Review: For the Love of Spock (Fantasia Review)
PLOT: Director Adam Nimoy explores his father Leonard Nimoy’s enduring legacy as the most popular character in STAR TREK history - Spock. He also shines a light on his own, complicated relationship with his father, and the challenges of being the son of an icon.
REVIEW: FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK comes along at the ideal moment. Not only is another big-screen STAR TREK movie due for release this week, but the franchise as a whole is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year. For us sci-fi geeks of a certain age, this franchise was a bit of a gateway drug. While I’m a fan of TNG, DS9 and (kinda) Voyager, The Original Series (or TOS for Trekkies) is more-or-less in my blood. Having been born in ’81, I remember the show being in syndication on the CBC (Canada Broadcasting Corp) and watching it every day after school. As a kid, the movies were first-run events, and most of my big Star Trek memories revolve around Spock.
The fact is, as much as people love Kirk, McCoy, Scotty or Picard, Data and whoever else from the franchise, the pointy-eared Spock is the face of Trek. Spock, who always did battle with his human side and repressed his emotions (save for the occasional, “well-earned” outburst as pointed-out by interviewee Simon Pegg), was the coolest of the cool, and when as kids we dressed up as Star Trek characters for Halloween, everyone wanted to be Spock.
It helps that Leonard Nimoy, the man wearing the ears, happened to be a particularly cool cat. Unlike William Shatner, there was no egocentric baggage; with most agreeing he was a warm, intelligent guy who always had time for fans and his co-stars. While he probably bristled at never getting fair recognition as an actor for his work outside of Trek, with this doc spending a lot of time on his distinguished stage career, Nimoy always seemed happy to play Spock (minus his perhaps ill-advised mid-seventies “I’m not Spock” memoir, which he later revised as “I am Spock”).
It turns out, Nimoy wasn’t unlike his on-screen alter-ego, with him apparently having been something of a method actor during his time as Spock. His son reveals that he and his father had an occasionally combative relationship, although to his credit the younger Nimoy acknowledges his own part in the feud and never blames Leonard for the bad moments in their relationship. While the doc does tow the company line in that it never goes into Nimoy’s complicated relationship with Shatner (who appears on-camera and only briefly acknowledges any early conflict with his co-star), this is more warts-and-all about the main subject than you might think – something Leonard ostensibly approved of as he was involved with this doc before his passing.
We learn that while Nimoy’s career got major second wind in the late eighties after his directorial efforts STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME and THREE MEN AND A BABY wound up being the top holiday releases of 1986 and 1987, this success actually contributed to a drinking problem for Nimoy, who checked into rehab after his passion project, THE GOOD MOTHER (with Diane Keaton and a young Liam Neeson) tanked at the box office. Anyone wondering why he suddenly stopped directing may find this an eye-opener, with it revealed that at a certain point Nimoy’s only real ambition was to become a good father/grandfather, something which is thoughtfully and movingly depicted in the doc.
Through it all, FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK really benefits from the “love” the title suggests, both for the character and the man who played him. Everything the fans expect covered gets checked, from Nimoy’s acting in the 1978 INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, to his bizarre turn as a late-sixties pop-star (with Shatner admiringly admitting that Nimoy had a much better singing voice than he did). All his surviving co-stars are on hand to pay tribute, as are the major stars of the new franchise and some celebrity super fans (like Jason Alexander – who does his amazing Shatner impression). It’s an informative, fun doc that will be catnip to Trekkies, and a long-overdue celebration of an icon whose importance can’t be overstated.