We’re quite sure Leonard Nimoy didn’t tell anyone to Live, Long and Prosper when he appeared on the Gunsmoke set.
But he did use the idea of prosperity to get the bad guy who killed his best friend on the iconic western. Nimoy was a beloved actor across the world. He forever will be known as the half Vulcan, half human science officer and Captain Kirk’s right-hand man on the U.S.S. Enterprise. They went boldly where no man had gone before in Star Trek. That was the 1960s-era TV show that spawned decades of movies and spinoffs.
But just before Nimoy began as Spock on network TV, he played a memorable character on Gunsmoke. His friend, James Arness, starred as Marshal Matt Dillon. While Nimoy played a character in the distant future in Star Trek, his Gunsmoke persona was from the century before. In all, Nimoy appeared in four Gunsmoke episodes. But he was best known as the proud Comanche, who avenged his friend’s death. Nimoy didn’t need to pull a trigger — he took advantage of their greed.
Nimoy’s Last Job Before Star Trek Was on Gunsmoke
Gunsmoke writers called the episode Treasure of John Walking Fox and it first aired April 16, 1966. In 2000, Nimoy discussed his amazing career. And the early part of it was in Gunsmoke.
“It was the last job I did just before I started shooting Star Trek,” Nimoy said of Gunsmoke. “I’d already done the Star Trek pilot, and I was hired for this story playing an Indian, the show is called the treasure of John Walking Fox, I play John Walking Fox
“It was an interesting story, nicely written. Story as I recall was about an Indian trapper, fur trapper, who was very good friends with a white man. They were very good friends and went trapping together. His buddy, the white man, comes into town to sell his furs and has a confrontation with the broker or dealer who is supposed to buy the furs from him. And this broker or dealer kills the guy, and I don’t remember exactly the trend of the plot was, but there was something about getting justice.”
John Walking Fox Convinces Dodge City He Has Treasure in the Woods
John Walking Fox comes into Dodge City and starts spending $50 gold coins. He pays for his friend’s funeral and his stay at the town hotel. Word gets out about the Comanche who was spending lots of money. Then someone started a rumor that John Walking Fox had stored his treasure in the woods. It worked out just as John Walking Fox planned.
“He gets these two opposing forces, one of them is the guy who killed his friend, and they start beating up on each other trying to find the gold,” Nimoy said of the Gunsmoke episode. “And eventually, the guy who kills his friend, as I recall, gets killed in a gun fight between these bad guys out trying to find this supposed treasure. There is no treasure, but he’s built this story.
“So it’s kind of a wry way of getting to social justice. And John Walking Fox … leaves town as an enigma. Was there ever a treasure or wasn’t there? That was the story.”
John Walking Fox looked a lot like Spock, except for the long, dark hair. And maybe John Walking Fox raised an eyebrow as he scanned the bad guys of Dodge City. Perhaps he pronounced “there is no sign of intelligent life here” and walked away. And he headed straight into a role on Star Trek.
Nimoy died in 2015. He was 83.