2010 February 01
An interview conducted via telephone by Mike Snider for USA TODAY
Leonard Nimoy, who recently reprised his role as Spock in 2009's Star Trek movie, also has a mission in the new Star Trek Online massively multiplayer online role-playing game that officially launches Tuesday.
He talked about his role in the game and the Star Trek franchise in a phone interview last week. For more on Star Trek Online, check out our story here.
It's a pleasure to speak with you again. Tell us about the part you play in the game.
Nimoy: I spent some time in front of a microphone doing voice work for them. I am essentially a tour guide or narrator. I don't do the Spock character. I'm an omniscient voice that tells the player what is going on (and) what to do next, 'Congratulations, you've just done this or that,' 'Now try this' or 'Think about that' or 'Make a left turn or a right turn if you want to do such and such' or so forth.
That's an important role in a game that might have newcomers to an MMO.
It is an amazingly complex and challenging game. The artwork is extraordinary and the density of ideas is really surprising. I'm very pleasantly surprised by it. I have not been paying an awful lot of attention to the various kinds of video games that have been developed so I can't measure it against others, but I can tell you I was very impressed when I saw it.
There have been a lot of Star Trek-related ventures. Where does this one fit?
This is above and beyond anything I have seen before. There was some comparatively primitive work done in previous years. This is a very cutting-edge piece of work. It took a couple years to develop the programs involved and that is really fast. Typically looking at what this game looks like and works like you would think it would take longer than that. ... The complexity of it is extraordinary. It just goes on and on. No matter how deeply you get into it, it still continues to be challenging and more and more choices are available and (there are) more and more decisions to be made. I think it is great for the imagination and great for complex solving of problems, communicating with others. There is going to be an awful lot of people together online communicating with each other in this game.
What were your thoughts about the franchise now? You must feel good about how the 2009 film turned out and your part in that.
It's extraordinary, just extraordinary. I would almost say unbelievable. We went on the air in 1966. 1966. That's 44 years ago. I think I was younger then. (Laughs.) I can't believe what has happened in this last year. But, on the other hand, if you really look at history of Star Trek, it has been resurrected several times, even in the very earliest years. The first pilot did not sell, so it needed to be resurrected. At the end of the second season, we were cancelled by NBC and needed to be resurrected for a third season. So there was a big outcry from a very intense group of loyal fans and NBC put us on for a third season in a deadly time slot, as if to prove that we were finished and couldn't survive, and of course we didn't. At the end of the third season, we were dead again.
Then seven or eight years later, George Lucas did us a favor when he made Star Wars and it was such an enormous success that Paramount decided to resurrect Star Trek. So we made the first Star Trek movie (released in 1979), and by the way, it wasn't called Star Trek 1. It was called Star Trek: The Motion Picture. So there was no intention or thought about doing any further sequels. Those kinds of movie franchises weren't really in vogue yet. So I thought, 'That takes care of that.'
But somebody got the idea to do a low-budget version of a Star Trek movie rather than the big ponderous thing that we had done and we did one with Ricardo Montalban (1982's Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan), a wonderful movie on a modest budget. It worked and then the whole thing started to come back to life. We did several of those and stopped after the sixth film. Then along came The Next Generation (in 1987). And then after several years of those series and those films, it seemed to peter out again up until this year when along came J.J. Abrams who said, 'I have an idea on what to do with this.' He reinvigorated the franchise again.
And there's the story about the Spock character. I really thought Spock died in (Wrath of Khan) and that was the end of it. We had made a good film and I had a glorious hero's exit and here I am all these years later still involved.
Is there something at the core of the Star Trek stories that people come back to?
I don't think there's a simple answer to that. Star Trek has always been a hopeful view of the future, as opposed to some of the doomsday stuff that we have seen. I think the collection of characters has always been intriguing, the chemistry between these various characters and where they come from and what they bring to the party, particularly the Kirk, Spock and McCoy characters, the triumvirate. I don't mean to diminish anybody, the whole cast made contributions. I think people enjoy watching this group of characters solve problems together. This film (the 2009 Star Trek), I think gives us a really wonderful look at how these people came together as a group and how this team was formed. It's just fun to watch. It's an exhilarating movie. So we are on track again. I say 'we,' I really think - I've said, 'I am done' several times -- I don't think they need me anymore. I think I was useful in this last film. I don't think they need more for the next one. There will be another one.
Over the years, is there a favorite line of dialogue from Spock?
Yeah. (Laughs). 'Live long and prosper' has become part of the culture. But the one that I had most fun with was at end of an episode we did in the second or first season many years ago (The Devil in the Dark from the first season; details here). We used to do a scene, typically at the end of each episode, which was kind of a wrap-up of the episode. We'd be standing around the captain's chair on the bridge and it would be McCoy, the captain and myself and maybe others and we would do kind of a wrap-up conversation. In this particular one I am thinking about, Kirk says to Spock something like "Spock, there is hope for you after all. You're becoming more human all the time." And Spock said, 'Captain, I see no reason to stand here and be insulted.' I always enjoyed that.
Did Zachary Quinto have any lines as Spock that stood out for you?
He was very good in this movie. I was really impressed in the scene where he rejects the entry into the Vulcan Science Academy, when they tell him that in spite of the flaw in his genetic makeup they are accepting him and he refuses the offer saying in effect, 'Go screw yourself.' But what he did with 'Live long and prosper' in that moment was very refreshing to me. ... I don't know whose choice it was, his or J.J. Abrams' but whatever. When I saw that I thought, 'Whoa, that's good.' Nobody ever said, 'Live long and prosper' with that subtext before.