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Star Trek has moved beyond the original adventures of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. First, The Next Generation introduced fans to Captain Picard with comic relief from the android Data. They explored the crews of different ships like the Voyager or space stations like Deep Space Nine, even the previous crew of Enterprise.

The new Star Trek film, from director J.J. Abrams, is the first time the franchise has gone back to Kirk and Spock, only recast with different actors. Chris Pine plays Captain Kirk during his Starfleet Academy years, showing how he first earned his seat on the bridge of the Enterprise, and how his relationship with Spock began adversarial but turned into a lifelong friendship. Perhaps this is how he grew up to be William Shatner.

“There are certain things that are just very inherent to the character,” Pine said. “I used the script as kind of my bible, and that gave me my back story, in the sense of who this guy was and why he was who he was. Going back and watching the series, what I was able to take away from it, or what appealed to me about Mr. Shatner’s performance and things that I felt that I could use without hitting people over the head with a bad impersonation, were little physical characteristics. What really appealed to me was the way that he moved about the deck of the ship. He’s got a very theatrical quality, just with his physicality, that made my smile every time I watched it. There were things about how he sits in the chair that are very small. I felt less is more, in my case, at least.”
Star TrekThe cast of the film has reached out to Shatner, who expressed disappointment that he could not make a cameo as older Kirk in the new film. Captain Kirk died at the end of Generations [the 7th Star Trek film] but William Shatner still wanted to be in the new film. They said, “You can't, you're dead.”

“I saw him last night, for the first time, in the flesh and shook hands,” Pine continued. “He was very busy last night. It was a charity event for him, and he raises money for all these wonderful children’s charities, so I was there more to support him, in the great work that he does. But, it was great to finally meet him and I hope to have more of a chance to sit down with him, for a longer period, and actually talk to him about his experiences.”

Leonard Nimoy, the original Mr. Spock does appear in the new film. Nimoy reminded Shatner that he got to hand the reigns over to Captain Picard in Star Trek: Generations, a film in which Spock did not appear.

“I pointed out to him that we’re even now, because he acted in one of the Star Trek movies that I was not in, and he had to admit that that was true,” Nimoy said. “We’re over it. I think it’s history. I think he genuinely wants the movie to be a success. He spent time with all of us last night at his charity event in Burbank. I admire him a lot. I think he’s done a great job with his career.  He was a handsome leading man and became a very good character actor; very successful character actor. We have a great friendship and it continues to be a great friendship.”

Nimoy was available for Zachary Quinto, who plays young Spock, the Vulcan with pointy ears who puts logic above emotion. While Quinto did not view marathon sessions of Original Series episodes, he felt the impact of having the original Spock around.
Star Trek“What I came to discover about Leonard is him as more than just an actor, an artist, really,” Quinto said. “[I got] to know him personally and getting to understand the totality of this process, not just the experience of playing Spock, but what then presents to him in terms of opportunities and terms of restrictions and challenges and how met those. What impressed me the most about Leonard is how he faced the potential obstacles of playing Spock. Science fiction was a different thing 40 years ago than it is today, and watching him re-define his creative journey, becoming an amazing director, photographer, writer, and a genius art collector, these are things that define someone’s life as more than just being an actor. That was the most inspiring thing about getting to know him, getting to spend time with him, seeing into his life a little bit. He’s a phenomenal actor, as evidenced by his work in this film. It’s so moving and exciting, but he’s so much more than that. That was the hook, line, and sinker for me.”

As for the balance between logic and emotions, Nimoy has faced nit picky questions from Trek fans over the years. Now it fell to Quinto to clarify those.

“I think it’s a common misconception that Spock doesn’t feel emotion. I think he feels emotion very deeply, but he’s just restricted in the ways that he can express it. For me, it was about cultivating a deeply rooted inner life and not being able to do much other than to hold on to it, which can be frustrating as an actor, especially when around me, my fellow actors are emoting and running about, having a good time. Obviously, it’s a formidable challenge, and one that I was really excited to be faced with.’

