|(Popular Mechanics photo)|
I missed Star Trek when it first came out but became an avid viewer of the reruns during the 1970's. We joined the legions that yearned for more tales (there were only 79 episodes in the original series) of the Starship Enterprise. Yes, we confess to watching the cartoons--excuse me, the animated series--on Saturday mornings.
The spectacular success of 1977's Star Wars caused the studios to green-light numerous science-fiction projects, Star Trek among them. By 1982, when Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was released, Kirk, Spock, the Enterprise, and other members of the cast had become popular icons.
We saw the Wrath of Khan the first weekend (movie critics were diligent about not revealing spoilers), and watched in stunned silence as Spock died at the end to save the Enterprise. How dare they kill off a beloved character?
I confess to shedding a tear at the memorial service, in which William Shatner's short eulogy ranks with his best acting as Captain Kirk. The ceremony culminated with the release of Spock's casket into space, accompanied by the bagpipe strains of Amazing Grace, an instrument-music combination that has since become a cliché.
Spock's character was resurrected in Star Trek III two years later, an interval that we fans felt interminable, and Leonard Nimoy went on to more success not only playing Spock but directing, writing, hosting, producing, and acting. A life that brought many hours of enjoyment to millions of fans came to a close earlier today, but it was his character's movie death that I'll always remember. R.I.P.