The first episode of Star Trek aired on September 8, 1966. I had just turned five years old. The show quickly became a favorite among the kids in my neighborhood. Though it only lasted two full seasons, plus part of a third, Star Trek was one of the most influential televisions show of that era. When the show went into syndicated re-runs, it became even more popular than during its original run. Kids in my hometown were able to watch episodes daily.
In my neighborhood, on summer nights we’d often end up playing outdoors, pretending to be characters from our favorite tv shows. We did the same thing during recess at school. Star Trek was one of our favorites. I remember in sixth grade some kids got detention because the ripped sheets of paper out of their spiral notebooks and make ‘phasers’ out of them.
You might think James Tiberius Kirk would be the character everyone wanted to play, he was the Captain after all. But you’d be wrong. Everyone wanted to be Mr. Spock. Kirk got the girls, but Spock even cooler. I think it all started with the ears. After seeing Spock’s pointy ears for the first time, he could never be confined to the background again. He was also extra strong, and thanks to being half-Vulcan and half-human he had a couple of special ‘powers’ everyone wanted: the Vulcan nerve pinch and the Vulcan mind-meld (or mind-melt, as some of my childhood friends called it).
The nerve pinch rendered the recipient unconscious by pinching their shoulder. It was a talent many of my friends tried to master, but none of us ever applied it successfully. The mind-meld involved placing the fingers of one hand on the face of the person whose mind you wanted to bond with and staring at them. The thing I admired most about Spock was his devotion to logic. I made it one of my life’s goals to approach problems in the same logical way Spock did.
Of course, we were all aware that Mr. Spock as a fictional character played by an actor named Leonard Nimoy. After Star Trek ended its original run on NBC, my favorite Nimoy role was as host of a syndicated program called “In Search Of…” With its focus on mysteries such as the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot and UFOs, it was one of my favorite shows.
Late last week, Leonard Nimoy died. It might be melodramatic to say a part of my childhood died with him, but certainly there is a bit of my childhood gone now that can’t be replaced. Spock is dead. Long live Spock.