Rebooting the Star Trek film franchise for 2009’s movie starring Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto was a very risky prospect, given the notorious protectiveness of the Trek fandom. It was a stroke of genius, then, to first work the new timeline into the plot and then to bring back Leonard Nimoy as Spock Prime, thereby giving this revamped version of the franchise the stamp of approval from one of Trek‘s best loved stars.
While speaking to Trek Movie, screenwriter Robert Orci – who co-wrote the script with Alex Kurtzman – explained how important getting Nimoy on board was for the project. In fact, he said that the pair didn’t have a plan B in store for if he turned down the opportunity to reprise his role. Orci says they made Spock Prime essential in a bid to convince the actor to return. If he’d said no, though, it sounds like the whole movie would have been in trouble.
“There was never a plan B for me,” Orci says. “Maybe Paramount had a plan B, but for me and Alex, it has to be Nimoy or bust and that is why that meeting with him was so pivotal. His role had to be essential, otherwise, he wouldn’t have done it. So, to have a plan B would have been disrespectful to him, and the franchise. I didn’t know how else to do an in-canon reboot/sequel original story. If you have a plan B, then your plan A wasn’t so great.”
Thankfully, Nimoy said yes and 2009’s Star Trek went down pretty well with fans, though it still had its detractors, of course. Nimoy then reappeared in a reduced role in 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness to warn the Enterprise crew of the danger of Khan. By the time of 2016’s Star Trek Beyond, Nimoy had sadly passed away, but the film still honored the actor by referencing Spock Prime’s death within the narrative.
Nimoy died four years ago this February, and would have celebrated his 88th birthday in March. His widow recently opened up about the tragic circumstances of his passing, including the fact that he asked nurses to help him end his life. His memory lives on, though, thanks to his decades-long career as the one and only Spock.