Unlike many diehard Star Trek fans, my first fascination with Leonard Nimoy was not with Mr. Spock. Neither was it like my parents’ generation who knew him from countless TV appearances in various supporting character roles, like Dragnet, Sea Hunt, Combat!, The Twilight Zone, and Rawhide. Sure, my family watched Star Trek both in its original run and early reruns. But as a little kid in the early 1970s my first encounter with Leonard Nimoy was as host of the unexplained mystery series In Search Of…
I’m pretty grateful for that series. As a kid in my school ecology club with an interest in archaeology and anything related to science and history, I wasn’t that interested in standard school lessons in those subjects. In Search Of… discussed ancient and not-so-ancient mysteries that never got discussed in school. And the show addressed these mysteries with no pretense that the theories presented weren’t mainstream–that was the point of the program. But what each episode had in common was the ability to create a sense of wonder about the world around us–not just the natural world, but myths and legends shared by peoples across the globe, and mysteries that have circulated by man for thousands of years.
After several hours of re-watching many of these shows on subjects from Lost Civilizations to Extraterrestrials, Magic and Witchcraft to Strange Phenomena, and Missing Persons to Myths and Monsters, it is readily apparent that science has changed some, but not necessarily a lot, in the past 40 years. When it comes to theories about Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster, the Nazca lines, UFOs, E.S.P., Noah’s flood, the Bermuda Triangle, and Amelia Earhart, most scientists still discount outlandish theories about the mysteries or conspiracies about any of these topics. And yet there will always be those fringe few who believe something else. In that vein, In Search Of… was a kind of precursor to The X-Files. In fact, a 2002 brief revival on the Sci-Fi Channel featured The X-Files co-star Mitch Pileggi as host. Is the series dated? Only for the picture quality and the series’ eerie, synthesized soundtrack. But for me, the soundtrack, and the great theme song, are essential parts of the show.
What fans of the series remember most is Leonard Nimoy. If anyone else had hosted the series it may not have made it to 146 episodes. But that distinctive voice narrates us through all these interesting ideas, these amazing subjects. Does it matter if they are easily debunked? Not a bit. With my family it prompted conversation, and no doubt my own critical eye came from asking questions when something seemed too farfetched to be possible. “No way!” “Really?”
Yet there is always an ounce of truth in each story, and Nimoy, intentionally or not, adds some legitimacy to the premises posed through his very presence, his personality and authenticity. An episode on E.S.P. shows him playing a test game of flash cards with a group of local public school children. If you want to see Nimoy, the man of the 1970s and not simply the characters he played on television, you can get a look at that here.
Personally, the spark set by In Search Of… caused me to read more on the subjects that really interested me. First, that meant checking out the books the series was derived from at my library, like Erich Von Daniken’s Chariots of the Gods, but later I expanded into less controversial but more exciting books, like Aku-Aku: The Secret of Easter Island and Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl. Nimoy’s In Search Of… propelled me onward to my own study of the ancient world and archaeology in college and graduate coursework.
The entire series of In Search Of… is now on DVD in a nice boxed collected edition, including all 146 episodes, here at Amazon.com. The series was not popular enough to merit a cleaning of the original tapes, so the series looks much like it did in its initial run between 1977 and 1982. It includes two original shows hosted by Rod Serling, who was set to host the show but passed away, leaving Nimoy to host for six years. All the shows are on 21 discs, each episode running about 22 minutes for the series’ half hour time slot. It would be a worthy addition to any family’s DVD collection, a must for fans of the series and fans of Nimoy, and it will certainly provide a spark for countless conversations for new generations of viewers.