- The Washington Times - Friday, September 9, 2016

When you grow up with Spock as your father, chances are your life will take some out-of-this-world turns.

This Friday, cinemagoers will get a chance to see the life of the late Leonard Nimoy from the inside, as his son, Adam Nimoy, unveils “For the Love of Spock,” a documentary not only about his father’s iconic character but also the renaissance man who brought the Vulcan scientist to life on TV and films.

“A lot of people know and recognize Spock; they know who he is, but they’ve never seen an episode of the original series,” Mr. Nimoy told The Washington Times about his documentary and his father. “So we want to educate people.”

“For the Love of Spock” is just one of the many events and works being unveiled in 2016 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the premiere of “Star Trek” on NBC a half-century ago.

Mr. Nimoy previously made another documentary, “Leonard Nimoy’s Boston,” in which he followed his famous father on a travelogue of the actor’s hometown, where he grew up the son of Russian Jewish immigrant parents.

As a first-generation American, Leonard Nimoy had little formal education — barely making it out of high school.

“It was just not his thing,” Mr. Nimoy said of his father’s eschewing higher education in favor of trying his hand at acting, first in New York and then in Los Angeles.

As with any journeyman thespian, years of struggle and bit parts would follow before Nimoy won the part of the half-human, half-Vulcan science officer on the low-budget “Star Trek” TV show, which went on the air Sept. 8, 1966.

NASA grew up at the same time that “Star Trek” came into America’s living rooms. Mr. Nimoy points to the obvious coincidence that the U.S. landed on the Moon in 1969, the same year the show was yanked from the airwaves.

“We interviewed a lot of JPL scientists in ‘For the Love of Spock,’ all of whom said they were inspired by the science officer on the Enterprise,” Mr. Nimoy said. “A lot of what was science fiction in 'Star Trek' is [now] science fact at NASA. You can’t help but see the connection.”

In addition to how science fiction influenced science fact, “For the Love of Spock” is as much about Leonard Nimoy’s worldwide fame as it is the younger Mr. Nimoy’s struggles with being the son of a suddenly famous man whose family overnight came second to his celebrity.

“We had very different backgrounds,” Mr. Nimoy said of growing up in Southern California versus his father’s Depression-era childhood in Boston.

With newfound fame — and wealth — Nimoy spent less and less time at home, which led to lifelong wounds that would take decades to heal.

“We had a lot of disagreements and had different opinions on a lot of different matters,” Mr. Nimoy, who has grown children of his own, recalled. “My point of view was very different” from his father’s. “There was a lot of clash.”

While Leonard Nimoy was never educated beyond high school, he was a skilled autodidact who taught himself photography, wrote poetry, recorded songs and even directed two of the “Star Trek” films back-to-back in the 1980s.

His son, who studied to become an attorney, said getting his law degree was, perhaps more than anything, a way to prove that he could do something that his father could not.

“He could do almost everything, which was annoying and challenging,” he said.

In the film he examines his efforts to pry his father’s attentions even just a little bit away from his stardom, which he related was often a struggle. The documentary examines the highs and lows inherent to any father-son relationship, let alone one in a celebrity household.

However, Mr. Nimoy remains grateful that he and his father were able to bury the hatchet in the last few years before his father passed in February 2015.

“We were able to reconnect at the end of his life and have a very close relationship,” Mr. Nimoy said of his subject.

Rather than run from the legend, Mr. Nimoy opted to leave entertainment law behind and embrace his father’s legacy. He became a director in his own right, helming episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Sliders,” “The Outer Limits,” “Ally McBeal” and “Gilmour Girls.”

His father was his biggest supporter.

“He was the centerpiece of my education as a director,” Mr. Nimoy said, adding that his dad pushed him to enroll in directing and acting classes to better understand the craft. He was even allowed to learn under the tutelage of those professionals directing episodes of “Next Generation,” on which his father once returned to portray Spock yet again in a memorable two-part story.

“When I started getting a lot of [directing] assignments, I would sit down with my dad and figure out what is the theme, what is the story we’re telling, what is the overall message the writer is trying to convey,” Mr. Nimoy said. “Where do you put the camera? How do you deal with talent? I did all of that with him.”

“For the Love of Spock” features interviews with Nimoy’s former castmates, including Walter Koenig and George Takei. Mr. Nimoy also sat down with Zachary Quinto, who has portrayed Spock in the three films of the rebooted film series.

In the newest film, “Star Trek Beyond,” which opened last month, Spock Prime, Nimoy’s character, who traveled back in time in 2009’s “Star Trek” to a time when Spock (Mr. Quinto) and Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) were young, is revealed to have died, which presents an opportunity for growth for Mr. Quinto’s take on the character.

“I think it’s necessary for Zach Quinto’s Spock’s arc,” Mr. Nimoy said, “and dealing with the fact that Spock Prime is no longer going to be in his life.

“Does [the death] move the story along? Not necessarily. But I can’t help but have a sentimental feeling about seeing it because I love Spock, and I love to see my dad and [the film] paying homage to him.”

Indeed, “Star Trek Beyond” is dedicated to Nimoy’s memory, as well as to Anton Yelchin, the 27-year-old actor who portrayed young Chekhov, who was tragically killed in an accident this summer.

Right up until the end of his life, Nimoy often returned to the District for “Star Trek”-related events, including serving as MC and narrator of several events at the Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia, where The Times’ interview with Adam Nimoy took place recently, prior to a screening of “Star Trek Into Darkness,” with the National Symphony Orchestra playing composer Michael Giacchino’s score live.

Mr. Nimoy hopes viewers of his documentary not only come away with a greater appreciation of Spock the character, but also of the multifaceted man who portrayed him.

“We just want to give people a sense of who he was and why he was just so interesting in his own right,” Mr. Nimoy said of his father.

“If you come to see our movie, you’re going to know what Spock is all about: how he was created, how he evolved, the interaction between my dad’s personal life and how he brought Spock home with him. And how and why Spock has resonated with people for 50 years.”

“For the Love of Spock” opens Friday at the Old Greenbelt Theatre in Greenbelt, Maryland.

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