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Leonard Nimoy. Photo: © 2011 Gage Skidmore. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015): The Fortean Legacy

You’ve probably already heard that Leonard Nimoy has passed, and the retrospectives on his life are bound to start rolling in over the course of the day.

The first you should read is probably his own. This is his last tweet from Monday, by which point he had probably been given word that he would not have very long to live:

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Twitter’s Aaron Muszalski also dug up an interview with Walter Koenig from last July that sheds some light on what Nimoy stood for in his professional life, above and beyond the roles he played:

“Leonard (Nimoy, Mr. Spock) was always kind of unapproachable. But a very good man. Sound ethics and a good sense of morality.

How so?

“When it came to the attention of the cast that there was a disparity in pay in that George and I were getting the same pay but Nichelle was not getting as much, I took it to Leonard and he took it to the front office and they corrected that.

He was sort of the captain, then?

“On that issue, he was. You could count on Leonard for that kind of thing.”

Playing the most famous extraterrestrial in the biggest sci-fi franchise in history would have been enough to secure Nimoy’s legacy in the Fortean community, but that’s not all there was to him. Not by a long shot.

The 144 original episodes of In Search Of… reflected Nimoy’s lifelong fascination with the paranormal, the mysterious, and the simply compelling. Airing from 1977 to 1982, the series introduced millions of viewers to Fortean controversies and laid the groundwork for future paranormal documentary series such as Unsolved Mysteries.

He never really left the paranormal-narrator genre, either, returning to host A&E’s Ancient Mysteries for three seasons in the 1990s.

Fans of more recent sci-fi television may also remember Nimoy’s recurring role as the megalomaniacal time traveler William Bell, the lead villain in Fox’s Fringe.

Nimoy was many other things, too: an author, a poet, a photographer, a musician. But if we count his full contribution to paranormal topics—in fiction and nonfiction, in his own work and the work he influenced—Leonard Nimoy was the single greatest Fortean of the television age, and he clearly enjoyed his work. Everyone who writes or otherwise works in this field owes him a debt of gratitude.

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  • Bear1000

    We have indeed lost one of the greats with Mr. Nimoy’s passing. I will always be eternally grateful to him for his portrayal of Spock and for all the other talents you find out about exceptional people like him after their gone. Rest in peace Mr. Spock and though I did not know you, “I have been, and always shall be your friend.”

  • professor

    Mr. Nimoy and the entire cast showed us the possibilities of our dreams. They showed us how we can live together despite race, gender, background, and belief differences. They gave us a sense of wonder and made us dream. Through their morality plays they demonstrated the worst and the best of mankind. How we can overcome the worst and also challenge ourselves to be better human beings. Capt. Kirk said that we are a race of killers but “we can chose not to kill today”. The show was aired during a time of great social strife, an endless war, and economic uncertainity. For a short time it took us away from our uncertain, disturbing reality and placed us into a fictional world that made sense. It was full of people struggling in difficult situations with human fraility but somehow doing the right thing in the end despite human weaknessess. Today we watch shows simply to demand too much of life’s reality in them with high tech, shallow plots with mind numbing visual effects. Star Trek gave us reality in a fictional world, no matter the low tech production. This allowed our minds to wonder about the future, to expand our mental horizons, and view the future full of opportunities. We used our minds to go beyond the TV show like a child, full of awe. Today we use TV shows to see someone else’s world but not to expand our own. Mr. Nimoy, we knew you were not Spock. However you and Star Trek gave us something that we desperately seek today but can no longer find.