was a “true Renaissance man.”
Nimoy peppers his film with many moments of hilarious retrospection,
especially during one particularly low point – depending on how you
interpret it – of his father’s career when he appears in a strange
music video of sorts singing THE BALLAD OF BILBO BAGGINS, which is as
embarrassing to watch as it is hysterical.
Other funny bits revolve around grand irony, such as the case of
one of Nimoy’s long-time friends Barry Newman, who states in the film
that he strongly believed back in the day that his BFF’s appearance in
STAR TREK would be “a treadmill to oblivion.”
Obviously enough, a doc about Nimoy would not be complete without
many recollections from his STAR TREK co-stars.
His long-time friend in Shatner very self-deprecatingly responds to
a question about what he ultimately thought of his colleague and confidant: “He was better
singer than me. He could hold
a note – off-key – but he could hold a note.”
a more serious note, FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK reiterates what Nimoy’s
six-decade portrayal of his blue-shirted Starfleet science officer meant
to the world. The worldwide
appeal of Spock did not just reside with sci-fi fanboys.
Neil deGrasse Tyson appears in the doc to rightfully establish
Nimoy’s and STAR TREK’s incalculable influence in inspiring a generation
of children to pursue careers in science (several NASA employees also
appear to lovingly recall what the character of Spock meant to them in
devoting their lives to their jobs).
Spock also served as a beacon of hope for disenfranchised
individuals of mixed races, who could relate to how the half-human/half-Vulcan character
struggled daily for acceptance, understanding, and tolerance.
Beyond that, some subjects simply recall Nimoy as an extremely
gregarious soul that put the needs of others well beyond his own.
This is driven home in a wonderful moment featuring
Walter Koenig recalling when Nimoy found out that he, Nichelle Nichols and
George Takei were not cast in the 1973 animated STAR TREK series.
Nimoy was, but refused to participate unless all of his previous
co-stars were on board. The
producers ended up agreeing with him.
THE LOVE OF SPOCK becomes even more unexpectedly thoughtful and deeply
touching when it allows for its own director to frequently appear on
camera, often taking questions from his own subjects about what it was
like to grow up with…Spock. It’s
at this stage when the film becomes more rewardingly intimate than a
majority of documentaries, especially for how Nimoy reveals with
great sadness the tensions that emerged between himself and his father,
which led to their estrangement for quite some time. Both men became
addicted to drugs in various forms, which further complicated an already
fractured father/son bond. The
doc’s masterstroke move involves a letter that Nimoy wrote to his son in 1973,
which is recited throughout the film to portray Nimoy as a man that
admitted to his demons while trying to own up to them.
Spock did indeed fundamentally change the landscape of popular
culture and touched millions of lives over the years, but as Adam
tearfully points out, the character became an entity that frequently
interfered with Nimoy’s responsibilities as a father and husband.
FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK works marvelous well on so many multiple tiers. If you’re a fan of STAR TREK, screening it is a must. If you enjoy behind-the-scenes biopic docs about the story of one modest Massachusetts-raised boy and his yearning to make it in Hollywood against many family objections, then screening it is a must. More importantly, if you enjoy heart-tugging portraits of fathers and sons that try to maintain and nurture their mutual love for one another over a lifetime of trials and tribulations, then screening it is a must. FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK could easily be mistaken as a piece of cheaply disposable fan service for STAR TREK fans. The fact that it emerges as a work of unexpected profundity in examining the warts and all relationship between its director and his much more famous father is just icing on the cake.
Even the perpetually poker faced Spock himself would have a hard time keeping a dry eye while watching it.