Today the world of entertainment lost a legend; Leonard Nimoy has passed away at the age of 83. While obviously best known for playing the supremely logical Vulcan Spock in the Star Trek series and movies, you don’t have be a dedicated Trek fan to appreciate the man’s work. Here are a few of our favorite Leonard Nimoy performances and contributions to the world of entertainment, beyond the Star Trek universe.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) – David Kibner
If you haven’t seen this science fiction classic before, you can watch it immediately on Netflix. Often regarded as a remake, it’s actually a re-adaptation of the novel The Body Snatchers (though it contains an explicit homage to the earlier adaptation). Thrilling, unnerving and almost surreal, it’s a masterful exercise in building paranoia. Nimoy has a critical supporting role as popular psychiatrist David Kibner. Early on, as the designated rationalist who appears in every paranormal thriller, he brings a warmth and energy to what could have been an uninteresting stock character. Later, as aliens get around to snatching enough bodies to make the truth of what’s happening undeniable, his character plays an even bigger part in what’s taking place, and Nimoy makes the most of a chance show a very different take on the clinical, “logical” character he was most famous for.
In Search of… – Narrator
Perhaps it was simply a product of its time that can never be duplicated, but no one even tries to make new television in the manner of In Search of… today. The History Channel might bring you a “documentary” on ancient aliens, and there are more paranormal investigation reality shows than you’d think there was a market for, but no one hits the sweet spot of In Search of… Succinct, grim, and most of all entertaining, In Search of doesn’t feel like it’s sincerely trying to convince anyone that the Fortean phenomena it frequently focused on was real. At its best, it felt more like a thirty-minute, televised version of campfire tales and legends retold, and a major reason for that was Nimoy’s narration. The man had a hell of a voice; authoritative, but still suited for storytelling. Whether he was talking about known natural threats such as Africanized “killer” bees, or purely fictitious fun like the Bermuda Triangle, he could draw you in and make you feel like the world just outside your door was full of unexplained terrors and wonders.
A Woman Called Golda – Morris Meyerson
Most notable as the final project of Ingrid Bergman, this Golda Meir biopic / miniseries co-starred Nimoy as Meir’s husband. In it, Nimoy gets to showcase several sides of his acting-self that aren’t easy to find elsewhere. Morris Meyerson is charming and proud, but also doubtful and–ultimately–helpless when it comes to supporting his wife’s world-changing ambitions. By the end, Meyerson circles back to being as understanding as he possibly can be, but Nimoy plays this perfectly, showing Meyerson as a man who still–with subtle remorse–can’t completely let go of his disbelief, even when he should by then know better. Nimoy would pick up a deserved Emmy nomination for his portrayal.
Three Men and a Baby – Director
On top of being an actor, narrator, poet, author and photographer, Nimoy delved into directing. While some of his directorial projects may seem fitting–directing an episode of Night Gallery, for instance–it’s pretty easy to forget (or never have known) that he also directed Three Men and a Baby. Not a classic by any stretch–it’s aged about as well as most 80’s comedies can truly hope to–it was nonetheless a huge commercial success, being the highest grossing film of 1987. It was also fairly pretty well received by critics. The only major disappointment about Three Men and a Baby (not going with a Steve Guttenberg joke here, that would be unbecoming), is that it came around 5 years too late for In Search of… to do an episode based on its ghost.
Looking back, there were many things to love about Leonard Nimoy the artist and creator. Even if you set aside his most memorable, iconic character, the man still had a career and talent to envy.