The new Star Trek relaunches the sci-fi franchise for an audience who might not be familiar with everything that's happened in the shows and movies over the last four decades. Which is just fine -- starting over from scratch, it reintroduces the classic characters from the original 1960s TV show but in a way nobody’s ever seen them –- as their young selves. Welcome to the Final Frontier.
by Greg Dean Schmitz
William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk
Few characters are as closely tied in our collective pop culture memory as William Shatner and Captain Kirk. From the way Shatner delivered his lines with dramatic pauses to the swagger that he gave to each of Kirk's romantic alien conquests, Shatner truly made Kirk his own. He even went on to co-write James T. Kirk novels set in what is called the "Shatnerverse," where Captain Kirk is brought back to life after his death in Star Trek: Generations.
Chris Pine as James T. Kirk
When he won the highly sought-after role of James T. Kirk, 28-year-old Chris Pine was a near-unknown, his highest-profile previous roles being one of Anne Hathaway's romantic interests in The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement and part of the ensemble cast of Smokin' Aces. Pine was very aware of the shoes he was tasked to fill, and made a conscious effort not to try to replicate Shatner's trademark pauses.
Leonard Nimoy as Ambassador Spock
Nimoy became a beloved pop culture icon in the 1960s as the enigmatic master of logic, Mr. Spock. Pointy ears became as popular for Halloween as Beatles mop tops, and people around the world taught their fingers how to make the Vulcan sign. Nimoy spent the 1970s trying to distance himself from Spock, but when time came for the original cast to bring “Star Trek” to the movies, he came back to give some of his best performances yet.
Zachary Quinto as Spock
Zachary Quinto burst onto the scene as the devilish, brain-probing, superpower-absorbing villain Sylar on NBC's “Heroes” in 2006, and instantly made Sylar one of the most memorable new TV characters of the decade. Like Kirk, the casting of Spock inspired fans to think of many possibilities, but the timing of Quinto's surge in popularity and the revitalization of Star Trek was serendipitously exactly right. Quinto was primed for his next big character, and Spock, in many ways Sylar's exact opposite, was perfect.
Spock, now a Vulcan Ambassador in the Star Trek future, serves as the bridge in the new Star Trek between the franchise's past and its revitalized future. William Shatner had actually campaigned for the opportunity to return as Captain Shatner as well, but given the character's death in Star Trek: Generations, a time-traveling Spock was seen as the best bridge character.
DeForest Kelley as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy
Born in rural Northeastern Georgia in 1920, DeForest Kelley spent the 1950s and early 1960s as a relatively obscure character actor in TV and movie Westerns, but as "Bones" McCoy, he brought a combination Southern-infused wit, cynicism, charm and cantankerism to the franchise, often serving as the human side to the dramatic triangle between Spock's logic and Captain Kirk's leadership. DeForest Kelley died in 1999 of stomach cancer.
Karl Urban as Dr. Leonard McCoy
New Zealand actor Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy was perhaps the most surprising casting choice of all the new Star Trek stars, as his previous filmography is packed with brawny action roles in movies like The Lord of the Rings, The Bourne Supremacy and the Viking adventure Pathfinder. Urban, however, appears to have adapted quite well to portraying Dr. McCoy's complex yet sympathetic personality, and bears an uncanny resemblance to a young DeForest Kelley.
Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Uhura
When “Star Trek” premiered in 1966, the United States was in the middle of the Civil Rights movement, and Nichelle Nichols stunned audiences as one of the very first strong, positive African American female characters on TV. Nichols also made history with one of the first interracial kissing scenes with Captain Kirk in a 1967 episode that is still considered one of the landmark TV episodes of all time. In 2007, Nichelle Nichols returned to TV with a supporting role on…”Heroes.”
Zoe Saldana as Uhura
Dominican-American actress Zoe Saldana made her theatrical debut in 2000 in Center Stage, and has since appeared in many memorable and often sexy roles in movies like Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Drumline and Guess Who, for which she was nominated for a NAACP Image Award. Like Nichelle Nichols before her, Zoe Saldana captures both the intelligence and sultry intrigue of the Federation's top communications officer. Look for her later this year in Avatar.
