Star Trek beams back

23:47, Oct 25 2011

It's been the worst day of Spock's life. It started with his fiancee cancelling their wedding and ended with him thinking he has his killed his friend, Captain James T Kirk, in a duel.

Discovering Kirk is not dead, but that Dr Leonard "Bones" McCoy has injected him with a tranquiliser making him appear dead, the ever-logical Spock excitedly grabs Kirk and exclaims "Jim" with a smile.

"You can't tell me that ... you weren't on the verge of giving us an emotional scene that would have bought the house down," McCoy teases.

"It was merely my quite logical relief that Starfleet had not lost a highly proficient captain," Spock, who has regained his stoic composure, explains.

"Of course, Mr Spock, your reaction was quite logical ... in a pig's eye."

The scene is from Amok Time, a 1968 episode of the classic Star Trek television show which starred William Shatner (Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Spock) and DeForest Kelley (McCoy). It's a favourite of Auckland actor Karl Urban, 35, who last month completed five months of filming on a Star Trek prequel in which he plays a young Dr McCoy.


"Amok Time's about the relationship between Kirk, Spock and McCoy," Urban says of one of his two favourite episodes.

"And I like how Bones saves the day."

It's been 17 year since the original Enterprise warped off our screens, after 78 episodes, 22 animated segments and six feature films, leaving fans with spin-off shows The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise. Despite interstellar improvements in sets, costumes and special effects, none of the spin-offs held a star to the one that started it all with Kirk, Spock and McCoy.

"The essence of what (the late Star Trek creator) Gene Rodenberry created is worth pursuing," Urban, who was raised in Wellington and now lives in Auckland, says. "With the kind of advances with story telling technology there's a lot more we are capable of doing these days. I think that since it's been 17 years since Star Trek has been on the big screen. It's the perfect time to bring it back and show these characters in their early years and get a bit of a back story.

"To be part of a new wave or revival of the old Star Trek is just a really fantastic experience."

The new film also stars Chris Pine in one of his first major roles as Kirk and Heroes star Zachary Quinto as Spock. Urban regrets not having the chance to discuss McCoy with Kelley, as Quinto did with Nimoy regarding Spock.

"I guess in terms of the qualities Kelley bought to the role, what I really respond to is his sense of irascibility with a real passion for life and doing the right thing, which was a great thing for Kirk. We would have Spock's logic and McCoy's moral standing which gave Kirk the benefit of having three brains instead of just one.

"I am very thankful to have had such a legacy of work to look at. It was really wonderful having Leonard Nimoy in the film. He would not have been in it, and given the film his blessing if he did not think it was a worthy project. We were very privileged to have him."

The man directing the film, dubbed Star Trek XI, is Emmy Award-winning film and television producer, writer, actor, composer and director JJ Abrams, and the script is penned by Transformers scribes Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman.

Urban says: "I have never worked on a film that's been as funny as this one. We were constantly cracking up."

Urban is best known for his role as Eomer in Peter Jackson's The Lord of The Rings trilogy. His early career included a stint on Shortland Street.

"JJ is extraordinarily clever. He reminded me, as far as his shooting style is concerned, of Peter Jackson in the way he would place movement in the shot. He had a bit of a quality that I respect in Peter."

Urban admits to having his own selfish reasons for wanting to do Star Trek.

"I really want to be part of a film that my children can see ... there have not been that many."

Urban's oldest son Hunter, eight, is a fan, while his younger son Indy, three, may well turn out to love the fictional archaeologist he is named after.

Asked why he went for the role of a famously blue-eyed character, the brown-eyed actor says it came to him.

"After meeting JJ he said, `I would really like to see you for this character.' As far as the physical characteristics are concerned, there are quite a few discrepancies. The important thing is to create the very essence and spirit of what these guys did back in the sixties and creating that verve supporting this new interpretation."

While Urban is yet to see a rough cut of the film, he says it will have the Star Trek feel while being like nothing fans have seen before.

"If you were watching the 60s TV series it would be like you were listening to it on the radio before and now you are going to see it in high definition."

Urban's comments are particularly interesting since the pilot episode, The Cage, was filmed in black and white, but by the time the original series went into production television had made the transition to colour and Star Trek became known for its bright coloured yellow, blue and red uniforms and control panels.

While the release of Star Trek XI is a year off, thanks to the special effects required in post-production, Urban is pushing for a New Zealand premiere in aid of the charity KidsCan. And he won't rule out returning to the role for future films, or even a new television series.

"I would dearly love the opportunity to carry on with that cast.

"They are really wonderful, but it's a bit too early to speculate on things. We really have everything going for us."

Whatever the future may bring for Urban, he says he intends to remain New Zealand based. "This is my home."

Waikato Times