Leonard Nimoy was an actor ahead of his time. Not in the thespian sense, but in the position he was put into. Nimoy took a role in a single production that would set the course of not just his entire life, but the lives of literally a million others. He wanted to be an actor, known and respected for his work as an actor, and not typecast into something cartoonish, like a George Reeves or Adam West. But fate chose his role to be something much more than that, to be not just an actor who played a character, but to be an actor whose character became a wild fan favorite, and then a cultural touchstone, and eventually, an icon.
And this is where we come back to Sherlock Holmes.
In the late 1800s, no character expressed the forward-thinking, "logic and science will save us" optimism of the time more than Sherlock Holmes.
So in the late 1900s, when another logic-centered character was created in a hopeful vision of the future, that character could not help but be thought of as the modern version of Sherlock Holmes.
To an entire generation, Star Trek's Mr. Spock was our back-up Sherlock Holmes. If we couldn't have Sherlock Holmes to watch on TV, Spock was not a bad alternative. He wasn't a spin-off detective who was sort-of like Sherlock Holmes, like TV's Monk. He was a completely new, original character who had nothing to do with Holmes, and yet was so very Sherlock Holmes.
Articles were written in Sherlockian journals comparing how close the two were in their habits. Stories in Star Trek fanzines were written where Spock would either act as Sherlock Holmes, be transported back to Victorian England to meet Sherlock Holmes, or somehow actually wind up being the real Sherlock Holmes. No two so different fictional characters have ever been so close as brothers as Sherlock Holmes and Mr. Spock.
Over the decades it was interesting to watch Leonard Nimoy's path as he fought to resist typecasting and being identified solely with that role, going so far as to publish a book early on called I Am Not Spock. But as the years passed, and he saw his character becoming more than just a cartoon, as he saw Spock inspire a generation of scientists, developers, and tech workers of all stripes, Leonard Nimoy took on a sort of gracious custodial view of this gift he was allowed to give the world. He didn't milk it. He didn't keep doing "Hey, look at me!" grabs for attention like another Star Trek actor we all know. He set the kind of example we'd love to see a Benedict Cumberbatch follow, not leaving the character behind, and also not hurting that character by trying to make it more like him.
Benedict Cumberbatch looks to have a fine acting career ahead of him, but on one level he's going to be following a trail that was pioneered by Leonard Nimoy. Being a top-level fandom favorite who will always be able to supplement his income with a convention appearance any time he wants. Having news articles constantly tie his character to him. And oh, the fan art, the slash fiction (oh, yes, Leonard Nimoy was one of the two actors they invented slash fiction for), all of that stuff that follows having your TV creation be worshipped like a god . . . Leonard Nimoy is the guy that had to deal with all of that first.
Because in the pantheon of our modern media Olympus, Mr. Spock joined Sherlock Holmes as a "deity" some time ago. And Leonard Nimoy is who we have to thank for so much of that.
So, thanks, Leonard Nimoy. You gave Sherlock Holmes his true other brother besides the fat guy. And that makes you a big part of our Sherlockian world, though the play was nice, too.
Rest well and prosper.