J.J. Abrams' approach to making his 2009 “Star Trek” reboot (simply called Star Trek) was to look at the classic 1966 television series, and essentially pump it full of steroids, turning a lean and kind of goofy old TV show and making it into a slick and muscular action picture. He took familiar character tropes of well-established pop-culture characters – the ones that are well-known to Trekkies and non-Trekkies alike – and wrote them to be broader and more easily absorbed.
The Spock-McCoy-Kirk triune that so defined the series (a.k.a. logic, passion, and the balance between the two) gave way to a sexier and quicker hothouse of shouting and underpants. What's more, Abrams' elected to make his new Star Trek film about the Enterprise crew when they were younger and inexperienced, casting a whole new retinue of younger, hotter actors in roles invented in the 1960s by other performers.
Captain Kirk was now played by studly newcomer Chris Pine. Spock was played by recent TV star Zachary Quinto. Even the curmudgeonly Dr. McCoy was young once, and Karl Urban did a spot-on DeForest Kelley impersonation. How does Abrams explain his new story when we already know what happened to a young Kirk from a 40-some-year-old TV show? He reset the timeline with some time travel. Easy.
With the 12th Star Trek feature film, Star Trek Into Darkness, coming to theaters this
Friday Thursday, Abrams has elected to continue the continuity of the 2009 film using the same actors, still young and sexy, in new situations. I feel that Abrams kind of missed an opportunity here.
The 2009 Star Trek wasn't so much a prequel to the existing Star Trek films as it was a remake of the original TV show; it wasn't interested in continuing with any sort of established story, opting to make its own. I feel that making a direct sequel to the 2009 film would be far less interesting than perhaps telling an entirely new Star Trek story with an entirely new cast. Sure, Abrams could have gone totally meta, reset the timeline again, and had Kirk, Spock, McCoy and all the rest with a newer cast still, but I think that would be too much of a head-scratcher even for the most dyed-in-the-wool Trekkies.
Better yet, go with the following idea: Make the 12th Star Trek feature film a high-octane reboot of the popular 1987 spinoff series “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
Abrams already made Star Trek hip again by making the previously stodgy characters into broad, strong, young versions of themselves. Why not zip forward into the future another century in this new continuity, and see how it effected the lives of Capt. Picard, Data, Worf, and all the rest of the well-known Enterprise-D crowd. In this new version of the Trek universe, we can now have younger, stronger, sexier, trimmer versions of a crew that is just as beloved to Trekkies as the original crew, but with more advanced technology, more shouting, more underpants, and more sex.
Even though every member of the original “Next Generation” cast is still alive and working (Patrick Stewart, at 72, is still slated to appear in the next X-Men feature film), it's time to reconsider who might play their characters in a newer slimmer, younger, sexier version of the story. I have done just that.
The rules: The cast must be young, and only their best-known character traits need to be emphasized.
Capt. Jean-Luc Picard - Jason Statham
Capt. Picard is known as a stern commander, he's kind of humorless, and he must be bald. It wouldn't hurt that he's British either (Picard is French, but Patrick Stewart made the character more English than anything). In the new continuity, I also imagine that Picard must be capable of holding his own in a fight, and should be convincing as a younger, tougher bald man with hard fists and less patience. When it comes to tougher bald men with hard fists, you can't do much better than modern-day badass Jason Statham. Already I can picture the meaningful closeup of Statham's face, starting intensely into the eyes of an underling as he gruffly intones “Make it so.”
Commander William T. Riker - Liam Hemsworth
The Enterprise-D's first officer Will Riker (originally played by Jonathan Frakes) is kind of a down-home all-American type who likes jazz and plush vacations. What mainstream audiences know about him is his unique sitting style, his beard, and his sex symbol status. The new Riker should be played, then, by someone tall and young and sexy. I'm going to go with Liam Hemsworth, the more handsome younger brother of Chris Hemsworth from the 11th Star Trek (he played Kirk's father). I think a sexy smiling lunkhead would be perfect for a bigger version of Riker.
Lt. Commander Data - Jesse Eisenberg
I know, I know. Data is an android, and he doesn't age, so having a “young” version of the character doesn't make any sense, right? Well consider this: Data was actually molded directly after his creator, and there's no reason that his creator, in this new continuity, couldn't be a younger man when he built Data to begin with. As such, yes, you can have a younger version of Data. Data is known for being emotionless, fascinated with humanity, and calculating. You need someone who can portray pure intellect. While it would be tough to beat Brent Spiner, I say go with the stern and fast-talking Jesse Eisenberg from The Social Network. He has the social awkwardness of Data already down, and the clueless intelligence could only naturally follow. Although he may look odd with the white skin, yellow eyes, and slicked-back hair. Also, he's a bit of a bastard. Maybe he's Lore in disguise...
Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge - Donald Glover
Geordi La Forge, as played by LeVar Burton, is a classic engineer. Obsessed with tech, capable of performing repair miracles, and, as a result, largely luckless in love. It's no wonder that his best friend on the ship is Data, the artificial life form. Geordi is blind, and wears a special VISOR over his eyes that beams visual information directly into his brain. In this new version of the world, I see Geordi as the comic relief character, and a well-known nerd comedian like Donald Glover would be perfect for the role. There's also some pop culture connection between Glover and Burton as well, as they have both appeared on an episode of the hit show “Community” together.
Dr. Beverly Crusher - Anna Kendrick
Determined, caring, put-upon, and matronly, Dr. Crusher (played by Gates McFadden) was (I openly admit) kind of my crush object growing up. As the ship's doctor, she often lived in a world of her own, tending to sickbay and health issues while the rest of the ship was busy piloting the ship through wormholes and the like. As such, it would be okay for Dr. Crusher to feel a little out of place with the rest of the crew. If you need a determined young doctor, cast the wonderful Anna Kendrick in the role. Kendrick has the caring qualities down, she's pretty, and has played a doctor before (in 50/50). Plus, she'd look good with red hair, wearing that blue coat.
Counselor Deanna Troi - Anisha Nagarajan
What do we know about Counselor Troi? She's an empathic half-Betazoid shrink, and she's the show's babe. Troi hung out on the bridge with the rest of the senior staff, but was often seen with long exotic hair, unusual dresses, and her big lovely dark eyes. We need someone pretty and sensitive and ever-so-slightly exotic in the role of Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis is of Greek descent). I think that a pretty young Indian actress would fit, and while she's not proven herself to be a dramatic performer, and she's a bit obscure to most mainstream audiences, Anisha Nagarajan from “Outsourced” certainly looks the part. This would be her big break.
Lieutenant Worf - John Boyega
What do we know about Worf? He's tall, tough, and a Klingon. He has a deep voice. He is an imposing presence. It would be easy to cast a bodybuilder or stuntman as Worf (previously played by Michael Dorn), but I think someone with a bit more darkness, a bit more soul, would be more appropriate. Someone who can show Worf's outsider status as the only Klingon in Starfleet. I know he's young, and not so tall, and doesn't have too much of a career as yet, but John Boyega from Attack the Block proved to be such a strong screen presence, it seems to me he could easily wear the big Klingon forehead and make it convincing. He'd be a more broody Worf, but perhaps Worf should be a little bit grumpy at all times.
Wesley Crusher - N/A
Since this is the younger version of the NextGen universe, poor Wesley, originally Dr. Crusher's teenage son, wouldn't play much into the equation and would have to be left out. Either Wesley would have to be gone entirely, or he'd have to be an infant, and only the former would allow the rest of the cast to shine; babies and Star Trek don't mix. However, Wesley's father, Jack Crusher may not yet be dead in this version of the continuity, and I can think of the perfect actor to play Jack Crusher: Wil Wheaton.
Lieutenant Tasha Yar- Teresa Palmer
What do we know about Tasha Yar? More than anything, we know that she's dead. Security chief Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby) was infamously killed early in the series by an alien made of oily evil. As such, Yar must appear in the film, but it's necessary that she die partway through. We know that Yar is hard-headed, has a temper, and looks pretty with a kicky short blonde hairdo. Teresa Palmer is known perhaps for being the not-Kristen-Stewart of her generation, but she seems to have the right look for the role, and seems capable of Crosby's toughness. I'd just as soon cast Alice Eve in the part, but she's already going to appear in Star Trek Into Darkness.
Q - John de Lancie
The bad guy in the film must be Q. He's the most famous villain of the series (apart, perhaps, from The Borg), and he's immensely entertaining. Q is a flip and sarcastic near-omnipotent godbeing who enjoys using his magical powers to toy with the feckless humans he looks down upon. While numerous comedians immediately jumped to mind (Greg Proops would be perfect), why not just get John de Lancie back? Q is immortal and doesn't age, and while de Lancie is 65, there's no reason Q can't choose to look like a 65-year-old. John de Lancie is so delicious in the role, it would be hard to give him up. So we'll just keep him.
Witney Seibold is a featured contributor on the CraveOnline Film Channel, co-host of The B-Movies Podcast and co-star of The Trailer Hitch. You can read his weekly articles B-Movies Extended, Free Film School and The Series Project, and follow him on “Twitter” at @WitneySeibold, where he is slowly losing his mind. If you want to buy him a gift (and I know you do), you can visit his Amazon Wish List.