Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Questionable Trek vol. 22

Last week, we tried to recast Jean Luc Picard. This week we're headed straight into the land of sacrilege.

Question: Who would you cast as James T. Kirk other than William Shatner?


Andrew's Answer: Adam West. Just kidding. To me, this is WAY harder than last week because William Shatner made James T. Kirk into a true icon. But do this we must. I considered three choices originally, but only one of them ultimately worked. My first thought was William Holden, who is just all kinds of tough-guy awesome. But Holden’s kind of a loner, so he doesn’t work. My next thought was Jeffrey Hunter, who was excellent as Capt. Christopher Pike. But I think he’s too angry for a full series. Then it hit me. In the second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” Kirk ends up killing best friend Gary Mitchell, played by Gary Lockwood, who has the distinction of being killed by two icons: Kirk and HAL in 2001! He’s got the right mix of strength, compassion, brains and seat-of-the-pants leadership. He’s not a sexy choice, but he’d be a good one.

Scott's Answer: This might sound like a bit of a cheat and I'll explain why but I would have to say Leslie Nielsen. Originally, I had considered Nielsen's Airplane! co-star Lloyd Bridges but he was a decade too old. Before Nielsen became a comedy icon, he was actually a serious actor and the reason this answer could be considered a cheat is because Nielsen had already played a Kirk-esque spaceship commander in the science fiction classic Forbidden Planet, which was one of Gene Roddenberry's inspirations for Star Trek. But he was a handsome leading man, with an air of authority, whom you could see leading a crew into battle. And whenever they encountered a weird space anomaly, he could say, "I haven't seen anything like this since the Anita Bryant concert." (That was an Airplane! reference.)

84 comments:

Joel Farnham said...

John Saxon. He had that look. Gene Roddenberry cast Saxon in one of his pilot movies. Planet Earth

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Interesting choices. I could see them doing a decent job.

But I'll go with Charlton Heston. I think he could've pulled it off.
He certainly had the gravitas, the leadership, the confidence, and of course the good looks.
Hey, if Moses and Ben Hur can't replace Captain Kirk then who can?

I would also conmsider James Doogan. I really do think Scotty could be a good captain.
The few times he filled in for Kirk he did a great job and not just with the script but with his presence which was different than his engineer persona.
It was a command presence.

He was believable, had charisma and I got the indication he was thoughtful and not one dimensional. Scotty would be wiley and formidable.
He was one character I wish we could've seen more of in STOS.

Then there's Bruce Lee. No one could defeat his Trek Fu! Not even John Saxon. JK Joel. :^)

Patriot said...

Hey.....how about Clint Eastwood? No qualifying remarks necessary of course.....!!

Tennessee Jed said...

the most obvious choice (and probably the best) is Richard Boone. One need only watch the Roddenberry written episodes of "Have Gun" to see the "pre-Kirk." Two others that would have worked are 1) Robert Conrad and 2) Peter Graves. Like Leslie, Graves is remembered by youngsters as a plane captain/pedophile in "Airplane!" But, he was also a great Jim Phelps after the first season of the original MI series. These are the guys that stand out to me who were the right age at the time of the original series.

ScottDS said...

Jed -

I thought of Peter Graves and the Airplane! connection is what led me to Bridges and then Nielsen.

Incidentally, I recently watched a few Mission: Impossible episodes on Netflix. I'd never seen the show before (only the movies)... pretty neat show! I was surprised by the lack of character development, small talk, etc. It was all business.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, Saxon would have been an interesting choice. I particularly enjoyed him in Enter the Dragon.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, Interesting! I think you've found the one actor who could have brought a greater camp factor to the role than Shatner! Heston.

AndrewPrice said...

Patriot, That would have been a fascinating choice! He had just done his gig on Rawhide then and was just becoming famous. He definitely could have played the role.

Jason said...

For those who may not know, Saxon actually did step into the sci-fi genre as the marauding warlord Sador in the 1980 Roger Corman epic Battle Beyond the Stars (Star Wars meets the Magnificent Seven). If not Kirk, maybe Saxon could have been another Darth Vader!

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I like the Robert Conrad choice a lot. I don't think I would have liked Boone and I haven't seen enough of Graves to know for sure. But Conrad played a very similar character in Wild Wild West and really carried the show on his charisma alone. He's a great choice!

