The entire geek portion of the Internet was united recently by the death of Leonard Nimoy. It was enough to get a lot of stupid talk about a dress off my Facebook feed, so even if it wasn’t enough Nimoy was one of the people who led me to science fiction, he has my gratitude for that one final favor.
And while I am a little saddened by the death of a man who I honestly never met, I am also not as shocked as I was by some past deaths. Nimoy’s health has been rather bad for a while now. There’s a reason even when he did some acting work, that it was done to keep his actual appearance to a bare minimum. But there’s something else to consider: Nimoy was 83 years old. As timeless as performances captured on camera can be, Spock got old, and he died. He wasn’t the first, he won’t be the last, and its something we will all do ourselves. What do we do when people we have never met, but have touched us in some way as we became the adults we are, die?
As I said, Nimoy was in poor health for a while, so his death, while sad, was not as shocking as some. Just this past year we lost Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Williams. Hoffman was only 46, and essentially died of an overdose. Williams, only 63, was a suicide with chronic depression. It wasn’t even that long ago when Heath Ledger passed due to more drugs, and he wasn’t even 30 yet. Not to discount either Hoffman or Ledger, both of whom had fine acting careers in and out of geek interests, but Williams’ death had a real ripple effect across the Internet. Few people seemed to know how sick Robin Williams was, and even if a number of his movies were absolute crap, this was still the man who made millions laugh as Mrs. Doubtfire or Mork from Ork. The fact that a man who specialized in getting laughter had a hard time enjoying life on his own really hits hard.
Just on the geek side, there are plenty of people that are getting on in years who may not be with us as long as we would like. Stan Lee is in his 90s. Best buds Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan are both in their 70s. Original James Bond Sean Connery is 84. Maggie Smith, the only real reason to watch Downton Abbey anymore, and one of Harry Potter’s more prominent teachers, is 80. One time Mrs. Peel, and the only woman who could get James Bond to settle down, Diana Rigg is 76. Anthony Hopkins is 77. Mel Brooks is 88. Harrison Ford is 72. Adam West is 86. Bill Murray is 64. George Takei is 77. Mark Hamil is 63. Samuel L. Jackson is 66…holy crap. Samuel L. Jackson is almost my dad’s age.
We’ve lost half the Beetles, most of the cast of Gilligan’s Island, and a Ghostbuster. Christopher Reeve has passed on.
These are people who’ve brought us joy, laughter, and made us think in ways we maybe wouldn’t have before. It doesn’t even have to be a Geek Celebrity either. My wife is not a geek, but she was clearly hit hard by the death of Joan Rivers. It leaves us with a weird disconnect when they go. We never met them, but they feel like people we know. In many ways, we become who we are because of them. That’s a lot of responsibility to put on the heads of actors, writers, and artists, but it doesn’t make it any less true.
Rest in peace, Spock. Maybe you didn’t cure cancer, but you touched a lot of lives, and that has to count for something.