Spock Doc Earns an Emotional Response
TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW: “FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK”
BY MAX BURBANK | I have no memory of ever watching an episode of the original “Star Trek” for the first time. I do remember my dad and I watching it first-run on a black and white TV, when I was four.
By the time I was watching reruns religiously, I wanted to be James T. Kirk. My lack of success with the ladies at Franklin Elementary made it pretty clear that was never going to happen. Maybe though, just maybe, I could be Spock. Standoffish? Check. Alien? I was the only Jew not on a Sunday School felt board any of my classmates had ever seen. Smart? Well, I got punched a lot for using “big words.” That counts, right? So yeah. I could be Spock. Full disclosure, I also thought I’d be a good choice to carry the One Ring to Mordor, which would not have gone well for anyone. Except, you know, Orcs, I guess. You get the picture.
So my dad gave me “Star Trek.” Adam Nimoy’s dad gave him, and the world, Spock. Now Adam has given us “For the Love of Spock.” Begun in 2014, it was originally intended to focus solely on the character of Spock, to commemorate the original series’ 50th anniversary. With Nimoy’s passing, it became clear the film should celebrate the man as well as his creation.
Loaded with archival stills, restored original footage, interviews with original and reboot cast members, family, celebrity superfans (Jason Alexander and Jim “Sheldon” Parsons), scientists (Neil deGrasse Tyson, can I get a what WHAT?) and astronauts, this is the Spockfest everyone wanted, a claim for which there is empirical evidence. Crowdsourced, the documentary holds the Kickstarter record for Most Successful Campaign.
Why? Simple. No Spock, no “Trek.” The original “Star Trek” and the eventual franchise (with the possible exception of “Voyager,” sorry, that’s just how I feel) is full of memorable characters, but Spock…Spock resonates. Spock is more than just a character; he’s a way of looking at life, a lens through which to view the human condition. I know, super nerdy, right? But also true. Fascinating.
Adam Nimoy grew up with that. Leonard was his dad, but Spock must have loomed over that family. It must have been hard, but there’s not an iota of bitterness or regret in Adam Nimoy’s documentary. It doesn’t shy away from the inevitable difficulty of being Spock’s kid, but there’s an embrace of both the man his father was, and the icon he created. It’s where everyone who ever had a fraught relationship with their father would want to end up.
There’s not a lot of new ground here. If there are new insider “Trek” stories to tell, I haven’t heard one in a long time. I did come away with some fresh insight into how Nimoy shaped the character of Spock as a reaction to Shatner’s acting style, and that was cool.
One thing that’s especially nice? The film dishes no dirt on cast infighting. The elder Nimoy didn’t want that. It focuses on how Spock touched people, and how the character Nimoy created wove himself into people’s lives. Everyone has their Spock story. Here’s mine.
Back in the ’80s, I was a camp counselor, and, for movie night one time, we showed “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn,” aka the awesomest “Star Trek” movie. And it’s Spock’s death scene, so I’m crying, even though I’ve seen it like eight times, thank God it’s dark, the kids can’t see. And this one kid, this little privileged rich snot, laughs. Laughs! And I yell “YOU ARE A HEARTLESS A-HOLE!” Except of course I didn’t say “a-hole.” I got a talking to from the owner afterwards, but not a very stern one. ’Cause he was crying too, I guarantee it. Anyone half-human or more cries.
Spoiler alert, you’re going to cry at the end of this documentary. You won’t think you will, but there’s a section that sneaks up on you, as stealthy as a Vulcan nerve pinch — and you’ll cry. It’s okay, because Leonard Nimoy is gone, and he will be sorely missed. But Spock is still here.
Will you like this documentary if you are not familiar with “Star Trek?” Insufficient data. I’m not a “Trekkie,” or “Trekker,” couldn’t even tell you what the difference between those terms is, but I’m a huge fan. I can’t separate myself from the degree to which “Star Trek” has been the ambient noise in the background of my life. Embarrassing? Sure. But I’m not sorry. I spent most of the year I was 13 in front of the medicine chest mirror teaching myself to raise one eyebrow. I have never regretted it.
Director: Adam Nimoy. Runtime: 105 minutes. Fri., Apr. 22, 3:30pm & Sat., 9:15pm at Bow Tie Cinemas Chelsea (260 W. 23rd St., btw. Seventh & Eighth Aves.). Tickets: $20 plus $3.50 phone & web processing fee ($10 plus processing for pre-6pm screenings). Visit tribecafilm.com or call 646-502-5296. Also visit fortheloveofspock.com.