Star Trek has become a fixture of the American mythos. I suppose Star Trek is to the American pop cultural lexicon what Homer was to the Greeks. A source of so many illustrations and catchphrases. Far more than Star Wars or Lord of the Rings.
The Western is the only rival in that regard. But Star Trek is far more of a one-man vision than the Western genre. Mind you, Roddenberry was a limited storyteller. He himself ran out of material early on. Others had to pick up where he left off.
I'm old enough to have seen the premier broadcast. I wasn't really into Westerns as a kid. I watched episodes of Bonanza, The Big Valley, and the Rifleman, but that was basically filler. They weren't my favorite shows. I don't think I ever saw Gunsmoke.
The only Western I really liked was The Wild Wild West, because of the retro science fiction elements and the rapport between Robert Conrad and Ross Martin.
I was more into shows like Star Trek, Time Tunnel, The Invades, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Green Hornet, the Prisoner, and the Avengers.
As a teenager I once made the mistake of reading a book by a Trekkie. I just wanted more background about Star Trek. But I got more than I bargained for. Reading it I was suddenly and temporarily inducted into the world of Trekkies. I thought to myself, "These people take it really seriously. It's unhealthy!"
The author, a woman (forget her name) would compare Kirk/Shatner with Spock/Nimoy. Some viewers, she said, bonded with Kirk while others bonded with Nimoy.
Can't say I bonded with either character.
I thought McCoy/Kelley was the most likable actor/character. But he was underutilized. Scotty/Doohan was another underutilized actor/character. I liked Sarek/Lenard as well.
It's interesting that Shatner, Nimoy, and Lenard are all Jewish.
I think Spock caught on in large part because his character dovetailed with the Sixties. The counterculture.
Nimoy had to cope with the dilemma of typecasting. Would you rather play one memorable character or play dozens of forgettable characters?
I do remember him in some other roles. He was good in Brave New World. Good in a remark of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I remember him in A Woman Called Golda, although he was eclipsed by Ingrid Bergman.
But, of course, Spock was his signature role. Technically, Shatner was the star and the lead character, but he was quickly overshadowed by Nimoy.
Shatner was, himself, a replacement for Jeff Hunter. Although he's hardly a great actor, Shatner does have starpower. Had the dominating stage presence that Hunter lacked. I think the series would have bombed if they kept Hunter.
I think Nimoy was convincing, in part, because he had an usual face. A good face for a humanoid alien. He used to have a great speaking voice, but that became very frayed over time.
As he himself said, he modeled the character's isolation on the Wandering Jew motif. The consummate outsider and observer.
There are people who become very attached to certain TV characters. But I can never forget that it's fiction. It's not the world I have to live in. It's not my present, and–more importantly–it's not my future.
Nimoy enjoys the immortality that the world can confer. But the immortality which a dying world confers is ephemeral and delusive.
I'm not emotionally invested in the life and death of actors. They are strangers. There's an illusory sense of familiarity that comes from watching them. And if we were introduced to them at a certain age, there's an element of nostalgia. But I don't have a personal connection with celebrities. That's make-believe fellowship.
Nimoy's death is just another reminder of my own mortality. I was just a kid when I saw it for the first time. Now I'm 20+ years older than the actors were at the time. And they are dying off.