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I've only seen a couple episodes and I had the same thought -- very streamlined show.

AndrewPrice said...

Jason, I remember that. I can't honestly say I remember how much I enjoyed it, but I do remember it.

Backthrow said...

Stanley Baker. Great actor, charismatic, and a convincing man of action. ZULU (1964) alone proves he'd make a great starship captain. Plus, he needed a toup early, so what other qualifications are necessary? LOL

Scott: The original MISSION IMPOSSIBLE show is solid through the first three seasons, then Martin Landau and Barbara Bain leave, along with a couple of key writing personnel, and I believe it begins a slide into mediocrity, albeit with some good episodes, even though Leonard Nimoy becomes a regular (replacing Landau).

You might also want to check out the movie TOPKAPI (1964) sometime. MI creator Bruce Geller used it as the model for his show, though in this case, it's thieves trying to pull off the ultimate jewel heist in Istanbul rather than government agents undermining hostile regimes or gangsters (and is somewhat more light-hearted, mainly because of co-star Peter Ustinov). Geller wanted to bring TOPKAPI-style suspense (and editing style) to TV, while at the same time take the concept of James Bond and split it into a team of specialists, rather than a one-man 'superspy' type. Brian De Palma, er, "borrowed" the heist's climax for the scene with Tom Cruise breaking into the 'clean room' in the first MI movie.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, Baker is actually a really good choice. He had tons of charisma and Zulu showed he could act in a leadership role. Nice!

Topkapi is a strange movie to me. It never quite comes together right for me. I like a lot of the elements, but somehow it doesn't ultimately work.

ScottDS said...

Topkapi has been on my Netflix queue for what seems like forever! I guess I should finally check it out sooner or later.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, It's an interesting movie. I enjoyed parts of it, but not the whole thing as a package.

BIG MO said...

Most of my top choices have already been named: Leslie Nielsen, Peter Graves and Robert Conrad.

How about George Peppard? He was stellar in one of my favorite films, The Blue Max. He plays a brash, cocksure, womanizing German fighter pilot in 1917-18. He would have made a good Kirk, I think. Peppard had a decent film career before he started loving it when a plan comes together.

Tennessee Jed said...

It's not a question of whether Heston could have pulled it off. Of course he could have. At that time, though, he was way too big to have gotten involved with network television. Back then, there was still a high degree of snobbery among feature film Hollywood about the small screen.

As far as an exercise like this is concerned, Andrew, your comment points out the difficulty is making such a choice. There is no way any of us can imagine a James T. Kirk without filtering through the prism of Shatner. Graves' biggest drawback is that, unlike his brother James, he was always more cerebral in his roles. Conrad would be much more the "physical" Kirk.

As far as Boone is concerned, I initially didn't like him either. I didn't like his little porn star mustached and slightly bad complexion. However, when I was watching all the old stuff on encore westerns several years ago, I gained a whole new respect for the way he played Paladin.

Had there been no Shatner, it is clear he could have defined the role in a manner true to James T. Kirk. (equal parts intellect, ladies man, and tough guy.) I think Roddenberry had a little Paladin in mind with the Kirk character.You might have found you would like him better than you think, since there would be no retro point of comparison.

Tennessee Jed said...

Peppard could have done Kirk really well, but again, like Heston, they probably couldn't have got him. Of course, since this is but a mental exercise, we could have cast him so why worry?

tryanmax said...

Again, I'll have to do some thinking. In the meantime, Scott, did you know that Lloyd Bridges was Roddenberry's first pick for Kirk? But Bridges turned him down, having just come off of the failure that was Rocketship X-M.

Jack Lord was also considered for Kirk. Eek!

BIG MO said...

Some other ideas from '50s and 60s' actors who played leaders of men:

Rick Jason, “Combat!”

James Dury, "The Virginian”

Chuck Connors, "The Rifleman”

AndrewPrice said...

Big Mo, I know Peppard mainly from The A-Team and a film whose name I can't remember where the world gets blown up and he's traveling to Albany. I think he could have done Kirk. He's got the brashness.

pdbronco said...

Actually, I think Jack Lord might have worked.

How about another skilled actor who had moved from movies to TV in the same time period - James Garner! Maverick as a starship captain instead of a PI...

