Review: For the Love of Spock (2016)

"For the Love of Spock" - A Documentary Film

For the Love of Spock (2016): 455 Films/For The Love Of Spock Productions

I’m not the biggest STAR TREK fan in the universe. I was always more into that other franchise from a galaxy far away. That said, I enjoyed most of the movies and saw a handful of episodes, but even I knew what a big deal Spock was, and is, to so many. A deeply personal take on the man and the character from his son was probably the most affecting form that FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK could take.

Love, affection, admiration, resentment. Adam Nimoy is the son of Spock, otherwise known as actor Leonard Nimoy. This documentary is how he saw his father, how he interpreted his unique impact on the world of culture and fandom and how he chooses to remember him today. 

Though Adam Nimoy admits that a film about his father must be one about the character of Spock (and vise versa) we never escape the ordinariness of the man. He went from selling fish tanks for plush offices, where he “cornered the market” to any number of real jobs before hitting it big as an a actor. He had a fascinating and unlikely story, and one well worth telling.

Nimoy’s own admiration of Lon Chaney, the Man of a Thousand Faces is fascinating coming from a man who became, perhaps above all others on television, known for one alone. He famously struggled with the all-encompassing nature of this persona, publishing first a book titled I AM SPOCK and afterwards another, I AM NOT SPOCK.

“Prior to Star Trek I never had a job that lasted more than two weeks”. In archive footage, Nimoy’s cackle at reading Variety’s review of the Trek pilot, describing William Shatner as “wooden” is wonderful. These little moments bring the whole thing alive. The cast of Trek all had well-publicised clashes with Shatner, but you get the sense that his relationship with Nimoy leaned more towards the “love” side of “love-hate”.

Shatner: “He could sustain a note…off-key, but he could sustain a note!”. Adam Nimoy isn’t above poking fun at his dad, splicing together the music video for Leonard’s famously awful Bilbo Baggins song and footage of the crew of the enterprise looking bewildered. He also has a pretty frank chat with George Takei about the existence of Kirk/Spock slash fiction on the Internet.

Adam Nimoy is a vibrant director. Like his dad his career path was not immediately apparent, practicing as he did as a lawyer before embarking on his filmmaking path. His style ranges from Ken Burns-esque tracking into stills to livelier and more colourful montages like the Flower Power sequence where he describes how his parents differed. He clearly doesn’t mind being on camera and makes no pretense that this is anything other than a very personal take on his father’s life and times. His emotions are laid bare, particularly in a scene where he revisits old correspondence, and old memories, from when their relationship was at its most trying. It’s also, as Spock would say, fascinating to see Adam experience a convention for the first time and seems to come away equally moved and bewildered by fans’ obsession with his dad.

For the Love of Spock is, at its core, just one man’s take on another. Adam Nimoy doesn’t hide his negative experiences with his father, but will proudly proclaim how strong their relationship became in Leonard’s later years. This isn’t an exposé, but you don’t get the impression that many would have particularly bad things to say about Leonard outside his own family, who suffered for his art. What comes through is an abiding feeling of love, the Nimoys’ love for one another, the fans’ love of Leonard and Leonard’s love of his profession and the phenomenon he was such an essential part of. SSP

About Sam Sewell-Peterson

Writer and film fanatic fond of black comedies, sci-fi, animation and films about dysfunctional families.
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