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Ulster Log: When I met Mr Spock aboard the Enterprise

By Eddie McIlwaine

It is one of those face-to-face meetings that make people pause and listen when the subject of science fiction comes up in my repertoire. The day Mr Spock stepped down from the Enterprise and shook my hand. I'm serious.

It happened exactly 20 years ago, in 1995, and now I have to tell the tale again with the death at 83 of Leonard Nimoy, who played Mr Spock in Star Trek.

Of course, it wasn't the Starship Enterprise on which Spock (or should I call him Nimoy?) was travelling, and the journey wasn't in space.

He was aboard the Enterprise express train on a rail journey from Dublin to Belfast to sign copies of his autobiography, I Am Spock.

Nimoy was chuffed to be riding on Enterprise II and told me the story of how in 2285 (yes, that was the date in this particular Star Trek episode of which we chatted) Captain Kirk (William Shatner) took the spaceship - against orders - to the Planet Genesis to rescue Spock, who was being held captive there.

"Spock was once the Captain on the Enterprise," Nimoy reminded me. "Kirk took over a series later and Spock was his first officer after the ship underwent a refit."

In fact, at one stage in Star Trek a Captain Spock was killed off and possibly brought back to life - just like Bobby Ewing in Dallas. Or was this not Nimoy's Spock?

Faithful fans will be aware that Nimoy, a poet and a recording artist too, was in the rejected Star Trek pilot show, The Cage, and when the production company had second thoughts and revived the idea he went on to play Spock for several years on TV and in eight films on the big screen.

His career seemed to be going nowhere until 1965 when the Enterprise gave him a lift as the semi-alien Spock.

I asked him that day when Enterprise II brought him down in Belfast who had given Spock those huge ears but he wasn't saying. I suspect it was his own idea. Whoever had the notion of those cauliflowers helped establish this son of a Boston barber and a father-of-two as a cult figure.

Margot setting her sights on success

If you think you recognise 25-year-old Margot Robbie, who is starring with Will Smith in the just-released movie Focus, you could be right.

As a teenager she played Donna Freedman in Neighbours for four years and now, just like Kylie Minogue before her, Margot has moved on to greater things.

The Donna role Down Under earned the girl from the Gold Coast two Logie Award nominations before she moved to the United States, where she has been in the films About Time and The Wolf Of Wall Street.

Don’t worry if you didn’t recognise Margot. She has blossomed a lot since her time in Neighbours.

Oscar hit felt like a lifetime to sit through

Alright, so the coming-of-age film Boyhood was nominated  for five Golden Globe Awards, winning Best Motion Picture — Drama, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress for Patricia Arquette. It also received six Academy Award nominations and Arquette won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

Sorry, but I have nominated Boyhood, directed by Richard Linklater  and starring his daughter Loelei,  and Ethan Hawke, as one of the most boring movies I’ve ever had to watch. It was shot over a 12-year period, depicting from 2002 to 2013 the adolescence of Mason Evans, played by Ellar Coltrane.

Twelve years to make? It felt like it took 12 years to watch. I suspect it got those Oscars and Golden Globes because of the novelty or originality of how it was produced.

It began filming without a completed script and you wouldn’t half know…

Mystery of poet's devoted courting

Nineteenth Century country poet James Campbell fell so deeply in love with a fair young maid he met at a prayer meeting that he wrote four romantic verses declaring his feelings for her and called them The Devotion.

Now the poem, with devotion pouring out of every line, has been resurrected by bricklayer William Blain on yellowing paper he found in the wall of an old cottage he was demolishing at Larne. And he was so taken by the words of passion that he can't get Campbell and his beautiful maid out of his head.

"Did Campbell ever marry the lass?" he wonders. "It is just possible an old record book might turn up details of a wedding."

Wishful thinking in my book ...

On song for great St Patrick's Day

BBC Radio 3's In Tune is going to be broadcast live from The MAC in Belfast on St Patrick's Day (4.30pm-6.30pm) presented by hometown boy Sean Rafferty. 

There are still a few tickets available - and the broadcast will also be available to listen to live and on Radio iPlayer for 30 days afterwards.

Sean's guests will include Belfast-born composer Brian Irvine; international pianists Pascal and Ami Roge; chamber choir Codetta and Irish traditional musicians Cuig.

The pipes are calling for champ

World champion piper Fred Morrison is on his way. The Glaswegian will be the star of the Spring Gatherin' in the Ramada Plaza, Belfast on Sunday, April 26.

Tickets for the gig are on sale today.

Fred is steeped in the Gaelic piping tradition of South Uist in the outer Hebrides and started winning important events and titles while still at school.

Although his first-love instrument remains the Highland bagpipes, over the years his mastery has expanded to encompass whistles, Scottish smallpipes, or reelpipes - Morrison being a pivotal populariser of this once-rare variety - and Irish uilleann pipes.

This first Spring Gatherin' runs from Friday, April 24 to Sunday 26.

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