In a shocker to Trek fans, the new film portrays a love triangle between Kirk, Uhurua and Spock, although Uhurua clearly favors Spock. Kirk just makes fruitless attempts on her affections. Zoey Saldana plays the young Uhurua, the Enterprise’s communications officer originally played by Nichelle Nichols.
Star Trek“If there was a camera showing you guys when I was in that office,” Saldana recalled when she got to the part where Uhura kisses Spock. “They locked us in the office and we had to read the script and I dropped it and I grabbed my Blackberry and I kept saying, ‘This man’s crazy! J.J.’s out of his mind. I’m not that aware about Star Trek, but I do know that they never mingled. It’s crazy!’ Then, once I finished the script, it made so much sense. They have the most similar characteristics. I almost feel that she had this sort of admiration for Spock because he was older and sort of this teacher, that it was this crush or a platonic infatuation with someone that’s wiser, wittier, handsome, pointy ears… Why not?”

Quinto assures fans that this relationship makes more sense than it may appear at first. “To speak about the relationship between Spock and Uhura, that dynamic provides a lot of levity and humor between Kirk and Spock, between Kirk and Uhura,” Quinto explained. “But between Spock and Uhura, I think it actually represents a depth, whereby Uhura is a canvas on to which Spock can project the emotion that he is not able to express himself.”

Don’t cry for Kirk though. He gets plenty of action from the Starfleet co-eds, including a green-skinned babe like the one old Kirk famously romanced in an episode of the TV show.

“The green girls have a certain place in the Star Trek canon,” Pine said. “I remember that day being very long and that poor girl, Rachel Nichols, was in the make-up chair for two hours getting painted, so there was a lot of green paint on my nose after many a take. It wasn’t as fun as it looked. It was a long day and, yes, the make-up proved to kill any buzz that I might have gotten otherwise.”

In the ‘60s, showing an African-American woman in a position of authority in a military of the future was groundbreaking. Audiences are hopefully tolerant enough today not to be shocked by the character of Uhura, but it was still a daunting legacy for an actor to undertake.
Star Trek“I did speak with Nichelle a couple of times and the response was completely overwhelming,” Saldana said. “I was able to meet her, and there was this overall happiness and excitement that Star Trek was coming back and that we were stepping into the family. It made it much easier for us to approach these characters, not only remembering the fundamental essences of all of them, but also not to be afraid to add any innovation. That’s where J.J. comes in. I thought it was incredibly witty on his behalf, to make the beginning, to show them as young people, that they’re not comfortable in their own skin, they’re meeting for the first time and they’re kind of starting off with a clean palette. You know that they need to end up the way that they are in the series, but it’s completely different. It says nothing about how they’re going to start. They could be lost, they could be found, they could have all these relationships, all these battles within themselves and each other and they’re still going to complete these missions on the Enterprise. So, sometimes knowing the end can give you a better perspective on where to start.”

If Star Trek is a hit, of course the fans, and the studio, will want to see more adventures with the young crew of the Enterprise. The actors will be happy to reprise their roles, but only in homage and reverence to the original cast.

“In terms of feeling that the part was mine, in my mind, Captain Kirk will always be William Shatner, and William Shatner will always be Captain Kirk,” Pine said. “It’s just an inextricable connection in the relationship between those two men. This was a great role and, as an actor, you search for great roles. This one just happened to be named James Kirk. So, for the time being, in this movie, I’m playing James Kirk. But, I look at it from part to part and from story to story, so as for the part being mine, I think people will always and forever connect Mr. Shatner to that role.”

The real test will come on May 8 when the die hard Trekkers see the film. “I have no control over what people think,” Pine continued. “If I were to spend energy on that, I would be a lifeless, deadened human being. So I hope that they like it, but I just simply have no control, once it’s in the can. We’ve done a good job, I think. I’m proud of it. I hope they’ll accept these changes to their canon that they hold so dear, which are definitely changes, but I don’t think I do anything other than tell a great story differently.”

Star Trek opens May 8.

www.Dishmag.com / Issue 98 - September 5401
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