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'Star Trek' rebirth as movie revives series

| Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The much-anticipated new "Star Trek," with its young cast of mostly unknowns, takes the "Star Trek" universe in new directions, starting from the beginning.

James T. Kirk joins up with Starfleet in Iowa, where his skills, family history and unconventional thinking gradually wins out over his reputation as a reckless, rebellious troublemaker.

Spock -- the high-achieving, disciplined scion of a political human-Vulcan union -- joins up on Vulcan. All the other classic characters are here, in much younger incarnations -- Scotty, Bones, Sulu, Uhura, Chekov -- getting their trial as rookies aboard the USS Enterprise, against an almost unfathomable threat from the darkest recesses of space.

Director J.J. Abrams ("Lost," "Alias") has all the most up-to-date special effects at his disposal, making this "Star Trek" quite a bit different from the low-budget TV show of the 1960s.

Who's who

James T. Kirk : Chris Pine ("Smokin' Aces" and "Princess Diaries 2") takes over the role originally played by William Shatner.

Spock : Zachary Quinto (Sylar from "Heroes") takes over the role made famous by Leonard Nimoy (who makes a cameo as the older Spock in this film).

Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy : Karl Urban ("The Bourne Supremacy") takes over for DeForest Kelley.

Nyota Uhura : Zoe Saldana ("Vantage Point") plays the Nichelle Nichols role.

Hikaru Sulu : John Cho ("Harold and Kumar") replaces George Takei.

Montgomery "Scotty" Scott : Simon Pegg ("Shaun of the Dead") takes over for James Doohan.

Pavel Chekov : Played by Anton Yelchin ("Charlie Bartlett"). Walter Koenig played the original.

Local boy hits big time

Sure, Spock is from Vulcan, but the guy behind Spock -- the new, young Spock not named Leonard Nimoy -- is from Pittsburgh.

Zachary Quinto was, until now, best known as the enigmatic villain Sylar on "Heroes." But "Star Trek" might catapult his career into orbit.

Quinto grew up in Green Tree and attended Central Catholic, class of '95. In high school, he won a Gene Kelly Award for his role in "The Pirates of Penzance."

Quinto graduated from Carnegie Mellon University's School of Drama in 1999.

Sentimental favorite

Carnegie Mellon University professor Randy Pausch -- whose lecture "The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams" became a viral YouTube hit and a best-selling book -- did a lot of living in the few months he had after being diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.

Pausch, a longtime Trekkie, recalled on his blog that his first reaction to his diagnosis was, "I don't believe in the no-win scenario" -- a quote from Kirk in the second "Trek" film, "The Wrath of Khan" (1982).

One of his dreams came true when the director of the new "Star Trek," J.J. Abrams, sent Pausch a letter asking him if he wanted a small part in the film.

In his blog, he described the experience: "Naturally, I presumed this was one of my friends, playing a prank. But after a little sleuthing, it was clear it was for real. Jai (Pausch's wife) & I hopped a plane to L.A., where I got a custom-made 'Star Trek' uniform and my own station on the bridge, where I had lots of buttons and controls. I even got a LINE!!!!"

As Pausch noted in his blog, look for a guy who walks across the ship's bridge and says, "Captain, we have a visual!"

40 years of 'Trek'

The original "Star Trek" series, created by Gene Roddenberry, premiered in 1966. Its run was relatively short, three seasons, but it spawned a universe of entertainment.

There have been five "Star Trek" television series, or six if you count "Star Trek: The Animated Series" which ran from 1973 to 1974 with the cast of the original series reprising their roles:

• "Star Trek," the original series, ran from 1966 to 1969, with William Shatner as the captain of the USS Enterprise.

• "Star Trek: The Next Generation" ran for seven seasons, from 1987 to 1994. Patrick Stewart was Capt. Jean Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise.

• "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" was on for seven seasons from 1993 to 1999. Avery Brooks was Capt. Benjamin Sisko on a Federation space station.

• "Star Trek: Voyager" ran for seven seasons, from 1995 to 2001. Kate Mulgrew was Capt. Kathryn Janeway of the USS Voyager, stranded in a distant corner of space.

• "Star Trek: Enterprise" starred Scott Bakula as Capt. Jonathan Archer in a prequel set 100 years before the original series. It ran for four seasons, 2001 to 2005.

The movies

This year's "Star Trek" movie marks the 11th voyage of the series onto film. The first, "Star Trek: The Motion Picture," premiered in December 1979. There were six movies between 1979 and 1991 featuring the original cast. In 1994, some members of the original cast joined the cast of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" for the movie "Star Trek: Generations." "The Next Generation" cast then went on to produce three more films; the last was "Star Trek: Nemesis" in 2002.

About the only modern movie series to beat "Star Trek" is James Bond, with 22 films and a 23rd in production. In comparison, there have been four Indiana Jones movies, six "Star Wars" movies, and there will be eight Harry Potter movies once they're all completed.

Many fans believe that the even-number "Star Trek" movies are the best. This year's movie, the 11th, hopes to break the odd-numbered curse. Most fans rate the second "Trek" movie, "The Wrath of Khan," as the best.

