RIP: Leonard Nimoy in Adverts

I have a lot of affection for Leonard Nimoy and Star Trek in its many guises, so I was sad to learn of his passing today. I thought of a fairly recent advert for Audi in which Nimoy plays golf with Zachary Quinto – Mr Spock in the new films – which was warm and witty; I thought of his many television goodbyes and I was a little bit unmanly when I saw this last tweet from him, in which he’s clearly face-to-face with his own mortality.

Many other tributes will be written about his fine body of work and other characteristics. What’s interesting – and not really mentioned – about Nimoy and his peers is that they’re essentially the leading players from what amounted to a golden age of television. They’re true television icons and it seems that we’re only now becoming aware of their cultural value and significance. Would a billion people know Nimoy through Spock? The Enterprise? The eyebrows? Live long and prosper?

Perhaps – but perhaps also for another blog. This being an ad blog, it seemed only right I look at some of Nimoy’s work in advertising. It’s not inconsiderable and, suffice, to say, there’s a lot of references to Star Trek.

Evidence, you’d like to think, of a long, prosperous and peaceful life.

Audi advert

Occasionally straining the point, but this remains a funny and entertaining couple of minutes as the two Spocks do battle over three-dimensional chess, golf and motoring.

Magnavision advert

Nimoy discusses the advantages of the Magnavision Laser Disc player with a talking rock to an ABBA soundtrack. His all-white outfit and television larger than Jupiter are noteworthy – as is Nimoy’s heroic effort with an astonishingly loquacious, boring and jargon-heavy monologue, crammed with details that couldn’t possibly be of any interest to the vast majority of people. Some favourites:

“It does seem well-constructed, uniquely so.”

“Yes, I would be extremely interested in exploring Magnavision’s extraordinary abilities!”

“Interesting control panel!”

“Wouldn’t it be great if it had stereophonic sound? Oh, it does have stereophonic sound.”

“Home entertainment has never seen the likes of this before.”

I would also like to question how likely it was that rich Americans used the Magnavision to study in intense detail the finer points of grand master painting rather than, say, Julie Christie’s nipples.

Priceline adverts

Two Star Trek legends for the price of one? Here’s Nimoy coolly usurping Shatner as ‘the voice’ of Priceline. Whatever that is.

Edmonton Telephones advert

Buy a pager that’s roughly the same size as four smartphones and tell them Leonard Nimoy sent you. Mention also that he’s still got that white outfit from the Magnavision advert.

MCI advert

It seems rather unlikely, frankly, that many of the original Star Trek cast would have William Shatner on their speed dial and it’s also undeniable that the cast look rather like cuddly old grandparents – which they probably were for the most part – in this phone advert for MCI.

Lovely also for the near-insane gales of laughter from Jonathan Frakes, Nimoy and The Shat towards the end. Noteworthy too for being yet another advert that features the cast riffing on their Star Trek characters. No wonder Nimoy wrote a book called I Am Not Spock.

Western Airlines advert

Teaming up again with Bill Shanter – again to reference their Starfleet personas in weak and fairly meaningless set-ups. Also interesting for their ghastly Hawaiian shirt, which rather strike me as the sort of things Shatner might wear anyway.

Time Computers

“Physically, travelling through time isn’t possible”. Thanks for that Leonard. A late-90s advert for Time Computers that looks impossibly old now – in a weird way even more so than the Magnvision advert – for its big grey boxes, flimsy disc trays and hideous browsers.

More evidence that, whenever you needed a gravelly voice and someone to talk about futuristic gadgetry in the States, Nimoy was the go-to man. Funnily enough, though for obvious reasons these are the only adverts I ever remember seeing on television of this rundown.

Optik TV

Fully eight words and a raised eyebrow.

Netword adverts

Surprisingly logical, says Nimoy of a search engine that uses keyword phrases and then directs you straight to a website – an early version of Google’s I’m Feeling Lucky mechanism where you hopefully end up where you were supposed to.

This is frankly, anything but logical. It’s barking mad, to be quite honest – the online equivalent of saying ‘balls’ to someone and expecting them to guess whether you are expressing anger, testicular pain or a desire to be passed some spherical objects.

Still, some gravelly, rubber-faced Nimoy magic somehow pulls it around – and all delivered in an unmistakably 90s idiom. It’s alarming and rather bemusing that something that doesn’t seem so long ago looks quaint and nostalgic now.

Oldsmobile Silhouette advert

Truly one of the worst-looking cars ever made – so ugly it’s inexplicable that they chose to name it after probably its worst feature. I’m personally doubtful how many cars Leonard Nimoy’s daughter would have sold on her own, so naturally we get some Star Trek puns and also some quite astonishing visuals of the kind that a new-age artist called Wolf Child might paint.

It’s got to be said, Julie Nimoy’s acting style – if you will – seems to be to give the impression that she’s reading her lines off a cue card, but also emphasising those head movements in the way that actors over-emphasise their inputs on a steering wheel.

Eminently logical? Eminently bonkers.

Volkswagen advert

In which Nimoy holds a conversation with an outrageously-accented VW Beetle and manages to crowbar in the fact that VW, at the time, boasted a very quick transmission. Naturally he energises the Hell out of there shortly afterwards.

Aleve advert

A genuinely witty advert that has the actor at the centre of it, rather than falling back on some space-y puns. Nimoy can’t flex his fingers into the traditional Vulcan greeting, until he takes Aleve, an anti-inflammatory. The Trek con gimps are satisfied.

Magnavox advert

I’ll say this for Nimoy. He was a sharp dresser, here wearing what looks like an unbuttoned Nehru suit while promoting a Magnavox television, this time without the aid of a glowing crystal.

Magnavox Odyssey advert

Dipping into their ‘genre actors’ handbook it’s Odyssey, a gaming console from the early 80s that I’ve literally never heard of. Probably best for the console makers that games developers weren’t required to add a ‘not actual in-game footage’ caveat at the bottom of the screens in those days.

BMW advert

Nimoy certainly enjoyed his German cars – or his German car adverts at any rate. Here’s a small package that’s utterly baffling, in which he seems to roll his eyes at his Trek alter-ego and utter a little rhyming couplet – apparently it’s for BMW.

Atlantic bank advert

Surely filmed on the same day as the Magnavision effort, Nimoy is again rocking a kind of futuristic Japanese look. Here he’s talking about compound interest and still managing to crowbar Star Trek references into it.

Hallmark advert

Perhaps the cheesiest and least sophisticated of the lot, it’s still rather touching to imagine this exchange might have taken place.