I grew up on Star Trek, and as a kid Spock was my favourite character. I can still remember a plush Spock doll I had, which I held onto until the painted Starfleet emblem had long since worn off. Spock's death and funeral in The Wrath of Kahn was the first time I'm aware that I broke down and cried during a movie. I suppose I'm at an age now where I'm far more conscious of my childhood icons passing away. Leonard Nimoy was no exception, but it's only as I look back at the science fiction genre that I fully understand how important he was to us all.
Star Trek and Star Wars represent two sides of science fiction. Where Star Wars embraced the mythic, the epic struggle between good and evil, drawing fantasy and mythology into space battles, Star Trek looked inward. It challenged us to question things, and held a light up to society's issues. It's famous for featuring the first on-screen interracial kiss, and inspiring countless advances in science.
While Lenoard Nimoy's career was broader than Spock, he embraced his role in science fiction, once tweeting that he would be happy for any sci-fi fans to consider him an honorary grandfather. He understood how much influence he had, and how people looked up to him. And he lived up to that.
He gave a gravitas to science fiction that had perhaps been lacking. He was one of the ones who helped bring it from camp adolescence into maturity. And, importantly, he did it without delving into the cliché of gritty, dark storytelling that too often serves as a substitute for maturity. He was to science fiction what Christopher Reeve was to superheroes. The one everyone could look to and think "that's what we should aim for." With one raised eyebrow he could show intense humour. With a tilt of his head he could change the mood of an entire scene. His presence and sincerity set the bar for every great science fiction actor to come after him.
He will be missed, but the world is better for having had him.
A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP - Leonard Nimoy (final tweet)