Any serious “Star Trek” fan (let’s be fair; we’re all serious) knows “Amok Time,” the premiere episode of the original series’ second season, the one in which the breakout star of the series, Leonard Nimoy as Spock, shows his illogical or at least biological side. He gets really horny, in other words, entering pon farr, the mating season for Vulcans.
And, for you unserious people, he returns to Vulcan, only to have his bonded mate reject him in the only way she could, by instigating a challenge duel to win her…whatever. Soul. Matehood. Vulcans are hard to understand.
And blah blah blah. Oh, wait. Unserious people, I forgot about you. She chooses Captain Kirk as her champion, knowing even if he wins the battle he won’t want her, and if Spock wins he certainly won’t be interested since she challenged his right to become her mate. Very logical.
Anyway. Kirk doesn’t die (duh) but it appears that Spock kills him, and T’Pau, the head Vulcan or whatever, expresses her remorse, even if passively.
“I grieve with thee,” she says.
I want to say this, quite a lot. It seems so much more personal than “Sorry for your loss,” and still formal enough to sound authentic. I swear, I’ve come this close. I grieve with thee, I want to say. Because I do.
Sometimes, anyway. When your pet dies, when your grandma dies, when you suffer. When you grieve. When I know you, and care, and suffer in solidarity with you, muted grief but still grief. You know what I’m talking about.
I have grieved for a week now, sitting my Presbyterian shiva for a movie star who was more. I wrote a column for this week, mulling all over this over, writing little of it. How we react to the deaths of people we don’t know, just know of. The impact certain people, particularly performers and other creative types, have on our little, uncelebrated lives, accepted and ignored for the most part until they leave us.
And this was so, so different. He didn’t die at the right time, as did Elaine Stritch and Lauren Bacall, to be missed but mostly celebrated. He didn’t die in an accident, or after battling cancer.
But he battled something, and I suppose it’s good that we talk about that. A friend mentioned to me the other day that she’d read more people die every year from their own hand than in war, a fact that stunned her. It sort of stuns me.
I have nothing to add, though, to the devastation of depression so dark that the only light seems to be death. No experience with that at all.
But I grieved, as I went about my business, for this man who made a career out of joy, bringing it, sharing it, celebrating it. I knew him from the beginning, spotted him on an HBO showcase and laughed like crazy, then saw him rocket into stardom so quickly that it was bound to end soon.
It didn’t, though. There was one point, and maybe following his second film, “The World According to Garp,” when I wondered if he wouldn’t surprise us all by turning into a superior actor, whose range and depth of characterization would rank with DeNiro and Brando and Olivier and Hopkins. He just seemed to have so much of everything.
Except hope, as it turned out. That is why I grieved. I know a little about hopelessness, but not this kind.
I never saw him become that kind of actor, by the way, but that’s just an opinion from a constant watcher. Maybe I couldn’t let loose of Robin Williams to find his characters, or maybe he couldn’t. There just seemed to be too much of him to hide, as brilliant and moving as he was in so many films.
Which, paradoxically, made me admire him more. Once again: He specialized in joy, even if he had trouble locating it within himself. I’ve watched very few of the tributes or old interviews, because I’ve seen them before. I was a Robin Williams watcher, and I got used to seeing his thoughtful, ruminative, quiet side.
For me, this brought him out of rarefied movie star air and down to a level I could relate to, a bit. It made him more human. It certainly made him mortal, and he certainly was.
As I wrote in my column, my first reaction to the comments I saw from my younger friends upon learning of his death was, “But he belonged to us,” those of us who were there at the beginning, but that passed quickly when I remembered. I saw him in Altman’s “Popeye,” a bravura performance, in a theater, but also in “Jumanji” and “Hook” with my kids.
He truly belonged to all of us.
I’m moving on now, my shiva over, but he will always cross my mind, and I suppose yours, too. He belonged to all of us. I grieve with thee. Find joy, now, him and us. It was his legacy, I suppose, and would that it were said of me.