Leonard Nimoy Stages a Meeting of the Minds
Leonard Nimoy didn’t create the Vulcan mind meld. As he wrote in I Am Spock, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry himself did, to replace “a dull, expository scene” in an early draft of “Dagger of the Mind” (p. 59).
But Nimoy did have to sell the concept on screen—and he certainly did.
Wanting “to emphasize the importance of touch to Vulcans” (p. 59), Nimoy slowly and deliberately placed his fingers around actor Morgan Woodward’s face, physically expressing the danger Spock risks to obtain the truth about the Tantalus Penal Colony from Simon Van Gelder’s “tortured mind.”
Using his hands, face, and voice in concert to convince the audience of the power in this “ancient Vulcan technique” proves Leonard Nimoy was a master of his craft, and remains one of his most exquisite performances as Spock.
Spock’s most famous mind meld is no doubt the one in which he transferred his katra, his “living spirit,” to Dr. McCoy during the climax of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. But the hand audiences see touch McCoy’s face, in a close up insert, is not the hand of Nimoy!
In an interview from the 1990s preserved on a German fan page, Nimoy said:
"… For some reason or other … they had somebody else put their hand on McCoy’s face, and it was done in a very clumsy, indifferent kind of manner which I’ve never forgiven them for. I get angry about that kind of stuff. It’s a very important character issue, and whoever put their hand on McCoy’s face didn’t know that."
Fortunately, in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, now-director Leonard Nimoy ensured the Enterprise’s security cameras presented Admiral Kirk with the scene of this crucial mind meld as Nimoy had performed it!
Spock’s mind meld with McCoy is arguably his most important, since it made possible his eventual return to the land of the living. But the meld Nimoy performs most impressively must be his mind meld with the mother Horta in “The Devil in the Dark.”
In a lesser actor’s hands—literally—the scene would be laughable. But in the hands of Leonard Nimoy, it’s a compelling and haunting portrait of anger, grief, and resignation.