weird_little (weird_little) wrote,

So, we saw the SpockDoc

Adam Nimoy had advertised the movie in his Kickstarter campaign as a documentary celebrating Spock and Leonard Nimoy, in honor of the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. That was two-thirds of the film.  The final third was a look at the troubled relationship between Adam and Leonard.

The first third of the film -- the part about Spock -- was sorta fun, though I didn't feel as if Adam shed any actual light on the subject.  There was a collection of great Spock moments -- not as good as what you could find in any fan-made YouTube compilation -- a few interviews with Trekkies who felt that Spock helped them in various personal ways, and a few interviews with professional scientists who appreciated Spock.  Neil DeGrasse Tyson was especially notable among the latter, for being consistently adorable, but then, he usually is. :-)

The second third of the film -- the part about Leonard Nimoy -- was, I thought, the best part.  We got clips of Leonard's guest appearances in various TV shows while he was a young man, shots of him in various plays after he became famous, and some discussion of the movies he'd directed and the photographs he'd taken.  There were interviews with his older brother, Melvin, and his wife, with a childhood friend who also became an actor, and with the surviving cast members of TOS and of the reboot movies.  I had never seen Melvin before, and it was interesting to hear him talk about his little brother.

The final third of the film -- the part where Adam talked about his troubled relationship with his father -- blames Leonard's devotion to his work and the consequent long hours, exhaustion, and general non-availability for Adam's various addictions and general dissatisfaction with life.  There's a quite a lot of that -- He forced the whole family to help him answer his fan mail!  The pain!  The horror! -- and then it winds up with a segment whose tone is "Fortunately, Leonard eventually gave up all that acting nonsense and devoted himself to his family, as he should have all along."

So the film has a "happy" ending, by having Leonard give up his various creative pursuits to devote himself to his family.


Adam says that his ex-wife -- with whom he is good friends -- told him that there was too much of HIM in the movie.  He asked the movie's editor -- he told us during the introduction before the film that this was a woman he hired specifically because she knew nothing about Star Trek -- and she told him that putting so much of himself into the movie was a good thing.  Judged just as a movie, the editor is probably right, because the last third adds a bit of drama.  Judged as a film touted as a celebration of Spock and Leonard Nimoy, however, I'm afraid I have to agree with the ex-wife.  And even more than Adam's injecting so much of himself into the movie, I object to his making "Give up your career and devote yourself to your family" the point or moral of the story he's telling.

So now I'll talk about the movie in more detail, by part:

1.  The first third of the movie is probably the best that Adam could have done, given that he wasn't a big Spock fan.  I think someone other than Adam could have done a much better job with this, though I guess it's not Adam's fault that he isn't someone else. :-)  The thing is that Adam is one of the few people who have access to all of the cast members and to Neil DeGrasse Tyson and to folks at NASA and so on.  A Spock-loving Trekkie could have written and planned a better movie about Spock, but we wouldn't have the access that Adam had, and that's rather unfortunate.

The organization of the first part is along the lines of the Vulcan superpowers, so there's a bit of "He mind-melds!  He neck-pinches!  He gives the Vulcan salute!  How cool!"  And yeah, okay, those things are cool, and there is a nod to how Spock has inspired several scientists and been a role-model and comfort to outsiders of various stripes.  It was quite reasonable, that first third.  But I didn't feel as if it was made with real LOVE for Spock, and I didn't feel as if it shed any light on why Spock is so compelling that any reasonably articulate Trekkie couldn't have given us with five minutes' thought.

There wasn't any deeper analysis of Spock's character beyond the scientist and outsider stuff, so we didn't hear about all the things besides the Vulcan superpowers that make Spock such a compelling character.  Personally, I find the fact that Spock will do what he believes to be the right thing, no matter how much it costs him personally, to be one of the hallmarks of his character and one of the reasons why he's so inspiring, but maybe that's just me?  Like how he was willing to face the death penalty to take Christopher Pike to Talos IV in "The Menagerie," or how he was willing to let his father die and his mother hate him to protect the ambassadors on board the Enterprise in "Journey to Babel," and of course there's his repairing the ship at the cost of his own life in The Wrath of Khan.

2. I have less to say about the second part of the movie.  It gave us a summary -- or maybe more accurately, a collage -- of Leonard's background and life.  That was fine, though I did think it was perhaps telling that Adam left out several of the stories that show Leonard's goodness.  He gave us the story about Leonard's insisting that Takei and Nichols be hired for the animated series but not the ones about his getting pay parity for Nichols during TOS or about his being the only one Grace Lee Whitney felt she could trust and confide in after someone connected with the show raped her.

3.  Adam talks about his troubled relationship with his father and makes it clear that he didn't get what he wanted from his father until the last few years of Leonard's life.  He never tells us, though, that when he wanted to stop being a lawyer and start being a director, Leonard arranged for Adam to shadow a director on The Next Generation and essentially be tutored in the craft by a working professional, something that a person whose last name was NOT Nimoy could probably not have arranged at all, and if they had been able to arrange it, they'd have had to show some talent and training first.

Adam doesn't seem to take the cultural standards of the time into account.  Leonard Nimoy was born one year before my own father was born; Adam is two years older than I am.  I remember the times during which he and I were raised, and the cultural standard then was that the woman raised the children and the man worked hard and supported the family.  It was considered normal, natural, and desirable for the wife to devote herself to the children and for the husband to devote himself to his career so that he could provide financial support for his family.  Nowadays, we find those attitudes sexist and limiting, and I'm glad that our cultural standards have changed.  But I think it's unfair to judge a man for not living up to standards that didn't exist at the time!

A reading of Leonard's autobiographies shows that he spent an enormous amount of time and energy on his career because he needed and wanted that creative outlet.  But it also shows that during the years of the TV show, he made a huge number of personal appearances all over the country for anyone who would pay him -- at a time when he was exhausted from working 12-16 hours a day on the show -- in order to provide for his family while he could.  He thought that his popularity and marketability would decline after the TV show went off the air -- a reasonable conclusion, given what happens to most TV actors -- and he was determined to take advantage of every available opportunity while he still had them.  There was no creative outlet for Leonard in all those public appearances; he did them to support his family.

By the standards of the time, Leonard was doing the right thing and more than the right thing, was going above and beyond and working himself into exhaustion to provide for his family.

Leonard never got what he wanted and needed from his own father, or from his mother, either.  They were very invested in the success of his older brother and had less attention for him, plus they never understood either his ambition to be an actor or the show that made him a star.  Leonard's parents disappointed him at least as much as Leonard disappointed Adam ... and Leonard went on to become a great man.  Not just a great actor, though he was that, but a man whose intimates (except for Adam) all talk about his goodness, kindness, and generosity.

Would that Adam could find it in himself to become a man whose goodness, kindness, and generosity are talked about for years after his death.

Although the movie certainly wasn't all bad and in fact had some lovely moments, overall I thought that Adam Nimoy made a rather self-indulgent film.  Of course, the poor guy did lose his father recently, so one can forgive a certain amount of self focus ... but this isn't the movie I thought I was funding, and I was heartsick at the "moral" Adam gave us.

Do Star Trek fans want to see the movie?  Yeah, you probably do ... but I think you'll enjoy it more if you go in with lowered expectations.  I trust I have lowered them sufficiently. :-)
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