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, His porn start mustache! LOL! I've been watching Have Gun Will Travel on the Western Channel and I have to say what I personally don't like about him is how he seems annoyed in each scene. It always strikes me like somebody just woke him up to come read his lines and he's tired and grumpy about it.

You're right about the problem with replacing Shatner though, it's impossible not to see the character through the lens of what he brought to the role. Still, it's interesting to think about different possibilities.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, It's true that a lot of people they probably couldn't have gotten, but it's still interesting to look back and wonder "what if".

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Rocketship X-M was an awesome MST 3k, but a lousy movie.

I'm not a fan of the Lloyd Bridges pick. To me, he's too cornball.

I actually like the Jack Lord pick. He was great as Felix Lighter and in Hawaii 5-0.

AndrewPrice said...

pdbronco, James Garner would have been excellent! Good call!

Commander Max said...

Where the roll of Picard could be played by a number of people. I never bought into his character being all that deep, just very bland/boring.

I can't see anybody else as Kirk. What Shatner brought to that roll was truly unique. If anybody else was in that roll we wouldn't be talking about Star Trek today. In contrast to Stewart, Shatner is a much more vibrant actor. More believable in the roll of a starship captain, and dynamic enough to portray himself as a human being.

BIG MO said...

pdbronco - Maverick -- oh, yes. Great series, great fun.

Andrew - the Peppard film you're thinking of is the late '70s "Damnation Alley," which is very loosely based on the novel of the same name by Roger Zelazny (who apparently was embarrassed by the film after it came out). If you haven't seen "The Blue Max", check it out. It's one of the relatively few movies of pilots in the world wars that does the flying and combat the right way. (Unlike the mid-2000s "Flyboys," which had WWI pilots zooming around in bi-planes like they were flying X-Wings.)

AndrewPrice said...

Max, I feel the same way and I had a very hard time finding a replacement for Kirk because Shatner made him so iconic. I can't help but think that no other actor could have made him into an icon. I think others could have handled the role, but I'm not sure that any of them could have made him into the larger-than-life, enduring character he has become.

AndrewPrice said...

Big Mo, I've seen The Blue Max and enjoyed it a lot.

That's the name of the film! I saw it when I was young and I enjoyed it at the time. I haven't seen it in decades however.

tryanmax said...

I suppose Jack Lord would've worked. I just had a crazy mash-up of Federation 5-0 flash through my head. LOL!

I admit to being at a disadvantage coming up with actors of appropriate vintage. Richard Basehart (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea)comes to mind pretty immediately, though that's probably an easy answer. I also though of Russell Johnson (The Twilight Zone, Gilligan's Island).

Andrew put up Adam West as a joke, but somehow it doesn't seem too far-fetched to consider. I think Batman did more to make Adam West campy than Adam West did to make Batman campy.

Since there are now two Burgess Meredith connections on the table, I think it's an apt moment to say that it's a shame he never made an appearance on Star Trek. (To be clear, that's not a Kirk nomination.)

ellenB said...

While I like a lot of these choices, I don't love any of them and I feel the world would have missed out if Shatner had not taken the role.

Backthrow said...

Garner would've been great. Fun to picture various pompus, interstellar malefactors finding out too late that they've been hoaxed by a smooth-talking rogue with a knack for self-preservation.

I'd also love to see an alternate universe's version of STAR TREK with Jack Webb as Kirk. Imagine him giving 'The Speech' to Klingons, Charlie X, Trelayne, space hippies, Harcourt Fenton Mudd, and assorted view-screen aliens!

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, It is surprising that Meredith didn't appear on Star Trek since everyone else did.

When I sent my answer to Scott, he misread it and thought I meant to choose Adam West and he thought it was a good choice. I can see where he could do it, but I do honestly feel he's just too stiff and campy. Maybe if I could see him in a non-Batman role and see if he can actually act?

AndrewPrice said...

Ellen, There's no doubt in my mind that replacing Shatner would have resulted in the role not being iconic. And that's kind of an interesting realization here. I don't have the same problem with Picard at all.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, Jack Webb would have made for a great parody of Star Trek, especially if he kept up the Dragnet persona.

tryanmax said...

Oh, and incidentally, I had to look up both of those actors' names that I came up with.

Tennessee Jed said...

what makes you think Joe Friday was a persona ? ;)

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I know Richard Basehart from Voyage to The Bottom of the Sea (the TV show, not the film). I don't know Johnson.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Just guessing really, but it wouldn't surprise me if it wasn't.

