Watch Leonard Nimoy Scare the Crap Out of America Over the Y2K Bug

Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

Leonard Nimoy and some very high-tech graphics in 1998's 'The Y2K Survival Guide.'
Leonard Nimoy and some very high-tech graphics in 1998's 'The Y2K Survival Guide.' (YouTube)

Looking forward to this year’s New Year’s Eve? No. Of course you’re not. The only way we’re allowed to celebrate the end of this most heinous year is to stay in, and do what we’ve been doing for the rest of 2020—Netflix and binge.

But as you spend Dec. 31 hanging out indoors, with bad hair and 10 lbs. of shelter-in-place weight, just know that things could be infinitely worse. How, you ask? Well, for one, you could also have Leonard Nimoy in your face telling you planes are going to start falling out of the sky at midnight. For that is exactly what he was doing 21 years ago when “The Year 2000 problem” (as one Congressional report called it) already had much of America in a panic.

Nimoy’s 1998 instructional video, The Y2K Family Survival Guide, is now a perfect (and hilarious) relic of the time. The hour-long exploration of the impending Y2K disaster is soundtracked by non-stop doom synthesizer, and awash with very confidently-stated conjecture. (The disaster is “inevitable,” according to one pundit here.) Happily, the film is now available on YouTube for your viewing pleasure—which is handy, given that a VHS copy is currently for sale on Amazon for $98.89. (Frankly, that’s not even overpriced. Nimoy’s over-earnest musings and his guests’ hyperbolic ramblings make it worth every penny.)

“How fragile do we find ourselves against the juggernaut of our own inventions?” Nimoy queries. “We recall the fate of Atlantis … Have we allowed our own highly advanced technological innovations to far outpace our human abilities to control those innovations?” (The robots are going to kill us and we have only ourselves to blame!)

Nimoy, in full Spock mode, then launches into a laundry list of everything that could possibly go wrong if computer systems reach the year 2000 and incorrectly register the year as 1900. Dramatically interspersed with the sounds of happy crowds counting down to midnight (no, really), Nimoy utters the longest sentence ever committed to videotape. It goes like this:

In dead of winter, at the stroke of midnight, January 1st, 2000, elevators may stop, heat may vanish, credit cards and ATMs may cease to function, airplanes and trains may come to a halt, telephones and televisions may not utter a sound, water delivery systems may not deliver water for cooking, drinking or bathing, streetlights, stoplights, lights in buildings everywhere may flicker out, hospitals, clinics, pharmacies may be unable to provide proper medical care, banks and stock markets around the world may suffer some form of meltdown, and nuclear power plants may cease to generate the electricity we need for all aspects of our daily lives.

(“May” being the key word here. He could just as accurately have said “may not.”)


But Nimoy seems perfectly sensible here next to the ramshackle team of featured pundits. Most of them lack credibility, and the film knows so, noting: “There are no Y2K experts because nothing like this has ever occurred before in the history of humankind.”

Three of these commentators are an absolute dream every time they show up. One guy (who never even gets a formal introduction) is interviewed in front of a wall of large containers labeled ‘Future Food’ and ‘Preparedness Mart.’ He advises: “The people that are going to get a gun and a year’s supply of food and run to the mountains will find a lot of other people with guns in the mountains, in a bad mood. So it’s best to stay in your community.”

Sure, Bob. That sounds right.

Then there’s Ted Knight, a British ex-Special Forces guy who describes himself as “a family safety preparedness consultant.” Initially, Knight makes himself useful, offering tips about food, water, toilets, lights, medication, cash, heirlooms and important paperwork. He advises people to stock up on puzzles (hello, 2020!) and even manages to utter the sentence “Need for flushing water is number two” without snickering.

But Knight also has a brain that seems prone to malfunctioning. He adopts a deeply authoritative manner before uttering this absolute twaddle:

Y2K is a computer problem but it’s going to face the individual with their own reality. Whatever that reality is, it’s going to face you, face-to-face with a mirror, and in that mirror is going to be you.

Sure, Ted. Whatever you say.

My other favorite white guy here (for there are many) is a pastor who seems doggedly determined to leverage Y2K to get more people into his congregation. “If the immediate response is to buy machine guns and camouflage and lock ourselves off from our neighbors,” he says, “well what’s happening is, what’s in the human heart is boiling to the surface. That’s why Christians have got to challenge that whole mentality.”

Then, directly after Ted Knight has been very firm about needing to stock up on enough food and water for six weeks, the pastor pops back up and announces: “There’s no way any one family could lay aside enough food, enough resources to survive this thing on their own.”

Sure, Pastor Stephen. Everyone needs to go to your church.

Watching the Y2K Family Survival Guide in 2020, in the middle of a global pandemic, is extraordinary on a number of levels. It’s a trip back to a simpler time when reasons to worry were so thin on the ground that we actively invented them. It’s a reminder that, actually, (most) Americans are much better at keeping calm and carrying on than we were given credit for 21 years ago. And, most of all, it’s proof that 2020 isn’t the scariest New Year’s Eve in recent memory. (The acoustic ballad about “perpetual night” that closes the Y2K Family Survival Guide really solidifies the overall vibe.)

Enjoy the surreal magnificence for yourself, in full, below. Then enjoy your New Year’s Eve, safe and indoors (and minus a basement full of guns and dehydrated food).