Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto in 2009. Amanda Edwards/Getty Images
May 15, 2013 at 05:22 PM EDT

Star Trek fans everywhere have been watching, sharing and re-watching The Challenge, a sly Audi ad that, as a comedy vehicle, comfortably seats a pair of mismatched Spocks: Leonard Nimoy, the television and sci-fi icon, and his on-screen heir, Zachary Quinto, who wears the ears in Star Trek Into Darkness.

They are trash-talking frenemies in the mini-movie, but Trek producer Bryan Burke says that in grand Spock tradition there’s a vast emotion hidden behind that frosty artifice.”Their relationship is not a working relationship at all,” Burke said.  “They’re family.”

As Hollywood relationships go, the bond between Nimoy and Quinto is an anomaly. Not only does it bridge a vast generation gap (Nimoy is 82, Quinto is 35), it defies the Hollywood undertows of rivalry and status anxiety, which have made actors in similar situation behave like Betta fish when paired up.

”We spend a lot of time together, we keep in touch,” Quinto said in February just a few days after he filmed the Audi ad. “He’s a great friend. I value his presence in my life far beyond the experience we had making the first Star Trek movie and I’m grateful that it brought us together but now the friendship is a thing — it’s own thing. I love Leonard a lot.”

That affection comes across in a special video made by Quinto and J.J. Abrams to introduce Nimoy when he appeared last week on the closing night of the Entertainment Weekly CapeTown Film Festival, a week-long celebration of sci-fi, horror, animation and superhero cinema.

The Spocks United friendship began in August 2007, when the pair met in an elevator at Comic-Con International in San Diego. They were on the way to Hall H where (in front of 6,600 fans) they were announced as the first two cast members for Abrams’ brand-reviving Star Trek, the 2009  film that puts Spock face-to-face with a time-traveling version of his future self.

Nimoy had been consulted on the Quinto casting and heartily approved of the idea of the Heroes and 24 costar. Susan Bay Nimoy, the Trek legend’s wife since the 1980s, also vouched for the casting, in a way, with her reaction to seeing the resemblance in person. “This,” she said, “is creepy.”

Will fans see Nimoy and Quinto together again in the 12th Starfleet film, which opens this Thursday? On Twtter, the proudly mischievous Nimoy stirred up rumors with this cryptic message: “I’ve been told I’m in the new Star Trek movie. I’ll see for myself when I attend the LA premiere…”

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