In Search Of… by Nacho
[Note — Fellow author Rotting Corpse and I spent today talking about the Nimoy we knew. A Nimoy not singing about Bilbo Baggins. My eulogy is below. Rotting Corpse’s post is right here.]
I didn’t know who Mr. Spock was. The whole Star Trek thing? I was too young. When I was introduced to sci-fi by my grandfather, I was introduced to real man’s sci-fi. The dystopian, apocalyptic horror of the original Battlestar Galactica. That, my grandfather told me, was the real world, the world we lived in. We were all part of the rag tag fugitive fleet fleeing the Cylon tyranny, and we knew, deep down, that we were running towards the abyss. The crew of the Galactica would never find Earth in their lifetime. They all knew this. It wasn’t hidden from them (as it was in the reboot). Earth was always the distant, shining star.
My grandfather, seeing the sci-fi addiction take hold, quickly moved me into Space:1999, the ultimate hopeless sci-fi show. The fractious crew of Moonbase Alpha would never see Earth again, and had no real chance of finding a viable alternative home. Whenever they got close to salvation, you knew before the title sequence teased it for you that they were doomed. The first season followed a subplot that, in the 70s, was impossible for the writers to explore properly – the runaway moon followed the path of Mankind’s exodus from our progenitor planet, and, at every turn, the hints were clear – humanity was evil. We left a wake of destruction behind us that had survived for an eon and shaped the universe against us.
My child’s mind, so easily shaped by my big, gruff, hard-talking grandfather, was beginning to get the picture — all we had was survival. We were doomed and adrift in a mysterious universe that hated us. Even classic Doctor Who was about a fugitive who faced death if he ever got caught and, when the chips were down, was less about saving the universe and more about getting the fuck back to the TARDIS and letting the universe get on with its slow death.
To drive the lesson home, my grandfather then introduced me to Blake’s 7. There a corrupt Federation of Planets (very clearly the successor of Star Trek’s Federation) thrived on slavery, brutality, and greed as they acted out the decaying final steps in the horror of a republic dying from tyranny. The titular character dies after the first season, only to return in the final act at the end of the fourth season as an opportunistic government wonk. The finale is a slaughterhouse, all innocence lost, all goodness destroyed, all hope abandoned.
So when I finally watched Star Trek, it was saccharine, empty, and strangely ignorant of the harder world its genre embraced. Spock did not imprint on me with the power that has so recently created a social media tidal wave in the wake of Nimoy’s death.
Spock, in fact, was wholly unrelatable to me. I never saw the fascination. I’m a Kirk man. In the world I was forced to grow up in, you’re either the guy who takes the bull by the horns or you’re the sniveling science officer who gets beat down by the guy in the girdle and the toupee.
When I heard that Nimoy had died, the last thing I thought of was Star Trek. I thought of, instead, the voice of the man who fueled my desire to learn more about the world, to pursue questions, to study the mysterious. My Nimoy experience, as a child of the late 70s and early 80s, was the long-running program In Search Of…
Nimoy, as narrator, took us from bigfoot to the money pit to ghosts and goblins to the Knights Templar to Amelia Earhart. Six seasons of skin-crawling, hair-raising, thought-provoking mysteries. Every single episode, in the parlance of the 21st century, was a wiki wormhole. I would go to the library at grade school and research the madness of each episode. How can you say it’s Mr. Spock who influenced a generation when Leonard Nimoy is the man who made a six year old in 1980 hit the microfiche to research the insane teachings of Elizabeth Clare Prophet, the founder of a cult that worshiped the perhaps fictional Count de Saint Germain?
Nimoy – always on location – hosted each episode with a Serling-esque spookiness. Submitted, if you will, for your approval. No studio Ripley’s bullshit here, Nimoy stood proud in the Superstition Mountains, or at the haunted farm, or at the scene of the crime, or on a ship in the Bermuda Triangle. Daring the ghosts, lost gods, and angry demons to come and get him.
Today, I love Star Trek. I love all sci-fi. I understand the power of Spock. But I grew up with the voice of Nimoy narrating every supernatural question in this strange and demented world of ours. And I had and continue to have lots of fucking questions.
So that’s why I’ll miss him.