A Guide to the New Star Trek

Friday, May 8, 2009  |  Updated 2:45 PM PDT
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A Guide to the New Star Trek

Director J.J. Abrams talks with Zoe Saldana who plays Uhura in the new Star Trek.

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In the old days of "Star Trek," Kirk and Spock's supporting players often got stuck repeating things like, "Hailing frequencies open" and "Course laid in, captain."
 
Key officers of the starship Enterprise in the new "Star Trek" all get some prime moments alongside dashing hero James Kirk (Chris Pine) and Vulcan science geek Spock (Zachary Quinto). And the new Star Trek was done mostly with special effects in San Francisco.

Here's a rundown on the crew and the new actors playing them:

-- Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy: DeForest Kelley's McCoy in the original "Trek" served as Kirk's conscience and an emotional foil to Spock's cold logic. As the new McCoy, Karl Urban retains his curmudgeonly yet caring demeanor, shares a scene revealing where the nickname "Bones" came from and gets to utter some of the doc's classic lines, including "Are you out of your Vulcan mind?" and "I'm a doctor, not a physicist." But Urban's favorite line was something fresh. "It was, `Space is full of disease and danger, wrapped in darkness and silence,"' Urban said. "To me, that encapsulates McCoy's perspective in a nutshell, and it has such a wonderful alliteration about it."

-- Engineer Montgomery Scott: James Doohan always was the go-to guy in the Enterprise's engine room, a pragmatic Scotsman who could mend the ship's warp engines with sticky tape and kite string in a pinch. Simon Pegg's Scotty joins the crew by happenstance in the middle of its latest crisis, uttering a line the filmmakers hope will define audience reaction to their fresh take on "Trek": "I like this ship! It's exciting!" Says Pegg: "I like that moment. It comes at a very timely moment in the script, where everything's very intense, everyone's shellshocked, and Scotty's just standing among them going, `What the hell have I just beamed aboard?"'

-- Communications officer Uhura: Nichelle Nichols' Uhura occasionally got to sing or play the seductress in the old "Trek," but she also got stuck mouthing technobabble while Kirk and Spock had the choice lines. Zoe Saldana's new Uhura is a pivotal figure as Kirk and Spock clash and struggle to establish their relationship. She doesn't use Uhura's "hailing frequencies" line, but Saldana figures that might come if there are sequels, since the character is too raw in her job to toss off businesslike bits of jargon just yet. "It's too premature. She's still uncomfortable in her own skin. She's still having a hard time with the gadgets," Saldana said.

-- Helmsman Sulu: George Takei's Sulu was the man you always wanted as designated driver, capable, unflappable, able to go to warp speed in a nanosecond. Like Saldana's Uhura, John Cho's Sulu is a newbie and makes a bad first impression on his shipmates. But he gradually settles in to piloting the Enterprise and gets to accompany Kirk on a daring mission, showing off a bloody variation of Sulu's fencing expertise. "Strictly speaking, this wasn't fencing. It was more Conan the Barbarian," said Cho, noting that in fencing, you don't get to skewer a Romulan. "You get zero points for murder in Olympics fencing."

-- Navigator Chekov: The last of the regulars to join the old "Trek" cast, Walter Koenig was meant to bring some youth appeal to the original TV series and show a Cold War audience that Americans and Russians could get along. Anton Yelchin retains Koenig's bushy-tailed energy and his Boris-and-Natasha-style accent, offering comic relief as he flips around his consonants. "`Nuclear wessels' was kind of the classic Chekov line, and I don't think I actually got to say that," Yelchin said. "But I did a hell of a lot of changing Vs to Ws, like my life depended on it."
 

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