McCoy: C’mon, Spock, it’s me, McCoy. You really have gone where no man’s gone before. Can’t you tell me what it felt like?
Spock: It would be impossible to discuss the subject without a common frame-of-reference.
McCoy: You’re joking!
Spock: A joke…is a story with a humorous climax.
McCoy: You mean I have to die to discuss your insights on death?
–Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
It feels redundant to add my voice to the chorus of those mourning the loss of Leonard Nimoy, but then I remembered a story he told, and I realized that it’s because it’s a chorus that my voice is needed.
A friend and I were talking about the big things—life and death. I brought up that scene from Star Trek IV, which isn’t unusual. It would be odd if I didn’t bring Star Trek into a conversation at least once a week. We agreed that Spock was right: there are certain experiences, particularly those involving life and death, that can’t be shared except among those who have experienced them. Even then words sometimes fail us. There are some things that can’t be conveyed. Since the conversation was getting kind of heavy I threw in a joke. “Know how to get your ass kicked at a science fiction convention? Refer to Leonard Nimoy as ‘that guy who directed Three Men & A Baby’.”
An hour later I heard the news. Leonard Nimoy was no longer with us. The story I thought of is one he told in both I Am Not Spock, published in 1975, and I Am Spock, published in 1995. It was something that happened to him while Star Trek was still on. Here’s the earlier version:
On one trip to Salt Lake City, I was met at the airport and driven to a local motel. I had been preregistered and was taken directly to my room. As I turned the key in the door, the phone in the room was rining. I walked in and answered. A young female voice said, “Is this Mr. Nimoy?” I said, “Yes, it is.” “Mr. Nimoy, I’m one of your biggest fans. I live in Denver and I just wanted to say hello and tell you how much I enjoy you on Star Trek.” I was startled, and I asked, “How did you find me?” She said, “I heard you were going to be in Salt Lake City, and I called all the hotels and motels until I got the right one.” I thanked her for calling, and explained that I had to get off the phone since I was due to make an appearance in five minutes. I hung up, changed clothes quickly, and within five minutes was headed for the door. The phone rang again. I went back, picked it up, and heard: “Mr. Nimoy, my name is Patricia. I’m in Chicago, and I just wanted to say hello.” I asked: “How did you find me?” The answer was very simple, “Mary in Denver called me. . .
He would tell the story a third time for inclusion in William Shatner’s Get A Life. That time he sounded exasperated, but I prefer to think it really made him happy. Star Trek’s stars and its fans formed a chorus, and the man who told us to live long and prosper was clearly pleased to have been part of something that brought so many people together.
Hail and farewell Mr. Nimoy.