Star Trek Online: A Few Words with Leonard Nimoy
When embarking on a journey to create a game such as Star Trek Online, a wise move is to get input from a Star Trek icon, and Cryptic Studios has done just that. Joining the developer interviews and fiction updates, an interview with the actor who played Spock has now been released. Leonard Nimoy sat down and had a few words with Cryptic about the development of Star Trek Online, being a Star Trek actor and his future plans. (Read the original article here).
Leonard Nimoy with STO's Jack Emmert and Craig Zinkievich
What would you want to see included in Star Trek Online to make it more real or more immersive for you?
Leonard Nimoy: What do you do about humor in this game? Because I think that's very important to the Star Trek fans. If you look back over the product that has been done in the past, the stuff that has had intelligent humor has been the most successful product and people have missed that. As a matter of fact, when I made Star Trek IV, which I think had humor, I remember talking to a newspaper man who had seen the picture and was going to review it and he said, "I don't think Star Trek fans are going to like this movie because there's too many jokes. They won't go for the humor." I said you are absolutely wrong. Totally backward. We had not had enough up to that point. They like to laugh at the things that these characters do and say to each other. And I think the new movie is going to be successful, for one reason, because it does have the humor and that's why I asked about the possibility of finding its way into the game. I think it's highly important.
Why is it, do you think, that Star Trek has had such a lasting appeal and why does it affect people so deeply?
Leonard Nimoy: Because it reaches the imagination? I think one of the most important aspects is the sense of hopefulness about the future. When the world we live in becomes much more complicated and difficult and the Star Trek cast, the members of the Enterprise crew manage to solve a problem with a level of morality and ethics that Romulans could relate to. These are good people doing good work for good reasons. I think that's terribly important, a big part of what the whole franchise is about: the hopefulness of the future, and professional people working together, successfully solving problems.
Now you've actually done voice acting for several of the videogames. Have you ever played any of them?
Leonard Nimoy: Not a lot. No. [laughs] I wouldn't call myself a game player.
What episode or movie do you think was the most fun to film?
Leonard Nimoy: For me, filming Star Trek IV was the most fun, because there was humor, because everybody was excited about the script. They liked the script, they liked the idea. It had a thematic reason for existence, the whole idea of dealing with the ecology, the problems of the ecology. The whales were a metaphor for the planet in general. It wasn't really about saving the whales, it was about saving the planet, and I think the audiences responded to that very well. The work in San Francisco was fun to do. I think, too, the characters for the most part; people like Walter Koenig as Chekov, Nichelle Nichols as Uhura, and George Takei. Everybody had something meaningful to do in the movie and that hadn't always been the case in the previous films. So we had a good time doing it.
Was there ever a great unintentional improv moment that made it onto the screen?
Leonard Nimoy: Yeah! Did you know that Bill Shatner tried to drown me in Star Trek IV? [laughs] People don't believe he tried to drown me! Do you remember the scene near the end? Well, we landed in San Francisco Bay with the ship big storm and we were shooting in a tank at Paramount Studios and they've got this big hull of the ship sitting in the water.
People were climbing out onto the rail on the outside of the ship and we see the whales and everything's going to be OK. A couple of people start to jump into the water, unrehearsed, and I thought this was great they're jumping in, they're jumping in, and now Shatner decides I have to go in the water too. He's a real strong guy and I'm holding on tight to the rails and he's pulling at my fingers. I was wearing this very heavy cotton robe and I didn't really give it a thought until he got me loose and I hit the water. When that robe got wet, it became like an anchor and I sank [laughs] right to the bottom of the tank. And I had to get that robe off of me underwater, I couldn't get back up.
I'm a pretty good swimmer, so I wasn't panicked but I realized I gotta get this thing off. I hit the bottom, kicked the bottom and shot up. "You son of a bitch! Tried to drown me!" [laughs] But it turned out to be a great moment in the movie. It was a lot of fun. That's the kind of humor I'm talking about.
What were your thoughts when you saw Zachary Quinto as the Spock character for the first time?
Leonard Nimoy: It was very moving to me. You know, I'm 77 years old and it's time for me to move on. If it had been a lesser actor, and I'm not just talking about his looks, his looks are appropriate. A lot of people say he looks just like me, but he's a very, very good actor, very intelligent. He's well-trained. He knows his business, his work, he's very professional. And if it had been a lesser actor it could have been disturbing for me to see the character pass on to somebody who I didn't think was appropriate. He was a very appropriate actor for it and I'm very pleased that the character passed on to him. I think it's in good hands.
So this is someone that you feel comfortable with as your successor?
Leonard Nimoy: Yeah, I admire his work. I saw some of the footage and I've done a scene with him in the movie, which is fascinating the two of us standing there talking to each other. And I saw some of the other work he did in the picture. He's very good. So I think the Spock character has a good future.
Do you have any plans to do any more writing or photography, like poetry and the book photography?
Leonard Nimoy: Photography is where I do my most creative work now. I just finished shooting a movie about three months ago. I'm working on photography all the time. I have a project now based on the concept of identity that I think is going to be very interesting and different from anything I've ever done before. I shot portraits of 95 people in Massachusetts, and not just still, but video as well. I think it's going to be a very interesting project. I'm looking for a museum exhibition to set up for next spring. So that's where my creative energies are now.
One of the things that I've always been fascinated by is that we are not symmetrical. You can take a photo of your face and cut it and mirror the two halves and it would actually resemble two different people.
Leonard Nimoy: Well, this project is based on a story that comes from the ancient Greeks. Supposedly Aeschylus had one of Sophocles' ideas that the humans at one time had two heads, four arms and four legs and they became very powerful and arrogant. The gods became nervous and angry and decided that they had to be dealt with. So they sent Zeus with a big sword and Zeus cut us all in two. So we ended up the way we are with one head, two arms, and two legs. But ever since then, according to Aeschylus, humans have been looking for the other part of themselves to make themselves feel whole again.
Interesting that you talk about the symmetrical aspect. Many humans, if not all, have some sense that they're all in a constant search for fulfillment, for completion, and according to Aeschylus it comes from that concept. So the photography that I've done, the portraits that I've done were people who were invited to come and express their secret or hidden selves. I got some wonderful results. People came with all kinds of costumes and props, ideas about themselves they've probably never had a chance to reveal before and we photographed and videotaped it all. So that's what it's all about.
Do you have a message that you'd like to send to the Star Trek Online community?
Leonard Nimoy: Live long and prosper. Best I can do.