Saturday, August 2, 2008

I Am Spock

So as you know I was reading I Am Spock by Leonard Nimoy of Star Trek acclaim. What a terrific read. I really enjoyed it immensely.

Chapter One: Human Versus Vulcan Or Of Luck And Probability: Nimoy essentially repudiates and attempts vindication from his 1975 book I Am Not Spock by discussing how that title came to pass. Nimoy writes with a load of humor and Nimoy and Spock have many conversations throughout the book.

Chapter Two: Conception And Gestation: Nimoy recalls his earliest film influence, The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, while growing up in Boston's West End as a Jewish boy in a mostly Italian neighborhood. He reflects back at his first big break in Kid Monk Baroni. The chapter deepens with his introduction to Gene Roddenberry and his role as Spock. The details on the creation of his iconic character are really cultivated here with discussion of the first pilot, the second pilot a year later and meeting one Mr. Bill Shatner.

Chapter Three: Birth Of A Vulcan: Nimoy really highlights what informed the formation of his character from specific directors to DeForest Kelley and Grace Lee Whitney as well as his own self-realizations about Spock. He discusses the embryonic stages of coining the word "Fascinating." He points to the The Corbomite Maneuver as a defining moment in the birth of the Spock we know and love. He also talks extensively on The Naked Time and its impact on the character's good fortunes and continued development. He really had to battle the writer over how Spock was portrayed in that episode and is thankful the writer relented. We also get more on the prankster-like shenanigans of Shatner.

Chapter Four: Vulcanalia or The Vulcan Grows Up: Nimoy really gets to the heart of the Vulcan Neck Pinch, the Mind Meld and his famous Vulcan hand gesture to the words of "Live Long and Prosper." He offers great insights into Devil In The Dark [Bill Shatner's father passed away during filming], This Side Of Paradise and Amok Time. It's especially funny to hear him talk about Jill Ireland and her over-protective husband Charles Bronson. He gives a huge nod to Dorothy Fontana who helped define the formation of a Vulcan culture. Oh and there is T'Pau.

Chapter Five: Spockamania Or It's Pear Blossom Time In Medford: Nimoy spends time reflecting on the growing hysteria by fans surrounding the rising popularity of his character. One incident in particular with a female fan is really quite chilling.

Chapter Six: The Star Trek Family: Nimoy reminisces on his studio family with some truly amusing anecdotes concerning paper and pens between he and studio executive Ed Perlstein. Producer Bob Justman gets in on the antics with some candid letters shared by Nimoy. There's also some great insight into his relationship with Shatner over the brotherly-like competition between themselves over their characters. He also lends some tremendously touching back-story regarding his relationship with Gene Roddenberry himself as well as writer Gene Coon.

Chapter Seven: Premature Burial: This was a fascinating chapter as Nimoy digs into his displeasure with how Season Three unfolded. Roddenberry was unhappy with NBC and how the show was being handled and left essentially acting as Executive Producer and having little input. All sorts of primary participants had left the show leaving veteran Bob Justman to be passed over for new producer Fred Freiberger. Sadly Freiberger completely mishandled the characters of the show essentially nullifying their essential differences. Nimoy protested vehemently in protecting the character of Spock but was often discounted. He points only to Fontana's guest appearance in writing The Enterprise Incident as one of the season's true highlights. Nimoy was ready to go to war but the show was prematurely cancelled. Freiberger was someone Nimoy felt would do the show justice but their relationship quickly dissolved as he learned his vision for the show was quite different from that established in the original two seasons. Interesting stuff.

Chapter Eight: From Five-Year Mission To Mission: Impossible: This is a pretty short chapter and there is a heavy-heart to it. Nimoy is clearly solemn over the death of Star Trek as a series and his inability to play the rich character that was Spock. He speaks of those final days briefly. He landed a regular spot on the TV Show Mission: Impossible, yet it wasn't the same and he opted out of a lengthy contract after two seasons. He filled a void left by Martin Landau and Barbara Bain whom left and eventually did Space:1999 years later. There's some great insights into the Hollywood game here as well.

Chapter Nine: Identity Crisis: Nimoy examines his stint in theatre for Fiddler On The Roof. Meanwhile, Vulcan collectability crops up across the planet as Star Trek's popularity is on the rise. Nimoy encounters the inescapable resurgence of affection for his alter ego Spock. Further, some thoughts on the first Star Trek Convention [1972], the animated series and a near reboot of Star Trek dubbed Star Trek: Phase II.

Chapter Ten: Thank You, George Lucas: Nimoy battles for royalties from Paramount [who purchased the Star Trek rights from Desilu] for unpaid use of his likeness. At the same time, attempts are made by Paramount to lure Nimoy in for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. There is a terrific segment where Jeffrey Katzenberg, Robert Wise and Gene Roddenberry meet with Nimoy. Nimoy is such a strong, sensible, ethical soul. His intentions are always so grounded in right and wrong; that is what I loved most about him. Nimoy really explores the behind-the-scenes details of how the film process was handled. He explains how the chemistry of Roddenberry's terrific ensemble cast was underutilized and overshadowed in favor of a special effects extravaganza. So I would imagine, in some ways, it was thank you [good and bad] to George Lucas, yet the problems with Star Trek: The Motion Picture were certainly no fault of the aforementioned director.

