I realize that the point of this blog is to discuss New Wave/Alternative Music and Fandom. Yet, there are times when something happens in life, in the world, that I have to respond to, that forces me to put words to screen, so to speak. Like many people, yesterday, I found out that Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played Mr. Spock in the original Star Trek series and movies passed away. The outpouring of grief from fans to other celebrities was overwhelming. It became too much for me to look at and read. Their grief added to mine as I grieved for my loss but also theirs. To say that I’m heartbroken would be an understatement. Why? What is the big deal and how in the world does this connect to music fandom?
For those of you reading this who are not familiar with the Star Trek universe and history, let me offer a brief summary. Star Trek, the original series, aired from 1966 to 1969 with a total of 80 episodes. From what I know, the show was the creative baby of Gene Roddenberry who wanted to create a futuristic space adventure that also acted as a commentary on current events and culture while offering an optimistic view of the future. While this original series aired, it was never the most popular show, but somehow managed to hang on for a few years. Still, during its brief time on air, it managed to develop fans. When I say that the show developed fans, I mean FANS. Serious fans. Dedicated fans. These fans really showed what fandom could be all about. They are the basis for a lot of fandom studies. After the show went off the air, fans continued to love the show so much that they never really let it die through fan activities like fan fiction and conventions. The fans weren’t ignored and by 1979, the first movie was released. Since then, there have been many more movies and multiple TV shows. One cannot deny that Star Trek is a worldwide phenomenon.
Now, I know what you all are thinking? You can’t be a fan of the original series…not if you were a kid in the 1980s. Yet, I grew up with Star Trek. I have probably seen every episode of the original series multiple times as I saw many, many reruns as a kid. My brother, you see, was a big fan (Trekkie or Trekker, depending on which side of that fandom debate you stand on). I cannot remember life before Star Trek. My brother would keep track of all the star dates as he saw the episodes, for example. My brother was such a fan that, when my family got a little black dog with pointed ears, he insisted we call the dog, Mr. Spock. We all agreed. You see while my brother never declared a favorite, I know that he always had a soft spot for the Vulcan. He would never relate to Captain Kirk who was too physical and way too much of a womanizer. No, my brother appreciated the intellectual, logical, self-sacrificing character that was Spock. In fact, when my brother got married, pictures of Spock were taped to the car that he and his wife would use on their brief honeymoon. Oh, yes, my sister-in-law is a fan, too. She overheard my brother talking about Star Trek at a department meeting and she knew that she should try to get to know him because of their mutual interest! It seems like everyone in my family is a fan. I remember going to see that original movie in the theater as a kid. I certainly remember going to see the second one in which Spock sacrifices himself in order to defeat Khan and the third one in which he is brought back to life. I remember them all: the good, the bad and so bad that I-might-have-laughed my way through. Even today, Nimoy’s influence over the rebooted Star Trek is felt. He had to give his approval for Zachary Quinto to portray Spock in the new movies and definitely acted as a mentor to him as well. Likewise, he appeared in both films of the reboot series. No, Leonard Nimoy never left the Star Trek franchise world.
For me, Star Trek was one of the very earliest fandoms I got to know. Like all fandoms, this one works not only because the original interest in the series, the characters, and the actors was so high but also because personal connections were made between fans. My brother and sister-in-law are proof of that. My family is another piece of evidence as I go see the movies with my parents. After the last movie came out, my parents and I went and saw the movie on opening night as did my brother and sister-in-law. After we returned home, calls were made so that we could all discuss it. That is what fandom is all about, to me. It is about a mutual love and discussing everything about that mutual love. It is about making connections with others. It is about making memories. As I look back to see all how much Star Trek has been a part of my life, I am forever grateful to Leonard Nimoy because he brought to life a character that resonated so much with fans that people refused to let the character go. Through his portrayal of a logical half-alien, I learned more about what it means to be human and through the fandom that he helped to create, I learned what it meant to be a fan. The Star Trek world and the larger world will never be the same again.
Certainly, popular culture will never be the same. Heck, his influence was even felt in music. Here are some songs inspired by Star Trek and/or Mr. Spock. See if you can make the connection.
Of course, I couldn’t resist including a scene from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home where Spock and Kirk encounter a punk in 20th century San Francisco. In order to quiet the man and his “music”, Spock performs a vulcan nerve pitch to knock the punk unconscious.
This scene proves that Star Trek could be humorous, too. Yet, more often than not, story lines involving the seemingly unemotional Vulcan are the ones that really made me feel strong emotion. Real life now is filled with strong emotion. Rest in Peace, Leonard. You lived long and prospered.