Leonard Nimoy said this is what everyone got wrong about Spock

The actor revealed his biggest pet peeve while playing the human/Vulcan hybrid.

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There's a moment in the Star Trek episode "The Apple" that provides a rare example of Mr. Spock losing control of his emotions.

About 18 minutes into "The Apple," Kirk asks Spock, as the science officer, to explain how reproduction works, and instead of matter-of-factly explaining the functions, he instead like a schoolboy awkwardly stumbles over phrasing and even clears his throat.

One of the central aspects of Spock's nature as half-Vulcan was to have the power to control his emotions, but Spock actor Leonard Nimoy said this was often the most confused aspect of the character.

You see, these momentary blips in Spock's logical delivery were very much intentional, meant to give the audience an occasional glimpse into the emotions Spock otherwise so carefully managed. He was half-human, after all!

"I've seen him described as a cold, unemotional alien," Nimoy told The Orlando Sentinel in 1978. "I don't think that's accurate. Spock is not unemotional — he's in control of his emotions. There is a pool of emotions in this character and the fun for the viewer is to see if they can catch a crack in his reserve or a gleam in his eye. That gives him more dimension. With no emotions, he would have no dimensions at all."

A decade earlier, in 1967, Nimoy assured The Ottawa Citizen that in his personal life, "I have my emotions pretty well under control."

Still, to The Orlando Sentinel, Nimoy admitted it irritated him when fans called Spock unemotional, but he didn't think it was necessarily their fault for confusing Spock's true nature. He blamed the way some lazy critics would often inexplicably describe the character that way.

"I honestly don't believe the press has ever captured or understood what Spock was about," Nimoy said.

He also revealed he had long laughed at the worst of these critics, who published false stories claiming he was experiencing an identity crisis playing Spock.

"All this stuff about Spock dominating my life is a myth," Nimoy said. "You've seen the headlines: 'Is he trapped by the character?' I've been reading that stuff for years and I just laugh."

Nimoy said he thinks these publications were just inventing a story they knew would sell.

"They were just going for easy drama," he said, noting for the record he never suffered an identity crisis, because Spock is "just a character, after all."

Rather than feeling tortured by the character he was playing, Nimoy told The Ottawa Citizen, he looked up to Spock.

"I admire his logic," Nimoy said. "It's so uncluttered. I appreciate the ability to be precise. I like to think that I am logical — but sometimes I look back and wonder if the things I do are logical."

As evidence of this, early on in his career, Nimoy said he foolishly only saw acting purely as a vessel for portraying emotion, with no other nuance.

"When I first started as an actor, my work was over-emotional," Nimoy said. "I considered acting an opportunity to express emotions — and I took advantage of every opportunity I got. It took me a long time to discover that restraint can be admirable."

By 1967, he was past that phase and prepared to play his most restrained character ever, which he said was a civilized way of being, whereas being unemotional he saw as pathological.

"I've been in TV and films for 17 years — the work requires a great deal of emotional control, if for no other reason than that the actor must reproduce emotions," Nimoy said. "I think of myself as an instrument that's tuned and that can evoke the proper sounds and responses."

Although he admired how Spock could control his emotions, Nimoy said ultimately the mind is no substitute for the heart. Even those small moments in which we see Spock embarrassed provided necessary occasional proof that underneath that cool exterior, there was sometimes a squirming, emotional mess.

"I'm much more emotional than Mr. Spock," Nimoy admitted. "Spock rarely betrays what he is thinking or feeling. He's fun to portray."

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kimmer 6 months ago
From what I've read and have heard over the years Leonard Nimoy must have been an amazing man in real life.
Wiseguy 6 months ago
What I could never understand is this business about Spock showing emotions because he's half-human. Heredity just doesn't work that way. It's like saying someone likes spaghetti because he's half-Italian. Both may be true (liking spaghetti, being half-Italian) but he doesn't like spaghetti BECAUSE he's half-Italian. What he's exposed to while growing up is more important. While he could see his father showing little emotion, he was also exposed to a human mother's emotions. He was also subject to more criticism while growing up because everyone knew he was half-human. (No one criticized the boys in "Yesteryear" for being emotional while taunting Spock for being an emotional half-human.) The conflict for Spock is trying to be as emotionless as possible while dealing with the emotions learned or witnessed from his mother. Has nothing to do with biology.
teddymileski 6 months ago
I met Leonard Nimoy in 1975 at a custom car show and he was one of the most polite and intelligent people I’ve ever met. He took the time to talk to my friend and I seemed to enjoy interacting with fans ( I was 13 years old). He put depth into every role he played. He was an actor; not a “star.” Nice man.
SaulPerezJr 6 months ago
Big Bang Theory captured the point of this article with The Spock Resonance episode. Leonard Nimoy’s son, Adam, is doing a documentary about Spock, and Sheldon tries to prove he has lived his life like Spock without emotion. But because this was soon after his breakup with Amy, Sheldon has an emotional outburst when showing the engagement ring he intended to give Amy before the breakup. The point being, Spock controlled his emotions, but still had his moments of emotional outbursts.
Barry22 6 months ago
One of the most iconic TV characters of all time.
Andybandit 6 months ago
Lenord Nimoy was great as playing Mr. Spock.
Pacificsun 6 months ago
I’m not sure if it’s the simplicity of the writer. Or the desire to spin a particular thought a couple of different ways in order to make the story more interesting. But you can certainly distinguish (what I call natural) fans from students of the show. Fans have read about all there is to write about ST. Oh, and they've watched all the episodes many times. And in Mr. Nimoy’s (early on) quest to distance himself from a very complicated character, he wrote a small book called, “I Am Not Spock.” The first reaction was a lot fans feeling very hurt. They loved Spock as much as Leonard Nimoy, and he seemed to be pushing away his fan base. So how curious that this paragraph is included in the article above: “"All this stuff about Spock dominating my life is a myth," Nimoy said. "You've seen the headlines: 'Is he trapped by the character?' I've been reading that stuff for years and I just laugh." In fact, all the actors had a deadly fear of being typecast as science fiction monsters.

