Grokking Spock

LoSpock
Playing theatrically for a brief run in select markets and available now online at various sites (for a few bucks)

Some friends and I took in a theatrical showing of Adam Nimoy's new documentary film about is father tonight. "For the Love of Spock" was originally conceived as a partnership project between Adam and Leonard Nimoy before Leonard's death in March 2015; the endeavor naturally changed in tone and scope after that and became a perhaps less-focused but more expansive look at both the character of Spock and the man who portrayed him.

It's a good film; not being a documentary aficionado, I can't speak to its merits compared to other documentaries, but it's enjoyable, informative, touching, and interesting, which I think is as much as one can ask of such a project. Being the nerd that I am, I already knew a lot of what is covered in the film. But having it presented from the perspective of Leonard's son gave it a new twist and revealed some new tidbits and clarified some things that were only hinted at in "the official record," if you will. (It also includes, over the end credits, a cover of David Bowie's "Starman" performed by Leonard's grandson and his band, and it's really good.)

Before the screening, there was a live-via-Skype introduction and Q&A with Adam Nimoy himself, which was kind of neat. He said that when originally conceived the film was to be 100% about the character of Spock, but after his dad's passing it morphed into more of a look at Leonard Nimoy in and out of Star Trek, but really, I think, it became more about fathers and sons, as personified by three generations of Nimoys. A powerful narrative device has Adam reading a letter to him from Leonard written in 1973. He reads the letter in chunks that are interspersed throughout the film to good effect, shedding light on a difficult relationship between the two; I wanted to see something similar from a later point in time to similarly offer insight into a later estrangement they had more recently, as there is a lot of referencing of troubles without much specificity. But I suppose the specifics aren't important for us as the viewing audience. There's only so much we can expect of an internal family drama to be brought out for all to see, and there's still a lot here.


Adam surprising his dad on the set, 1966

The one part of Leonard Nimoy's life covered in the film that I didn't have a decent knowledge of was his alcoholism, and having recently lost my mom to exactly that, I find myself more interested in that aspect of his history than I'd been before. I had gleaned from various writing over the years that Leonard began drinking heavily around the end of Star Trek's production years -- probably helped along by the stressful and unfulfilling third season (there's another documentary in that) -- but I had not realized that he managed to continue to function and keep it in check for as long as he did before it became overtly destructive; I had assumed he'd beaten it back during the '70s, which turns out to not at all be the right timeframe. It makes me wonder if my mom had a similar experience, hiding it successfully and continuing to function for a good long time before it took her over completely.

Leonard eventually did beat it, but not until the late '80s or so, after he began his second marriage, which was stunning to me. There are interview clips in the film that I had somehow not seen before in which he openly discusses it; in the exhaustive world of fandom where nerd tenacity and celebrity heroes intersect, it's hard to keep anything under wraps, but somehow this was never part of his public profile. Perhaps because his version of alcohol abuse didn't result in obvious or public poor behavior, or because throughout it all he still managed to be Leonard Nimoy, brilliant actor/director and font of thought and creativity, at least publicly.

Interestingly, there is little mention of Nimoy's photography, which was his focus after he was mostly done with Hollywood. There's some bits near the end of the film, and some images from his body-image project of about 10 years ago, but it's kind of a footnote to the movie.

I guess that makes sense, though. As Adam Nimoy said in his introduction, there was just so much that had to be cut to keep the film under two hours long, and obviously little or none of the Star Trek stuff was going to be lost. Or, as Luke Thompson put it in his review of the film for Forbes, the movie "feels like it’s barely nerve-pinching the surface. For fans, a Ken Burns-style multi-hour miniseries may be needed when it comes to Star Trek as a whole, or even Nimoy in particular."

I'd watch that. Hell, I'd help make that. Anyone know Ken?

"For the Love of Spock" is available online at Vudu, YouTube, and other outlets; through iTunes; and on demand via DirecTV, Comcast, TWC, and other providers.

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