Worry: a ‘Star Trek’ parable

Some time last year, I found myself reading Leonard Nimoy’s 1977 memoir, I am not Spock. The thing that struck me most about Mr. Nimoy’s portrayal of himself is that he’s such a persistent worrier. The book is chapter after chapter of reminiscences of minor concerns, most of which occurred several years before he sat down to write the book.

Nimoy would worry whether a line in the script was appropriate for his character, if the fans liked him enough or too much, and whether or not he would get a telephone installed in his dressing room. On and on, worries and concerns. Reminiscences of worries and concerns.

Another Star Trek-related book I once read was the annotated original 1967 script of The City on the Edge of Forever by my favourite Science Fiction author, Harlan Ellison. As an introductory essay, Ellison discusses his frustrating experiences working with the Star Trek cast and crew. He paints a very funny picture of William Shatner who apparently drove his motorbike up Ellison’s family driveway (leaving a skidmark that remains to this day, if I remember correctly), spent some moments flicking through Ellison’s script only to eventually remark that his character Captain Kirk doesn’t have as many lines as Nimoy’s Mr. Spock. William Shatner was the joyriding, devil-may-care egomaniac to Leonard Nimoy’s perpetual worrier.

Hop forward to 2009, to the release of the new Star Trek movie. Simon Pegg is on the Johnathan Ross show, talking about his encounter with the 78-year-old Leonard Nimoy. He describes Nimoy as something like “an old fellow” and mentions that he kept falling asleep between takes. Indeed, in the movie Nimoy looks amazingly ancient. Admittedly, he is a beautiful, wise-looking elf, but ancient nonetheless. It seems a privilege to us as viewers that Nimoy made it safely out of his house to deliver his five minutes of dialogue.

Meanwhile, Shatner is the main star of the television comedy-drama series, Boston Legal. He seems to be in every single episode, holding his own with a cast of young comic actors and frankly giving a brilliant performance.

In I am not Spock, Nimoy mentions that he and Shatner were born only four days apart and that they’re both Jewish. The Star Trek double-act are almost the exact same age and of similar cultural background. How can Nimoy look a hundred years old and Shatner be holding his own in a major network television show? I think it’s because of Nimoy’s penchant for worrying.

Maybe it pays to be an irresponsible Shatneresque cheeky chappy rather than a perpetual worrywart like poor Nimoy.


Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at wringham.co.uk

One Response to “Worry: a ‘Star Trek’ parable”

  1. […] On a personal note, I think I learned that my natural state is a kind of nervousness. When I was a worker I would worry constantly about not having enough time to do my own stuff, that I wouldn’t be able to meet a deadline or that I would sleep through my alarm again and not get to the office on time. Now that I’ve escaped, I worry about other things: that the money will run out one day, that the plan will fail (which would be very embarrassing since I’ve, perhaps foolishly, made it a public endeavor through the magazine), whether my girlfriend’s family see me as an unconventional entrepreneur or as a lazy bum and what that means for our relationship. I’d like to worry less: I don’t want to be like Leonard Nimoy. […]

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