James Doohan as Montgomery "Scotty" Scott
Like William Shatner, James Doohan was actually Canadian, but to a whole generation, he embodied the stereotype of a feisty Scotsman as Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott, aka Scotty, who became famous for his doubtful pleas to Captain Kirk about whether the Enterprise would be able to perform whatever incredible task the crew was faced with each week. Like many other original cast members, Doohan went on to reprise the role of Scotty on Star Trek: The Next Generation. After his death in 2005, James Doohan's ashes were launched into space.
Simon Pegg as Montgomery "Scotty" Scott
British comedian Simon Pegg first made his mark with American audiences in the surprise hit Shaun of the Dead, and also starred in Hot Fuzz and Run, Fatboy, Run. Being blonde, Pegg was perhaps a surprising choice to play Scotty since he bears little resemblance to James Doohan, but what we've seen of Pegg as Scotty suggests that he successfully brings a fun, mischievous spin to the classic engineer character who's never met a warp drive he couldn't fix.
George Takei as Lt. Hikaru Sulu
Like Nichelle Nichols as Uhura, George Takei's brave and dashing helmsman Lt. Sulu was a landmark role, as one of the most prominent Asian television characters, avoiding falling into stereotypes, such as being a martial arts expert (Sulu preferred swords). Audiences didn't know it at the time, but George Takei was also a groundbreaking role model in another way. In 2005 he confirmed his 18-year relationship with his partner, Brad Altman. He also appeared on “Heroes” for two seasons.
John Cho as Lt. Hikaru Sulu
Audiences best know John Cho for being half of the pot-smoking comedy team of Harold & Kumar, but as Lieutenant Sulu, Cho is definitely emphasizing his more dramatic side, along with a good dose of action prowess, as the trailers give us great glimpses of Sulu showing off his skills as a swordsman. There was some controversy about Cho, a Korean-American, portraying such a classic Japanese character, but George Takei gave Cho his full blessing and support.
Walter Koenig as Ensign Pavel Chekov
The young Russian navigator Pavel Chekov was added to “Star Trek” in its second season as a way to attract more young female fans to the show, following the success of the pop-idol show “The Monkees,” with Chekov even sporting a hairstyle similar to that group's Davy Jones. That Chekov was a Russian was no mistake either, a symbol of the nation with which the United States was competing in the 1960s Space Race.
Anton Yelchin as Ensign Pavel Chekov
Similar to the way Chekov was added to the series to represent the vibrant 1960s youth movement, at 20 years old, Anton Yelchin is "the kid" of the new cast as well. Yelchin also has the distinction of actually being born in Russia, as his parents were famous ice skaters in the Leningrad Ice Ballet who defected to the United States. Yelchin's pre-Star Trek roles include Charlie Bartlett and Alpha Dog, and he will also be seen in this summer's Terminator: Salvation.
Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike
One of the most surprising elements of the original “Star Trek” pilot was that there was no Captain Kirk at all. Instead, the Enterprise was led by Captain Christopher Pike, played by successful movie star Jeffrey Hunter. When NBC picked up “Star Trek” as a series, Hunter decided he would rather continue to focus on his movie career, and so, we got Captain James T. Kirk instead.
Bruce Greenwood as Captain Christopher Pike
Since his father died when he was a child, a young James T. Kirk needs a fatherly role model, and finds just such a man in Captain Pike, played by veteran Canadian character Bruce Greenwood. Fans who know "Star Trek" history might be able to guess what becomes of Captain Pike, but it looks like Greenwood's sympathetic performance will still make it a dramatic shock for everyone.
Eric Bana as Nero
The cast of the new Star Trek is almost entirely made up of characters whom fans can trace back to earlier performances, but the one major character who is entirely new is Nero, a time-traveling Romulan who is on a violent mission of vengeance against Spock. Australian actor Eric Bana is often nearly unrecognizable in his Romulan makeup, but if you concentrate really hard, you can recognize the star of Munich, Troy and Hulk.