To boldly explore the Jewish roots of "Star Trek"

LOS ANGELES – Adam Nimoy peered through a museum gallery filled with ‘Star Trek’ sets, replica spaceships, aliens, faded costumes and pr...


LOS ANGELES – Adam Nimoy peered through a museum gallery filled with ‘Star Trek’ sets, replica spaceships, aliens, faded costumes and props (think phaser, set to stun). The sounds of a beam-me-up transporter floated across the room. Over his shoulder, a wall was filled with a huge photograph of his father – Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock on the show – clad in his Starfleet uniform, his fingers splayed in the Vulcan greeting “live long and prosper.” .

But this gesture, noted Adam Nimoy while guiding a visitor through this exhibition at the Skirball Cultural Center, was more than a symbol of the television series that defined his father’s long career playing the part Vulcan and part human Spock. It is derived from part of a Hebrew blessing which Leonard Nimoy seen for the first time at an Orthodox Jewish synagogue in Boston as a boy and brought to the role.

The prominent photo of this gesture linking Judaism to Star Trek culture helps explain what may appear to be highly illogical programming: The Decision of Skirball, a Jewish cultural center known primarily for its explorations of life and religion. Jewish history, bring an exhibit dedicated to one of television’s most famous science fiction shows.

But as he browsed through the artifacts, Adam Nimoy recalled how his father, the son of Ukrainian Jews who did not speak English when they arrived, said he identified with Spock, pointing out that he was “the only alien on the bridge to the Enterprise “.

Jewish values ​​and traditions were often on the minds of the show’s writers as they dealt with issues of human behavior and morality, said David Gerrold, a writer whose credits include “The Trouble with Tribbles,” l one of the most acclaimed episodes of “Star Trek”. , which introduces the crew to a cute, hairy, and fast-spawning alien life form.

“A lot of Jewish tradition – a lot of Jewish wisdom – is part of ‘Star Trek’, and ‘Star Trek’ drew on a lot of things that were in the Old Testament and the Talmud,” Gerrold said. in an interview. “Anyone who is highly educated in the Jewish tradition will recognize a lot of the wisdom that ‘Star Trek’ encompassed.”

This link was not explicit when the show was first broadcast. And a stroll through the exhibit, which covers the original TV show as well as some of the spinoffs and films that have come to encompass the “Star Trek” industry, primarily reveals things that are of interest to “Star Trek” fans. “. There is a navigation console from the USS Enterprise, the first script from the first episode, a Klingon disruptor from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and a display of tribble.

To some extent, the choice of this particular exhibit – “Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds” – to help put the Skirball back into service after a Covid shutdown reflects the imperatives that museums around the world face as they attempt to recover from a pandemic that has been so damaging economically. “These days – honestly, especially after the pandemic – museums are looking for ways to get people through the door, ”said Brooks Peck, who helped create the show for the Pop Culture Museum in Seattle. “Museums are struggling to find an audience and are looking for a hook in pop culture. “

It seems to have worked. The “Star Trek” exhibit attracted 12,000 attendees in its first two months here, a high turnout given that the Skirball limits sales to 25% of its capacity.

“It brought in new people, without a doubt,” said Sheri Bernstein, director of the museum. “Presence is important for relevance. It is important for us to bring in a wide range of people.

Jessie Kornberg, the president of Skirball, said the center has been drawn by the parallels between Judaism and the TV show. “Nimoy’s Jewish identity contributed to a little moment that became a big theme,” she said. “In fact, we believe that the common values ​​in the ‘Star Trek’ universe and Jewish belief are more powerful than this symbolism. It is this idea of ​​a more liberal and inclusive people, where “other” and “difference” are an embraced force as opposed to a weakness that divides. “

The intersections between the television series and Judaism begin with its two stars, Nimoy and William shatner, who played Captain James T. Kirk. “These are two iconic types of space who are Jewish,” said Adam Nimoy. And that extends to the philosophy that permeates the show, created by Gene Roddenberry, who was raised as a Southern Baptist but has come to consider himself a humanist, according to his authorized biography.

These underlying links are undeniable for people like Nimoy, 65, a television director who is both a devoted “Star Trek” fan and an observant Jew: he and his father often attended services in Los Angeles. , and Friday night Sabbath dinners were regular. part of their family life.

Nimoy was not lacking in Jewish resonances and echoes in the exhibition, which opened in October and ends on February 20. He stopped in front of a costume worn by a Gorn, a deadly reptilian alien who was in a fight to the death with Kirk.

“When he puts the Gorn on the ground, he’s about to kill him,” Nimoy said. “The Gorn wants to kill Kirk. But something is happening. Instead, he shows mercy and restraint and refuses to kill the Gorn.

“Very similar to the story of Joseph,” Nimoy said, referring to how Joseph, in the biblical book of Genesis, refused to seek retaliation against his brothers for selling him into slavery.

Leonard Nimoy died in 2015 at the age of 83. Shatner, who is 90 years old and recently became the oldest person to go to space, declined to discuss the exhibit. “Unfortunately, Mr. Shatner’s overstretched production schedule prevents him from accepting additional interviews,” said his assistant, Kathleen Hays.

The Skirball Cultural Center is located on 15 acres, approximately 20 miles from downtown Los Angeles.

The show lasted for about two years in Seattle after it opened in 2016 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the original “Star Trek” TV show’s debut in 1966. (This version aired on NBC for three seasons.) L The exhibit was meant to be shot, but those plans were halted when the pandemic began to close museums across the country.

The exhibition has been made up largely from the private collection of Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft and founder of the Museum of Pop Culture, who died in 2018.

Peck said he wanted to commemorate the show’s anniversary with an exhibit exploring the TV show’s over-the-top influence on American culture. “The answer I am suggesting is that ‘Star Trek’ has endured and inspired people because of the upbeat future it presents – the good character of many of its characters,” said Peck. “These are characters that people would like to emulate.”

“Skirball has been faced with a challenge trying to explain to his audience how ‘Star Trek’ fits into what they do,” he said. “Fortunately, it worked completely. I had always hoped Skirball could take it. The values ​​of Skirball as an institution are therefore aligned with the values ​​of “Star Trek” and of the “Star Trek” community.

Bernstein, the director of Skirball, said the exhibit seemed like a particularly good way to help bring the museum back to life.

“There has never been a better time to put on this show than now,” she said. “We really liked the idea of ​​reopening our entire museum offering with a show that inspired hope. A show that promised pleasure.

In the spring, ‘Star Trek’ will fade for a less surprising offer, an exhibition on Jewish grocery stores, but for now, the museum is filled with both devotees of Jewish culture, admiring a Torah holster from China, and Trekkies, taking photos of the captain’s chair Kirk sat in aboard the Enterprise.

“There isn’t too much of ‘Star Trek’,” said Scott Mantz, a film critic, as he began interviewing Adam Nimoy after a recent museum screening of “For the love of Spock“, a 2016 documentary Nimoy had made about his father. A long round of applause rose from his audience.

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Newsrust - US Top News: To boldly explore the Jewish roots of "Star Trek"
To boldly explore the Jewish roots of "Star Trek"
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