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'He's not really dead, as long as we remember him'
Hollywood, CA, USA - February 27, 2015: Leonard Nimoy's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is surrounded by flowers and various memorial tributes left by fans on February 27 2015. - photo by Jim Bennett
I felt it was my fatherly responsibility to introduce my children to the finer points of geek culture at a very young age.

One of the first topics of study was the original six Star Trek films, minus the first movie, which is boring, and the fifth movie, which is an abomination. The plan was to screen one movie to my then-8-year-old twin boys each week, allowing seven days to appropriately savor and digest each installment.

But my son Samuel threw a monkey wrench into the process right from the outset.

The problem was that I began their geek education with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which ends with Spock saving the lives of all of the Enterprise crew at the cost of his own. My young boy had never seen Star Trek in any form before this one, but he was moved to tears as he watched Captain Kirk and his faithful first officer exchange words of loyalty and friendship while separated by a Plexiglas wall. And when Spock pressed his hand up against the glass in the Vulcan salute and uttered his final blessing to live long and prosper, Sam was practically sobbing.

I don't want Spock to die, he cried. Why did Spock have to die?

He was inconsolable as we put him to bed, until I promised to show him the third Star Trek movie, in which Spock miraculously rises from the grave to star in several more sequels, the next day.

To this day, Sam remembers that moment as one of the most poignant experiences of his early life. I remember it in much the same way, having seen the film in theaters when it was originally released. I was a few years older than Sam, but repeated viewings of Trek's original 79 episodes had given me years of dramatic context in which to place this beloved character's selfless sacrifice.

As a rule, I don't cry at movies. But I cried at this one.

All this happened prior to the age of the Internet, so there were no online spoilers to prepare audiences for Spock's ultimate fate. There were plenty of rumors, however, and they prompted a great deal of outrage and a massive letter-writing campaign to stave off the Vulcan's demise. But Wrath of Khan director Nicholas Meyer insisted that the angry fans would change their tune once they saw the actual scene.

The question is not whether you kill him, Meyer said on the movie's DVD commentary. It's whether you kill him well.

He knew people would be upset if it felt like a gimmick or a cop-out, but if it were integral to the story and true to the character, people would come to embrace it.

And they have. The moment works better than anyone ever expected it would. In fact, I would go so far as to say it was one of the most powerful and moving death scenes ever committed to film.

Of course, all of this comes in the wake of life imitating art as the world mourns the passing of Leonard Nimoy, the unique and remarkable actor who made Spock such an indelible part of the culture at large. Heartfelt tributes have been pouring in from every corner of the world, and all of them are deserved.

I think it's telling, however, that many of the tributes cite elements of Spock's fictional passing to honor the life of the actor who played him. Wherever you look, you can find Dr. McCoy telling Captain Kirk that he's not really dead, as long as we remember him.

My son Samuel and I, along with the rest of the world, will remember both Mr. Spock and Leonard Nimoy for a very long time.
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