The proposed death of Spock created a firestorm
As much as the writers and producers of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan tried to keep Spock’s death a secret, the Vulcan’s demise was leaked. One report in the Wall Street Journal, titled “Spock to die? ‘No!’ fans cry!” revealed just how angry Star Trek fans were at even the possibility. In fact, some were so enraged that they sent death threats to the production offices.
"“You kill Spock, we kill you!”"
One fan took his anger in a different direction. The way he saw it, Paramount could not afford to lose the millions of dollars it stood to make off of the movie if fans wouldn’t go see the sequel because of Spock’s death. So he wrote an open letter to Paramount in Starlog Magazine detailing his idea to keep the Vulcan alive…at least theoretically.
"Why not have Mr. Spock, a superior philosophical being (a member of the Vulcan race) evolve to a higher plane of existence (consciousness, if you will) rather than just die? During this evolution, he can cast-off his body like so much snake skin and grow spiritually … As Leonard Nimoy is finally freed of his earthly bonds to Mr. Spock, the fans will begin to pick apart the “newcomer.” Who knows, maybe even learn to love again. Our curiosity will bring us to the theaters but you, Mr./Ms. Paramount, must keep us there!"
Keep Spock at all costs
So, in this fan’s way of thinking, keeping Spock was more important than keeping Leonard Nimoy. But, honestly, would that have worked? Nimoy will always be known as the original Vulcan, and back in 1982, I don’t believe fans would have accepted the elimination of Nimoy’s portrayal of the character. After all, it had only been a few years since stars from The Original Series had returned to the screen. No one was ready to see any of the original team go, which was why fans were so angry at the idea.
Now that the character has been portrayed by others, and Leonard Nimoy’s Spock has passed on (due to the unfortunate passing of Nimoy), viewers are more accepting of the need for change, but moving a character to a higher plane of existence probably wouldn’t work even in this day. We don’t just watch the movies and series for the characters; we watch for how the characters are portrayed by the actors we become attached to.