For the Love of Spock: Remembering the man, carrying the torch

Zachary Quinto and Adam Nimoy at the premiere of For the Love of Spock last April

When Leonard Nimoy passed away last year, the world wept. For his son, Adam, whose engaging documentary For the Love of Spock is playing at Symphony Space’s Leonard Nimoy Thalia (logically) this week, it was a profoundly personal loss he shared with millions.

When the elder Nimoy died, he was in the midst of collaborating with his son on a documentary then intended to reflect on the character and his impact. After his passing, the project became equal parts biography and tribute to the man himself, as well as a heartfelt memoir of a sometimes difficult father/son relationship. It’s an entertaining, colorful work filled with the expected Star Trek stars, film, and television clips, but also possessing an added dimension that affects the viewer on an individual level. Like many gay men, I have had an at times challenging relationship with my father, a struggle I saw reflected in the trials and tribulations the Nimoy's experienced (at one point the two men didn’t speak for years).

The film screened at the Tribeca Film Festival this past April. On the red carpet I spoke with Nimoy’s son as well as his grandchildren about the way Leonard had affected me in my own life: I recalled his deep, sonorous narration for the Mugar Omni Theater at Boston’s Museum of Science (the actor was born nearby) as well as the day I felt depressed and was uplifted by “Spock Thoughts,” a spoken word recording of Nimoy’s from 1968 advising listeners to “strive to be happy.” Adam responded that he himself enjoys listening to his dad’s music in the car and finds it extremely soothing.

I caught Zachary Quinto, who plays Spock in the new Star Trek movies, just before he headed inside the theater. I asked a question suggested by Geeks OUT’s resident Trekkie, Niala Terrell-Mason: “How do you feel about carrying the torch for Spock now that Leonard has left us?” Quinto paused briefly and responded, “My main concern is honoring his legacy and the legacy of the character, and I’m grateful to have that responsibility.”

Watching the movie, which addresses Spock’s outsider status and how that spoke to disenfranchised groups of all kinds—including the LGBT community—I couldn’t help being struck by the monumental significance of an openly gay actor playing the character. I thought of something I wanted to say to Quinto about this—a somewhat melodramatic statement, maybe, but one that seemed honest and important. Before the Q&A session began, though, a friend texted to tell me he was waiting outside. Regretfully, I headed out of the theater to meet him. But waiting just outside was Quinto, getting ready for his introduction onstage. I stopped and told myself, now or never. I approached him. “I just wanted to say,” I began, shakily, tears welling up, “you playing this part is the kind of thing that stops LGBT kids from killing themselves. So thank you.” He smiled and shook my hand. “Thank you,” he said warmly. I walked out of the screening with a smile on my face, the words of David Bowie, whose “Starman” plays over the closing credits, still echoing in my head.

There’s a starman waiting in the sky

He’s told us not to blow it

‘Cause he knows it’s all worthwhile

For the Love of Spock is playing at Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway (at 95th St) through this Sunday, September 18 (symphonyspace.org), and is available on iTunes, Amazon, and other streaming services. Follow me on Twitter: @HeyLockwood