'For the Love of Spock': Leonard Nimoy Fought for Diversity (Exclusive Clip)

Spock from "Star Trek: The Animated Series"
Leonard Nimoy fought to include "Star Trek" co-stars Nichelle Nichols and George Takei in "Star Trek: The Animated Series." (Image credit: 455 Films)

A new exclusive clip from the documentary "For the Love of Spock," which explores the life and legacy of "Star Trek" actor Leonard Nimoy and starts public screenings Sept. 9, shows the famous actor willing to take a hit for his fellow co-stars.

Nimoy played Vulcan alien Spock in all of the original-series episodes. Although the show was canceled in 1969 after three seasons, the series did well in syndication, and NBC subsequently started "Star Trek: The Animated Series" in 1973. (Many Hollywood films followed as well.)

For the animated series, NBC decided to employ only some of the actors from its hit show, leaving out two cast members famous for introducing diversity to the "Star Trek" stage and to television in general: George Takei (a Japanese American who played Sulu) and Nichelle Nichols (an African American who played Uhura). [Leonard Nimoy Fought For Diversity In 'Star Trek' Cartoon - 'For The Love Of Spock' Clip ]

"When Leonard learned of that, he said, 'What Star Trek is about is diversity, coming together and working in concert as a team,'" Takei recalled in the documentary. "And, he said, 'The two people who most personify that diversity in our cast are Nichelle Nichols and George Takei. And if they're not going to be a part of this, then I'm not interested.'"

The series went forward with the entire original cast (except Walter Koenig's Chekov, reportedly for budgetary reasons) and ended up winning an Emmy. 

"For the Love of Spock" is a documentary about the life of Leonard Nimoy, Spock on "Star Trek," funded by fans through Kickstarter. (Image credit: For the Love of Spock)

'A man of great humility'

The clip is a lesser-known example of Nimoy's work in the entertainment world. Other work largely unknown to the public include his theater productions in the 1970s, and the large body of TV work Nimoy had before coming to "Star Trek," according to Nimoy's son Adam.

"For the Love of Spock," directed by Adam Nimoy, originally was going to focus on the pop-culture impact of Nimoy's role, but expanded to include how the elder Nimoy's life touched his family and friends. An early screening in Los Angeles on Aug. 23 played before both family members and "Star Trek" fans was received with great enthusiasm, Adam Nimoy added.

"He was a man of great humility; never blew his own horn," Adam Nimoy said after the screening. But while his dad was reluctant to bring up stories of his career on his own, Adam would ask about it constantly. They would discuss "things that were important, and disappointments and challenges that he faced," Adam said. "I was there through all of it; it was a privilege, and I was honored to do so."

While Nimoy was "introverted and somewhat remote," according to his son, the man best known for his Vulcan character agreed with Adam that a documentary about Spock would be a good idea, especially to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the show this month. Unfortunately, Nimoy did not live to see it; he died on Feb. 27, 2015, of complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which he attributed to smoking.

Leonard Nimoy's son Adam visited him on set during the filming of the original "Star Trek." (Image credit: For the Love of Spock)

Going beyond 50 years

At the "Star Trek: Mission New York" convention, which will be held Sept. 2-4 in New York City, Adam Nimoy will discuss his documentary and the legacy of "Star Trek." For the time being, he is very focused on promoting the documentary and seeing it through its nationwide screening, but Adam said he remains open to other projects commemorating the series.

The company 455 Films, which partnered with Adam for the film, is working on a documentary based on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine." Adam is considering getting involved with that as well as a Mars mission film project with NASA. "There may be some dovetails for 'Star Trek,'" he said. 

In the meantime, Adam said he remains in awe every time he sees clips from the original series in his documentary up on the big screen. He made the documentary for the fans, he said, and he hopes they will enjoy it.

Adam said his dad likely would have enjoyed the film as well. "Knowing him, he would say, I think, that he would be very happy and very pleased," Adam said. He added that his father would have joked, "I wish I had made that!"

Details about the film screening are available at fortheloveofspock.com. Fans who live outside the cities where the film is being shown can download it on iTunes and Vimeo beginning Sept. 9.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace