Friday, 22 February 2019

Nineteen in '19: I Am Spock

I've read far less in recent years than I would like. To help remedy this, I've set myself the modest target of reading nineteen books in 2019. When I finish one, a thumbnail review here will follow.

5/19: I Am Spock by Leonard Nimoy

The blurb: Leonard Nimoy's portrayal of the ever-logical Vulcan, Mr. Spock, is one of the most recognisable, loved, and pervasive characterisations in popular culture. He had been closer to the phenomenon of Star Trek than anyone, having played the pivotal role of Spock in the original series, in six motion pictures, and in a special two-part episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I Am Spock gives us Nimoy's unique perspective on the beginnings of the Star Trek phenomenon, on his relationship with his costars and particularly on the reaction of the pointed-eared alien that Nimoy knew best.

The review: I bought this last year for a pound in a charity shop, in mint-condition hardback form, and it's been sat in my eternally-expanding "to-read" pile ever since. Well, I finally made time and, what do you know, it's okay. I should point out that I love a good autobiography (especially when not ghostwritten) and I love Star Trek, so I was predisposed to love this book. That I only liked it (and I genuinely did enjoy reading it) tells you something, or things. For starters, it tells you that this was not Nimoy's first autobiog: the first, written in the early 70s and entitled I Am Not Spock, did not go down too well with Trek fans at the time, who saw it as a snub to a beloved character. Without going into that too much (or how Nimoy's coming to terms with his most famous characterisation is the vehicle that drives this second biog), it's perhaps understandable that the author's early life and career, including the three years of classic Trek in the 60s, are covered relatively briefly - he's covered them before, after all. Still, there are titbits, anecdotes, Leonard's relationships with Bill Shatner (good) and Gene Roddenberry (not as good) from those times. But far more of the book is devoted to Nimoy's big screen outings as Spock, particularly STII (in which Spock dies, of course), STIII (in which Nimoy directs Spock's resurrection) and STIV (in which Nimoy directs again and brings fun back to the franchise).

You also learn that whilst Nimoy's prose is perfectly serviceable, it seldom reached the "let's have a chat, you and I" tone that he seemed to be aiming for. And the "conversations with Spock" device he used, at first interesting and occasionally amusing, becomes increasingly intrusive as the book goes on.

But aside from all this, you have to read I Am Spock, like every autobiography, with your cynical head on - how reliable is our narrator? Has truth been omitted? How self-serving are the anecdotes? And the answer, from this reviewer at least, is that this seems a balanced account of the episodes described: it isn't all one-way traffic, and Nimoy holds his hands up to things at times. The only minor variation on this score is the slight overplaying of his stage and screen accomplishments outside of Trek...but that's quite logical, isn't it?

The bottom line: a decent but not great autobiography, but you'll enjoy it if you are a fan of Star Trek and Nimoy's famous alter-ego, Spock.

Since everything online is rated these days: ★★★☆☆☆ as a book, ★★★★☆☆ as a book for ST fans

This scene from STVI, Shatner and Nimoy's big-screen swansong as co-stars, has extra poignancy after reading I Am Spock.


  1. Doubt it can compete with Up Til Now, the autobiography of delightfully insane co-star.

    1. Which will now be added to the eternally expanding to-read list...

  2. Good luck with the reading challenge!

    I used to log each book I read on a forum site but, when that closed unexpectedly last year it took my 2018 book diary with it. Pissed me off no end that I no longer had a comprehensive record of what I'd read, especially as I would always share the list on my blog around New Year's Eve/Day. So now I've taken to making a little note in a pocket diary of each book I'm reading this year.

    1. Nice. I used to use Goodreads for that, but that got a bit corporate, a bit serious. A notebook is better.

  3. I don't think I've ever made it through Kirk's eulogy to Spock in STII without shedding a tear or two. '...of all the souls I have encountered on my travels, his was the most....human' Shatner at his finest. It was 1982, I was 22. It was like a piece of my childhood had died.
    I'm glad that I'm not the only one with an eternally-expanding 'to-read' pile.

    1. I'm with you on that. II is a great film, simple as that. Perhaps the best of all Trek films.