The grandson of Gregory Peck has been cast to boldly go beyond the known frontier of Star Trek: Discovery.
When we fall for a character, we fall hard. Leonard Nimoy as Mister Spock on Star Trek was a cultural revelation. Existing between alien and human, Spock allowed the audience to embrace the other in ways rarely experienced on primetime TV. Thorugh his struggle to understand our absurd customs and emotions, we were given a mirror to examine the routine of daily existence. He was a pathway to empathy, and we resisted any other actor who dared be our guide.
Zachary Quinto was the first to step behind those ears, but he will not be the last. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Ethan Peck has been tasked with that responsibility on season two of Star Trek: Discovery. The actor is currently most notable for being the grandson of another legend, Gregory Peck, but he has inhabited small roles in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and In Time as well as various television appearances.
Spock will not be the first time Peck has filled the shoes of a character made famous by another. In 2009, he took over the Heath Ledger role in the 10 Things I Hate About You spin-off for ABC Family. While that program did not result in a career-defining turn for Peck, it did force him to confront audience expectations and transform another’s traits to fit his own personality.
In an official statement, Discovery showrunner Alex Kurtzman stressed the challenge of finding an actor we would accept as the character:
“We searched for months for an actor who would, like them, bring his own interpretation to the role. An actor who would, like them, effortlessly embody Spock’s greatest qualities, beyond obvious logic: empathy, intuition, compassion, confusion and yearning. Ethan Peck walked into the room inhabiting all of these qualities, aware of his daunting responsibility to Leonard, Zack and the fans, and ready to confront the challenge in the service of protecting and expanding on Spock’s legacy. In that spirit, we’re thrilled to welcome him to the family.”
Star Trek fans can be a suspicious lot, especially when it comes to recasting and mucking about with canon. Seeking the approval of Nimoy’s children was a good place to start; without their blessing, we’d probably riot. Earlier yesterday, Adam Nimoy tweeted out an image of himself, his sister Julia, and wife Terry Farrell (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Jadzia Dax) embracing Peck with an enthusiastic Vulcan salute. If they’re happy, we should be happy.
— Adam Nimoy (@adam_nimoy) August 14, 2018
In the fifty-two years of the franchise’s lifespan, Star Trek has experienced a constant rollercoaster ride of peaks and valleys concerning the pop culture consciousness. For one glorious season in 1966, the series was a bonafide phenomenon but struggled to remain on air until the network pulled the plug after season three. Despite fan outcry and at least one successful letter-writing campaign to keep it alive within the boob-tube, Star Trek faded until Star Wars rekindled interest in popular science-fiction and The Motion Picture brought the small screen crew to a glorious (if slightly sluggish), theatrical presentation.
The films ran their course, and the Next Generation kept Gene Roddenberry’s vision of an all-inclusive future alive for seven more years. That crew got their swing at the big screen, spin-offs sprouted in various directions, and eventually, J.J. Abrams would rebootquel the property with an attractive assortment of modern actors. When Star Trek Beyond failed to blaze new box office avenues, it appeared that the franchise was adrift. There was a threat of a Star Trek 4 set in the Kelvin timeline featuring both Chris Pine as Captain Kirk and Chris Hemsworth as Papa George Kirk, but contractual gremlins look to have sunk their claws into that endeavor.
Us Trekkies are used to speed bumps, and we pay them no nevermind. Take our show from us, that’s ok, we know a movie is just around the corner. Take our movies from us, that’s ok, we know there is a TV show brewing on a streaming platform. Last year, Star Trek: Discovery embraced the serialized format for the first time in the franchise’s existence, and while the reception was a little rocky for some, by the end of that season we were given a satisfying arc of relevant human pain that fed directly into today’s anxieties.
Whatever dubious concerns we had over Captains with anti-federation ideals or Klingons with unfamiliar bumpy foreheads were laid to rest by the climax. This was not your daddy’s Star Trek nor should it be. Evil Captains were all well and good for one-and-done episodes, but as television has evolved so has Trek storytelling. The Evil Captain gets a season, and the audience gets the narrative punch of The Wire or Breaking Bad.
The future of Star Trek is looking significantly brighter these days. Despite whatever trepidations we might have regarding Peck, Anson Mount, and Rebecca Romijn reprising classic characters, Star Trek: Discovery is gearing up to embrace the human adventure with unabashed exuberance. Kurtzman is determined to snatch up those Trekkie stragglers still resisting the CBS All-Access streaming platform. If Spock doesn’t grab your attention, Jean-Luc Picard most certainly will.
We might grumble occasionally, but Trekkies are about to be inundated with content, and there will be several options for us to devote our time. We survived one new Spock; we can survive another. If Peck doesn’t quite fit our box, there’s always Quentin Tarantino to really shake things up.