Famous faces

While the new "Star Trek" movie's core cast members are young, relatively unknown actors, some of the other roles have some star power. Movie writer, producer, director and star Tyler Perry will make his first appearance in a movie he didn't direct as Admiral Richard Barnett, commander of Starfleet Academy. Eric Bana ("Munich," "Hulk") plays the Romulan villain, and Winona Ryder ("Heathers," "Girl, Interrupted") and Ben Cross ("Chariots of Fire") play Spock's parents.

"Star Trek" movies always have attracted their share of celebrity guest stars, starting with a chest-baring Ricardo Montalban as the villain in "The Wrath of Khan." Whoopi Goldberg had a continuing role in "The Next Generation" that she reprised in the movies "Star Trek: Generations" and "Nemesis."

James Cromwell ("L.A. Confidential," "W.") has been in several "Star Trek" projects in different roles. Most famously, he was Dr. Zefram Cochrane, the inventor of warp drive, in "Star Trek: First Contact." Alfre Woodard also starred in "First Contact," as Lily Sloane, one of Cochrane's associates.

Christopher Lloyd and John Laroquette were barely recognizable as the captain and first officer, respectively, of a Klingon ship in "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock."

Serious stage and screen actors have tackled "Star Trek" villain roles -- Christopher Plummer ("The Sound of Music") in "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country"; F. Murray Abraham ("Amadeus") in "Star Trek: Insurrection"; Alice Krige ("Ghost Story") as the Borg queen in "First Contact"; and Malcolm McDowell ("A Clockwork Orange") in "Generations"

Some other famous names that graced "Star Trek" movies include Kim Cattrall ("Sex and the City"), top model Iman and Christian Slater (another "Heathers" alum) in "The Undiscovered Country"; and Kirstie Alley as the vulcan Saavik in "The Wrath of Khan"

What year is it

We know that all of the "Star Trek" mythology takes place in the future, but when exactly do our favorite space adventures take place• Officially, these would be stardates, but we'll translate for the uninitiated:

2053 — Earth is devastated by World War III

2063 — Warp drive is invented, and humans have first contact with extraterrestrial intelligence (Vulcans) -- portrayed in "First Contact"

2151 — First season of "Star Trek: Enterprise"

2230 — Spock is born

2233 — James T. Kirk is born

2249 — Spock enters Starfleet Academy

2250 — Kirk enters the Academy (when this year's "Star Trek" movie takes place)

2264 — Kirk begins a five-year mission in command of Starship Enterprise

2266 — Year at the beginning of the first season of the original "Star Trek" series

2271 — "Star Trek: The Motion Picture"

2364 — First season of "Star Trek: The Next Generation"

2369 — First season of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine"

2371 — First season of "Star Trek: Voyager"

2379 — "Star Trek: Nemesis" (the last "Star Trek" movie)

And now for a little test

How well do you know the original "Star Trek" series, here are a few questions from our resident "Star Trek" expert, Catherine Artman.

1. According to Trelane in "The Squire of Gothos," what is Spock's one redeeming virtue•

2. As stated in "Space Seed," where and when did Khan rule?

3. What was the occupation of Kirk's brother, Sam, who was killed in "Operation: Annihilate!"

4. Who does Chekov call an "unprincipled, evil-minded gulak"?

5. Janice Rand, a yeoman on the Enterprise, eventually served aboard the USS Excelsior. Who was in the captain's seat of that ship by 2290 -- in time for the sixth movie?

6. According to Chekov, who invented scotch?

7. Teri Garr played Roberta, Gary Seven's assistant, in an episode that was meant to launch a spin-off series. What episode was it•

8. How many times does Spock "kill" Kirk?

9. What famous actor-director's brother plays the laughing, diminutive alien in "The Corbomite Maneuver"?

10. Who is Spock's father?

11. What is McCoy's drink of choice in "This Side of Paradise"?

12. In what episode did the first televised portrayal of an interracial kiss occur?

13. Spock first wears the IDIC symbol in the episode "Is There in Truth No Beauty?" What does IDIC stand for?

14. Which "Star Trek" actor was shot several times during his participation in the World War II D-Day landing?

15. Kathryn Hays, who has been on "As the World Turns" since 1972, had the title role in what 1968 episode of "Star Trek"?

Answer:

1. Spock is ill-mannered.

2. Asia and the Middle East from 1992 to 1996.

3. Research biologist

4. Harry Mudd in "I, Mudd"

5. Sulu

6. "A little old lady in Leningrad."

7. "Assignment: Earth"

8. Two, in "Amok Time" and in "The Enterprise Incident."

9. A very young Clint Howard, brother of Ron Howard, played Balok. Balok's voice was provided by other actors.

10. Sarek, played by Mark Lenard.

11. Mint juleps

12. "Plato's Stepchildren," between Uhura and Kirk

13. "Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations"

14. James Doohan, who played Scott

15. Hays played "The Empath," who was called Gem

"The Nitpicker's Guide for Classic Trekkers" (Dell, 1994)

Still want more

For all things Trek, there's no better Web site to visit than www.startrek.com , the official site of the television and movie franchise.

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