Chapter Eleven: Movie Madness Or If It's Tuesday This Must Be Beijing: Nimoy dreams of Vincent Van Gogh and the creation of his own one man road show theatre as Vincent's brother. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and other film opportunities fill his schedule. There is a terrific piece covering his work in A Woman Called Golda with Ingrid Bergman. Oddly enough the director had no interest in casting Nimoy as her estranged husband. Yet, Nimoy was nominated as Best Supporting Actor. He never revisits the conflict with the director and I wish he had. At the very least the director owed him an apology. I didn't get much closure from hearing about that story, granted Nimoy may not have either. Nimoy also recollects his time spent in Beijing, China inside the culture for the filming of Marco Polo. He really sheds light on the schism between hard-line communism and the glasnost of Western influence in China from a visitor's standpoint. It really is fascinating to see him discuss the ying yang of that amazing country. Interestingly, Nimoy was quite anonymous in China as most there had never seen or been exposed to Star Trek. Back in America, fans were none to keen to hear about the potential rumor of death for one of their favorite Vulcans as word spread of that possibility for Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan all the way to Beijing.

Chapter Twelve: Remember: Nimoy offers loads of insight into the inner workings of Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan and the reasons behind its success. Most poignant is his in depth analysis of Spock's demise and how much it affected him and the others during filming. This is a deeply moving character assessment.

Chapter Thirteen: Rebirth Or What I Really Want To Do Is Direct: Nimoy described everything you wanted to know about portraying the death of our favorite vulcan in the previous chapter. Here, Nimoy expresses his feelings in actually seeing his performance unfold on the screen. His experience witnessing Spock's death and being an accomplice in bringing his death to fruition is emotional indeed. Based on the success of Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan Nimoy knew there would be another film to follow. How would he be involved? Nimoy describes his great desire to direct and his journey in making it a reality including a meeting with Michael Eisner. It was never a sure thing and Nimoy explains how the company, Eisner and his fellow cast members felt about his role as director, his motivations and his credentials. I Am Not Spock was coming back to haunt him again. The casting, the planning, the overall drain on the director of a major film are really fleshed out in detail. Nimoy applies the Mission: Impossible strategy plus everything else you need to know about Star Trek III: The Search For Spock. Oh and there's Bill Shatner, of course.

Chapter Fourteen: I Spock Or "The Final Plain" On The Streets Of San Francisco: Nimoy plunges headlong into his experiences on his next directorial feat, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. It's another unearthing of his talent now more confident and more relaxed than ever as we go behind the scenes with the director. We also learn of actor Eddie Murphy's absolute love of Star Trek [who knew] and his desire to be in a Star Trek film. [God, Eddie Murphy was brilliant ages ago in SNL and Trading Places, but man has he lost it! What a shame.] Nimoy delves into how the film's whole whale concept became a reality and how the team designed the whales for the film. Eddie Murphy is thankfully turned down for a role, but casting commences. Nimoy describes a number of scenes that were shot in San Francisco. One scene sounds special that never came to pass that would have featured George Takei.

Chapter Fifteen: Three Men And A Good Mother: Out of the fire and into the frying pan as Nimoy scores another directorial project in the form of Three Men And A Baby based upon the French film. He offers loads of information on the film if you're a fan of it. Did you know Nimoy's parents were Russian immigrants? Nimoy visits their birthplace and shares that experience with his father prior to his passing. Nimoy tackles the drama genre in The Good Mother [I remember enjoying this film] with Diane Keaton and Liam Neeson and handles some very touchy material quite delicately. His efforts to pull Jason Robards on board are touched upon. The fallout was yet to come.

Chapter Sixteen: The Final Frontier- And Beyond: Nimoy shares his experience working with Bill Shatner on Shatner's directorial effort in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. At the same time, Nimoy also comes crashing down to Earth with his thoughts on a very mixed reaction to The Good Mother by audience and critics alike. He shares his candid memories concerning Shatner's handling of the Star Trek film project and especially the dreadful story idea. Later, Nimoy meets Holocaust survivor Mel Mermelstein and is so moved by him he brings the film Never Forget [about Mel] to fruition. He speaks of his courageous story.

Chapter Seventeen: Star Trek VI And "Unification": Nimoy is chosen to initiate the creative fire behind Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The studio interfered with that project. His reflections on Star Trek: The Next Generation were fascinating. He eats a bit of crow to say the least. He speaks of his involvement on a particular episode, Unification, and how it felt very much like a bridge between the two shows and for fans who were in isolated camps of TOS [The Original Series] and TNG at the time. He reflects very satisfyingly on how it felt as though he aided in bringing fans, new and old, together.

Chapter Eighteen: Live Long And Prosper: Nimoy is offered a role in Star Trek VII: Generations. He passes. His thoughts and his final reflections on being forever linked to Spock.

I Am Spock: A-

It's a fascinating read that left me only wishing I had a chance to read more. I would love to meet Nimoy. He's a terrific fellow. The book is almost perfect if only he had talked a bit about his narrating involvement in that television show In Search Of, then it would have been an A.


Anonymous said...

I, too, read "I am Spock" years ago, and I agree it was an enjoyable read, and Nimoy seems a very personable guy.

Have you read the counterpart "I am not Spock" back then?


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Hey M- Hope all is well. I never did read that one and thought I'd pick this one up to read. Are they quite different?

Anonymous said...

I haven't read it either, that's why I was asking you :)


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

: ) oh then that would be no.

Still, I did read somewhere the material is largely the same but that they are not identical. I understand there is soem material in the earlier I AM NOT SPOCK edition that might be of interest to folks.