Leonard Nimoy said this is what everyone got wrong about Spock

By: H&I Staff     Posted: March 31, 2021, 10:00AM

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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