Being the son of Spock was never going to be easy. In his new documentary — For the Love of Spock — Adam Nimoy charts not only our entire planet’s love affair with his father’s fictional alter-ego, but also his own journey: figuring out his relationship with his dad.
That word — “dad” — pervades much of the documentary, and not just from Adam Nimoy, but from his interview subjects, too. His surviving grandparents say “your Dad,” Zachary Quinto says “your Dad.” And in the repetition of this term of endearment, the documentary finds its trajectory: an exploration of love, even when a father-son bond becomes complicated.
“It’s not just me,” Adam Nimoy told Inverse of his film, “It’s the fanbase and it’s these people who worked with Dad.” In watching the documentary and speaking with its director, you get a sense of the profound impact the character of Spock had on the entire world.
But, you also start to recognize the contradictory and diverse feelings everyone has about Spock. For some, Spock was a progressive male sex symbol, for others, a beacon of scientific reason. “I like that Spock could communicate with other species through thought other than words,” Neil Degrasse Tyson says in the documentary. Even Leonard Nimoy struggled with what Spock meant to him over the years, titling one memoir I Am Not Spock in 1975 and another, revised memoir I AM Spock in 1995.
“Dad angered a lot of fans because they thought — they misread — they thought he was distancing himself from the character,” Adam Nimoy told Inverse. “The fans thought he was dissing the character, he was putting down the character, which was not the case at all … He was trying to say, “I’m not literally Spock, everybody. I have my own background, I’m not from Vulcan, I come from Boston. But the fan reaction to that was really vehement because people wanted more Star Trek.”
Leonard Nimoy struggled with his Spock persona, not only externally in how he was perceived by the public, but internally, too. “I found it very difficult to turn it off and turn it on,” the elder Nimoy says in his son’s documentary. And many of his co-stars and colleagues concur: sometimes getting into character means you lose yourself in that character. In the reality of Star Trek Spock was often a distant and remote person. Was that true for his family, too?
“A lot of people have asked me what it was like living with Spock,” Adam Nimoy says in the documentary, “But for the most part during that period, Dad wasn’t home that much at all.” In addition to chronicling the journey of the immense popularity of Spock and Star Trek over the years, Adan Nimoy also tells the story of being estranged from his father for years, before ultimately reconciling just a few years prior to Leonard taking on the role of Spock again in the 2009 film.
Of the various interviews he conducted, Adam Nimoy told Inverse: “I think hands down for me the most interesting wasn’t a subject, it was subjects…It was so heartwarming and overwhelming and it just filled me with great pride and it made me feel like we’re all mourning the loss of Leonard Nimoy.”
Adam Nimoy isn’t just the son of Leonard Nimoy. He’s an accomplished director of his own, well-acquainted with science fiction. In the ‘90s, Nimoy’s directing credits included not only Star Trek: The Next Generation, but also, the beloved sci-fi show Babylon 5. Will Nimoy ever return to directing science-fiction television? Even Star Trek?
“I always have an interest,” Adam Nimoy told Inverse, “Now, I’ve not really been in the TV directing world for some time … but of course, I’d be interested.”
Because Adam Nimoy worked on the space epic Babylon 5, he clearly knows quite a bit about how homeric science fiction works. What would happen if he were to tackle that other franchise that starts with “Star” – Star Wars?
“That’s a curveball,” Adam Nimoy said, laughing, “But the thing is, I’d say the challenge for these filmmakers is to stay somewhat in the condition that we’ve come to know and expect from these franchises Star Wars or Star Trek, it doesn’t really matter —there’s a reason why these franchises resonate. They present us with archetypes and stories that tell us something about ourselves. Either what we aspire to or who we are as the human race. And intermixed with that is a visual effects pattern that services the story. It’s story, it has to be about story. It’s what my dad taught me as a director. It’s gotta be story.”
Toward the end of the documentary Adam Nimoy visits the set of Star Trek Beyond and something interesting happens. A few interview subjects — J.J. Abrams and Simon Pegg specifically — start referring to Leonard Nimoy not as “Leonard” or “your Dad,” but simply as “Spock.” This proves that maybe, in the end, the late Leonard Nimoy and his heroic Vulcan persona were in fact, one in the same.
For the Love of Spock is out now.
Photos via Adam Nimoy, Wikipedia, itunes, Warner Bros, Getty Images / Ben Gabbe, Getty Images / Jason Kempin