That is, until the money started pouring in. And oh yes, the popularity.

So I would question his reaction being quoted, “Nimoy said he thinks these publications were just inventing a story they knew would sell.” Indeed his own book did, as well as the sequel, “I Am Spock.”

Per the writer, I’m not sure how having the power to control one’s emotions was the most confusing aspect of the character. It was pretty clear throughout the series what the character was about. Even Kirk baited him many times to push home his character trait. With eyebrow raised Kirk asks, “Annoyed, Spock?” So in 1979 was basically 10 years of critics never understanding the show anyway, much less the co-starring unemotional alien, meaning it was a pretty easy handle to hang your critique on. And especially to appear being very sophisticated in the process. After all, television was only a few steps away from being the boob-tube.

The problem is that the author left out probably the most critical self-assessment that Spock/Nimoy could make: From “This Side of Paradise” and no longer under the influence of the "spores" he says to Laila, “I have a responsibility to this ship, to that man on the bridge. I am what I am, Leila. If there are self-made purgatories, then we all have to live in them. Mine can be no worse than someone else's.”

If anyone was going to catch the true drift of this character (and probably a good portion of ST's purpose anyway) it would be summarized from that statement. And as it played out many, many times in the series, especially evidenced in “The City on the Edge of Forever” (when Spock reiterates about duty, “He knows doctor, he knows.” Namely that the human conflict is between responsibility, accountability, self-respect, principles (… you get the idea) and personal pleasure. Does a person serve at the whim of his own inclinations? Or does he put into play the values of reasoning and selflessness for a greater good?"

If it's that difficult a concept for people to grasp (whether observer, fan or critic) then maybe they shouldn’t be watching the Show. But I also don’t think I’d post an article without a decent amount of research (not just from easy interviews) but in terms of gathering a well-rounded assessment of what the Show meant to natural fans.
texasluva Pacificsun 6 months ago
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RedSamRackham 6 months ago
Yet in series premiere episode Spock failed to react to a flirtation from Uhura. ♣
Yet, in CHARLIE X Spock smiled wryly as Uhura sang a song implying Spock has a devilish nature he likes to hide, as if they share a secret! Hmmm, perhaps Uhura was the beneficiary of one of those Pon Farr years?
I doubt that Uhura was ever a "beneficiary" of one of Spock's Pon Farr phases. I recall that scene you mention and what I saw was a very sensitive and perceptive woman who, over the years of them serving together, had spotted the depth and emotional side of Spock's character (especially as it related to his and Kirk's deep friendship). Her song was meant to be a well-intentioned "wink wink" nod for him.
texasluva 6 months ago
The Press still likes to make up stories rather then just report them. For at least the last 60 or so years. I have never thought of Nimoy off camera of someone misaligned by his portrayal of Spock on ST.
Pacificsun texasluva 5 months ago
Exactly, he wouldn't be where he ended up before death, if it hadn't been for that singular role. His Fans put him on the map. Financiers saw the revenue opportunities, and it away it went.

But I remember clearly, when the "I Am Not Spock" book came out. And fans were crushed. None of these actors should distanced themselves from what gave them their fame. If they did it right, it was easy enough find other roles to stretch their skills.
texasluva Pacificsun 5 months ago
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LittleMissNoName 6 months ago
I always like the 70's animated series episode where the adult Spock had to travel back in time via The Guardian Of Forever Time Tunnel and mentored his younger self by teaching him how to cope and control emotions by the Vulcan ways of logic.
It's also an episode that dealt with death and loss, which is something you didn't see very much on Saturday mornings back in the 70's.
Stoney LittleMissNoName 6 months ago
Easily the best episode of the animated series
Loved "Yesteryear"!
cperrynaples cseeley90 6 months ago
And of course Nimoy's last performance was opposite Zachary Quinto as his younger self!
What also makes the episode work so well, is how it connects with "Journey to Babel" from TOS. Imagine if the third season of Star Trek opened with an episode similar to this, instead of the shlocky Spock's Brain.
Barry22 LittleMissNoName 6 months ago
That was a great episode.
Loki1 LittleMissNoName 6 months ago
I loved the episode Spocks Brain! I thought it was cool! And Marj Dusay was in it Anything that has Marj in it is Great!!
StrayCat 6 months ago
I don't believe Roddenberry's initial vision for Spock was to be totally without emotion since in the original pilot he smiled a bit especially when he was pointing out those singing flowers to captain Pike. In was Pike's number one that didn't display any emotion. Anyway, Spock was the prototype for how future Vulcan's were to be portrayed in Roddenberry's Star Trek universe and was probably a bit of a work in progress. Anyway, my vote for the best Vulcan would be T' Pol.
Catman StrayCat 6 months ago
My vote for most complex Vulcan, after Spock himself, would be Sarek. That character was really developed in the Next Generation series.
Wiseguy StrayCat 6 months ago
In the original pilot, it was supposed to be "Number One" who was emotionless. When that pilot didn't sell and Roddenberry began working on a second pilot, he decided to give that character trait to Spock. Still, it took time for the writers and actor to get it straight. Even as late as "Shore Leave" he smiles when he tricks Kirk into taking a shore leave.
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