I am a Star Trek fan. I remember watching it during its NBC network run. I didn’t understand what I was seeing, but I had just enough awareness to realize that I was seeing something very unique. Then I got older and Star Trek found its way into syndication, and that was the end for me. I could not get enough of this show, and that love carried me through all of the different TV series that would follow. Then something terrible happened. The actor who played everyone’s favorite Vulcan passed away.
When director Adam Nimoy (and son of Leonard Nimoy) decided to make a documentary and he asked his father what he thought about it, Leonard did more than just give his blessings. He was happy to be a part of it. Unfortunately during the time it was being made Leonard had passed away from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease from earlier years of smoking. That did not deter Adam as he continued in making this documentary, but it is possible the movie that Adam started to make is not the movie we have today. The movie is called For the Love of Spock, and while it may have intended to be all things about the beloved Star Trek character, this movie is really all about the life and career of Leonard Nimoy.
As the movie goes through Leonard’s life it naturally takes a very hard look at his time with that Wagon Train to the Stars science fiction series and Leonard’s approach towards playing a character who was both dispassionate and conflicted. Through interviews with other cast members and family, we see how Leonard embraced the character as well as see how he never took his good fortune for granted. It is then we start to see what a truly committed actor Leonard was, not just in front of the screen but also on the stage. It is probably a misconception that Leonard’s career sort of dried up because of his portrayal of Spock, but what this film shows us is how he embraced the stage and how that work ethic would continue to fuel him even as he eventually found his way to playing Spock. Sadly, the movie also shows the terrible price Leonard had to pay regarding his family life where he would end up divorcing his first wife and ultimately becoming alienated from his children, even after marrying his second wife. This film takes no shortcuts and shows how badly this period in his life affected him and his children and how their relationships became estranged. Through interviews with actors who came to know Leonard later in his life and career, we learn how he took the needed steps to put his life back together and finally be the father and friend to his children, especially when Adam shares of the passing of his second wife due to cancer.
For the Love of Spock is the type of documentary that entertains as well as educates. It even becomes somewhat self-referential when we’re shown a clip of The Big Bang Theory where the misfit genius Sheldon announces to his friends that Adam Nimoy is going to make a documentary about Spock and even includes an interview segment with Sheldon. The film does eventually take a step back and then interviews actor Jim Parsons. However, it wouldn’t be a complete documentary about Leonard if it doesn’t cover his passing and includes a lovely moment with Leonard’s brother who breaks down crying when he talks about saying goodbye to Leonard at the time of his death. The result is a touching documentary that can appeal to people that are even outside of Star Trek fandom. This is a film that shows how wonderfully human Leonard Nimoy truly was and culminates during a celebration at Burning Man where tributes to the actor go up in flame in love and memory of a flawed, but decent man who helped shape popular culture into what it is today.
For the Love of Spock can presently be seen on Netflix.