It's been nearly a year since we lost Star Trek star and science fiction icon Leonard Nimoy after a battle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, an illness he was very determined to spread awareness about. In the year between publicly announcing he had the disease and his death, Nimoy was very vocal about the causes of his illness, and wanted to tell as many people as possible how to prevent and treat the disease. Though Star Trek is what we remember him for, his work spreading COPD awareness is now unquestionably part of his legacy.
Now, one year after his death, and 50 years after the debut of Star Trek, Nimoy's daughter Julie and son-in-law David Knight are continuing that legacy with COPD: Highly Illogical, a very personal documentary project that pays tribute to Nimoy while also spreading awareness about COPD. This week, the documentary launched an Indiegogo campaign devoted to raising funds to finish the project by the end of 2016, and we got a chance to chat with Julie and David about the film, their goal to keep spreading COPD awareness, and memories of Spock.
Visit the Indiegogo campaign page to donate HERE, and check out our interview below.
Blastr: From the moment his diagnosis went public, Mr. Nimoy was very determined to spread awareness of COPD. When did the idea for this documentary become a part of that?
Julie Nimoy and David Knight: In November 2014, Leonard’s health had taken a turn and he became very ill during the holidays. It became apparent to Julie and I that we needed to continue Leonard’s message to educate the public about COPD and to create awareness about the condition. We felt that the best way to reach the people in this country and hopefully around the world was to produce a documentary film.
Publicly, Mr. Nimoy almost immediately took on the role of COPD teacher. He was very devoted to informing his fans about this disease. How was he privately when dealing with the disease?
My Dad was a very private man when it came down to his health. He didn’t want to worry his family with the severity of his symptoms. He had a tremendous amount of courage and strength and wanted to stay ever present by participating in as many activities as possible. He didn’t let COPD control his life until it became so debilitating that he was unable to continue being active. However, I was aware of his condition and how it was affecting and impacting his daily life.
You guys are in a very unique position, in that you've been able to partner with a number of medical organizations to keep raising COPD awareness in Mr. Nimoy's name. Was getting that level of participation difficult, or did having Spock on your side help?
Having a famous Dad as an example of someone who had COPD greatly helped us to partner with a number of medical organizations. I think the feeling was if someone like “Mr. Spock”/Leonard Nimoy can get diagnosed with COPD then no one is immune to the disease if they’ve also followed a similar lifestyle path.
In preparing for this film, and in dealing with your father's illness, what did you find to be the most important thing about COPD that the public should know more about?
Firstly, Julie and I never realized that COPD is the third leading cause of death in this country right behind heart disease and cancer. The other important fact that the public needs to be aware of it’s estimated that over 12 million people have COPD but are unaware of it and have never been diagnosed. Finally, once you’ve been diagnosed with COPD there are a number of ways to effectively manage the condition and achieve a high quality of life.
Star Trek is, for a lot of us, the original fandom. Fans of the show were hanging on every word the cast said even before the cast really knew it. It's been argued many times that fandom saved the franchise. How has that fan support helped you in crafting this project?
The original series, Star Trek, was a show that was definitely ahead of it’s time. The series crew was comprised of multiple ethnicities, which included the half human half Vulcan science officer, Mr. Spock. The episodes reached many people on multiple levels because its stories were often about current and real life issues that people could relate to. After the show was cancelled, the Star Trek fans kept the series alive by continuing to show great support by watching re-runs year after year. Finally, the fans became attached to their beloved characters and enjoyed the ability to see them in person at the many conventions throughout the years.
Since the beginning of our film project, we’ve received fantastic support from many Star Trek fans, many of whom know someone personally who also has or had COPD. This is a condition that affects approximately 30 million people in this country alone. In addition, as we're approaching the one year anniversary since my Dad’s passing, many fans who are supporting our film are expressing their love and affection for him and his legacy.
You've already raised a significant amount of money for the production. Why is now the right time to launch a new crowdfunding campaign?
Our goal was that our film would be completed this year to tie in with the 50th anniversary of the original Star Trek series. So many fans have reached out to my husband and I asking how they can help to support our efforts. David and I felt that the timing now for a crowdfunding campaign would be perfect to insure that we meet our goal so that our film would be completed on schedule.
You mention on the film's official website that you have more projects planned to spread COPD awareness in Mr. Nimoy's memory. Can you tell us more about those?
Once the film is completed, our plan is to have to special screenings throughout the country to create awareness for COPD. These events will be provide an excellent opportunity for people to gather important information on COPD including some of the latest treatments that are available.
Obviously, this documentary is more COPD-focused, but because we're all major Trek fans here at Blastr, I have to ask: Julie, what particular memories do you have growing up as the daughter of Spock? Does anything about that experience stand out today? Do you have a favorite memory?
Of course, I have so many wonderful memories growing up with my Dad during his time on Star Trek. One of my very first memories was when the series first aired on TV. I was 11 years old, and excited about the fact that we as a family were going to watch the premiere at our friend's house who had a color television. At that time we only had a black and white TV. That night was filled with joy and excitement for all of us seeing my Dad as Mr. Spock with his pointed ears and arched eyebrows. It is a memory I will always have and cherish.
And finally, in keeping with our celebration of the man's work as well as his healthcare advocacy, what's your favorite Spock moment?
I would have to say that my favorite “Spock moment” would be on an episode called “Amok Time” where Spock goes to his home planet and greets his parents with the Vulcan salute and says “live long and prosper.” This episode is where he says this for the first time on the series. I believe this would be the perfect expression that shows how important health is in our lives today. Live long, and prosper.