In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Leonard Nimoy gave us one of science fiction filmdom’s best, most iconic moments as Spock sacrificed himself to save the crew of the Enterprise from Khan’s detonating Genesis device. Spock approached it with simple logic: the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Leonard Nimoy may not have a stoic Vulcan upbringing to bring to bear, but he’s facing bad news in his own life with admirable strength of purpose, using his recent diagnosis with a chronic lung disease as a chance to implore fans young and old to learn from his example and give up smoking.
Nimoy made the announcement on Twitter:
I quit smoking 30 yrs ago. Not soon enough. I have COPD. Grandpa says, quit now!! LLAP
— Leonard Nimoy (@TheRealNimoy) January 30, 2014
COPD is short for “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” a condition characterized by poor airflow, and which usually gets worse as time goes on. As you’d expect from Nimoy’s tweet, it’s a common problem for smokers and former smokers, and in 2011 it was the fourth leading cause of death. It’s a daunting diagnosis for anyone to face, but Nimoy took it with characteristic good humor, and emphasized that it’s a diagnosis that becomes all too likely the longer you wait to give up the habit. “Smokers, please understand. If you quit after you’re diagnosed with lung damage it’s too late,” said Nimoy.
The Trek veteran was also quick to reassure fans that, while serious, he isn’t letting the diagnosis mar his positive attitude.
I'm doing OK. Just can't walk distances. Love my life,family, friends and followers. LLAP
— Leonard Nimoy (@TheRealNimoy) February 6, 2014
After cementing his place in pop culture history as Star Trek’s Spock, Nimoy has had a long and noteworthy career. In addition to the beloved Vulcan, he played a former magician and makeup expert in the original Mission: Impossible series from 1969 – 1971 (hey MI movie producers: howsabout a cameo already?), taking over after the departure of Martin Landau from the series. Those of you who grew up in the ‘70s likely have fond nostalgic memories of Nimoy hosting the paranormal series In Search of…, which Nimoy went on to parody on The Simpsons years later. More recently he carved out a second Iconic Sci-Fi Role, playing the enigmatic Dr. William Bell on Fox’s excellent Fringe. (He could swap notes on that with fellow Trek alumnus Walter Koenig, who of course played Chekov but later gained an even better role as Babylon 5’s ruthless Psi-cop, Alfred Bester.)
It’s sad to hear bad medical news about Nimoy, but you’ve got to give him credit for using his fame and reach to try and prevent others from following the same path as him. Granted, most of us start smoking when we’re young and stupid, likely too stupid to listen to good advice on the subject from respected veteran actors. Still, if it saves even one life, that’s easily as impressive a legacy as playing a green-blooded emotionless hobgoblin on a “Wagon Train to the Stars” series, right? Here’s hoping Mr. Nimoy has many years left yet to live and prosper.