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An appreciation of Leonard Nimoy's Spock from a lifelong fan

Actors in the TV series "Star Trek," from left, Leonard Nimoy as Commander Spock, William Shatner as Captain Kirk, DeForest Kelley as Doctor McCoy and James Doohan as Commander Scott, are shown in this undated photo. [Associated Press]
Actors in the TV series "Star Trek," from left, Leonard Nimoy as Commander Spock, William Shatner as Captain Kirk, DeForest Kelley as Doctor McCoy and James Doohan as Commander Scott, are shown in this undated photo. [Associated Press]
Published Feb. 27, 2015

He was a green-blooded, pointy-eared half-human, half-Vulcan, but we could relate to him.

For nearly 50 years, Leonard Nimoy's iconic character Spock from the television series Star Trek has held a special place on our TV and movie screens — and in our imaginations.

Mr. Nimoy, 83, died Friday morning at his home in Los Angeles.

Spock was there before — and after — Capt. James T. Kirk.

Gene Roddenberry's pilot for his "wagon train to the stars'' sci-fi series featured another captain, Christopher Pike, but Spock was the science officer fighting the aliens who imprisoned him.

"I loved him like a brother," William Shatner, who played Kirk, said in a statement. "We will all miss his humor, his talent and his capacity to love."

Shatner took the captain's chair when the series launched on NBC on Sept. 8, 1966, with Mr. Nimoy's Spock at his side. The partnership lasted through 79 episodes and six feature films. Mr. Nimoy also appeared on several episodes of the television series reboot and later portrayed the older Spock who meets his younger self in J.J. Abrams' 2009 Star Trek movie and its 2013 sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness.

Through the decades, Star Trek fans identified with Spock. We got him. He was the outsider; bullied by his Vulcan classmates because he was contaminated with his human mother's blood and misunderstood by his human crewmates because of his insistence on logical thinking.

Mr. Nimoy understood this, saying fans related to Spock because they "recognize in themselves this wish that they could be logical and avoid the pain of anger and confrontation.''

As a nerdy fat kid in rural South Carolina, I could forget the hurts and the taunts for an hour at a time watching Star Trek after it found new life in reruns. Spock was my hero, not the dashing Captain Kirk.

Spock was smart. He was logical. But he was also stronger than a human man. He could fight, and he had the extremely cool Vulcan Nerve Pinch. (My little brother and sister suffered a few neck bruises because of that. Sorry, guys.) And, Spock got his share of the ladies — even if he did have to mate only once every seven years. (I don't think he should have let T'Pring go in Amok Time, even if she ''did not wish to be the consort of a legend.'')

When Kirk snarkily tells Spock, "You'd make a splendid computer,'' we applauded Spock's response, "That is very kind of you, Captain.''

He could calculate trajectories to travel in time, he could survive with his brain out of his body. He could read minds. Heck, he even came back from the dead.

But like us mere humans, Spock wasn't always perfect. The human side he got from his mother would slip through the dispassion at times. His face would break into a huge smile, he could verbally spar with "Bones'' McCoy, and it might take alien spores to cause it, but he could fall in love.

All of that is why one of my Halloween costumes in the early 1970s was a plastic Spock mask and a thin, nylon blue science officer suit. That's why I trained my fingers to spread into the Vulcan "live long and prosper'' salute. That's why I later dragged my own children to the movie sequels and "made'' them watch the updated series at home.

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I think I wanted them to see that, like Spock, they could choose to ignore silly humans who might not understand them.

The actor behind the character is gone now, but to all of us who could see a little of ourselves in Spock, we'll still tear up when he speaks these words:

"I have been — and always shall be — your friend.''

Ron Brackett, a deputy managing editor at the Times, is a lifelong sci-fi fan with a special devotion to Star Trek. He can be reached at rbrackett@tampabay.com. Follow @rontimes.