The main casting of the new Star Trek film is finally complete and Trekkers all over the world are putting the cast under intense scrutiny. I wouldn’t say that I was a hardcore Trekker, but I am a fan of the original Star Trek series. I have opinions on the cast, which I will share with you now.
Here you will get a side-by-side comparison of both cast and what I think of the new cast in regards to the old. This will not be fair or balanced. It will be based on what little I know of the new actor’s career and appearance as it compares to the classic interpretation.
Mock all you want his macho swagger and “overly….nuanced…and staccatodelivery”, William Shatner helped to create one of the most enduring icons of American pop culture. Anybody cast in the role of Captain James T. Kirk would have a strike against him. So a lot of people will judge Chris Pine unfairly right off the bat, saying that there would be no way to compare to the original. But really, no one ever could.
Doctor Leonard McCoy:
I have to say, my favorite character in the original series was “Bones”. This was mainly due to the performance of DeForest Kelley. His portrayal of the irascible doctor was, to me, pitch perfect. Every time he argued with Spock you could tell it wasn’t out of hatred. And there is a reason why his trademark lines “It’s worse than that, he’s dead, Jim” and “I’m a doctor not a…” have been quoted so much. Karl Urban has big shoes to fill.
As for appearance, both actors have that weathered, world weary look, but Urban in a more “action hero” way.
Speaking of which, Urban’s movie output (Pathfinder, Doom, Chronicles of Riddick) lead to an interesting pre-judgment–this ship’s doctor might be tougher than the its captain. I mean, who would you rather beam down to a hostile planet with Romulans on your tail? Eomer from The Lord of the Rings or Lindsay Lohan’s bad luck boyfriend?
Montgomery “Scotty” Scott:
Simply put, Simon Pegg rocks. If you haven’t seen Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz yet, do so immediately. Not only are they two of the funniest movies of the past decade, they also show off Pegg’s comedic acting chops in two very different roles. Scotty had his fair share or “comic relief” moments and also dead serious moments as well. Pegg could do that very well.
This might be the rare occasion where the new actor might slightly, slightly better than the original. Or at least as good yet in a different way. Don’t get me wrong, James Doohan did a great job as Scotty. I’m just excited at what Pegg will bring to the role.
And besides, Pegg is from the United Kingdom. Sure, he hails from England and not Scotland, but that is closer to it than British Columbia (Doohan was born in that Canadian province, in Vancouver).
Everybody in the new cast has a hard time taking over characters that decades of fans have grown to love. But Zoe Saldana might have the toughest of all, because Uhura was one of the most socially important characters of the 1960’s.
Star Trek was supposedly Gene Roddenberry’s idyllic view of the future. At a time when civil rights were being fought for on the streets of America, his crew for the Enterprise came from diverse races, nationalities and countries and worked together as equals.
Nichelle Nichols played Uhura with intelligence, dignity and grace and served as a role model to both African-Americans and women. So much so that, as the story goes, when she was willing to quit the show she was talked out of it by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. himself. So Saldana isn’t just stepping into a role, she’s stepping into a legacy.
Original Sulu George Takei is Japanese-American. John Cho was born in South Korea. It should be interesting to see what, if anything, the movie creators do with Sulu’s nationality, as the name “Hikaru”, which Sulu got in the Star Trek novels, not the TV series, is of Japanese origin. In the old days, this wouldn’t matter, as Japanese actors played Chinese played Korean and vice versa. Even today this practice continues. We’ll see what road the movie takes.
Chekov was created for the show as an attempt to appeal to a new demographic—the teenage market. He was supposed to bring in the fans of the Beatles and the Monkees’ Davy Jones to the show. However, Walter Koenig was on the cusp of 30 when he took the role, and that faux-Beatles wig they gave him didn’t really fool anybody into thinking he was a teenager.
The movie producers have gone one better. Their Chekov, Anton Yelchin will actually be a teenager (19) when the movie comes out. Actually, the producers have gone two better. Yelchin was born in Russia, in Leningrad as a matter of fact. He immigrated here when he was only 6 months old, but he should have an advantage on the Chicago born Koenig when it comes to Chekov’s Russian accent.