Commander Max said...

One of the problems with a lot of the guys suggested, they are all iconic figures in their own right. Back then Shatner was a face in the crowd.
Very few of us would of him today without ST. He found a way(that is in hindsight) to be just as iconic as Heston, Meredith and West.

tryanmax said...

I thought of Johnson from a Twilight Zone episode that I like, but he is best known as The Professor from Gilligan's Island. He also pops up in a lot of 1950s sci-fi.

AndrewPrice said...

Max, That's true. At the time, Shatner was just another face in the crowd. But he became an icon and in hindsight, it's difficult to replace him. Also, you are correct that the other guys we've been talking about have definitely left firm impressions of themselves too and it's difficult to see them as Kirk because we've become so used to them in their other roles.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Oh, the Professor. Ok, I didn't recognize the name.

Su Wei said...

Have to go with Guy Williams on this one. The role would have been far, far better for him than what he suffered with in Lost in Space.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Tryanmax said...

"I suppose Jack Lord would've worked. I just had a crazy mash-up of Federation 5-O flash through my head. LOL!"

LOL! Now I'm imagining a mash-up of the ST theme and Hawaii 50 theme.

Klingon: "Hide! It's 5-O!"

Jack Webb would also be good. "Just the facts Ambassador."

John Astin as Gomez Kirk.
Fred Gwynne as Herman Kirk.
Buddy Ebsen as Jed Kirk.
Vic Morrow as Sarge Kirk.
James Arnez as Matt Kirk.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Su Wei, no kidding! I can only imagine how Willams felt, especially as the show got worse and they added that stupid space monkey thing.

Even as a kid I thought that was lame. I also kept wondering why in the hell they allowed Dr. Smith to live. He annoyed the heck out of me.

Robot, however was okay.

AndrewPrice said...

Su Wei, Williams would have worked too, just so long as he didn't bring the doctor with him!

AndrewPrice said...

USS Ben, Nice list! LOL! I particularly like Gomez Kirk.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Andrew, with Dr. Festus to replace Dr. McCoy?
And Lurch as Spock? And Morticia as Lt. Uhuru?
And Granny as...well, Nurse Chappel with a shotgun phaser?
Quick! Somebody stop me!

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I always knew Lost in Space as a campy show. It wasn't until I got a chance to watch the first season, which hadn't been in syndication for some reason when I was growing up, that I realized the camp didn't come until later.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, That would have been a slightly different show! LOL!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Andrew, I'm pretty sure someone related to George Lucas got ahold of Lost In Space.
Either that or the writers were taking an early form of LSD along with mushrooms.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, Whatever it was, it caused an extreme change in the show almost overnight.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

BTW, John Williams wrote the Lost In Space theme music. :^)

AndrewPrice said...

John Williams has written almost everything! ;)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I concur. Quite prolific!

AndrewPrice said...

Plus talented. I like all of his work.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Same here. Speaking of film music, I was looking up the soundtrack of The Thing and John Carpenter did add additional music to Moriccone's contribution.

Not sure to what degree, but Morricone is listed first, of course.

Just for the record. Pun intended (as if you hsad to ask).

Shawn said...

It's the 60's and no mention of Sean Connery? I can picture it now- "Schpace, the final fron-te-ah!"

Tennessee Jed said...

going all the way back to to the Jack Webb thing, it would be fun to see a film clip where he is being himself. Honestly, he was so defining of the Friday role, it is hard to picture as being anybody else but Friday. As far as Neilson and Graves, both have shown their comedic chops, and a bit of humor is essential to the Kirk character.

Which brings me to Commander Max's point. I agree that having a fresh face play Kirk helped give the character an opportunity to become an icon, and Shatner hit a home run. We had seen him in promising guest slots on anthology shows like Thriller and Twilight Zone. Now Shatner could over act with the best of them, but let's be honest, that's what is needed for a heroic iconic character. In that regard, we will never know if some other actor could have made the character as great as "Shat" did. In the end, aren't we lucky we never had to find out?

Tennessee Jed said...

Shawn - To me, Connery had already become emeshed in his own iconic role.

Firefly said...

Leslie Nielsen would have been fun - He could easily flow from solemn and professional to total badass (refer to Disney's The Swamp Fox). Charlton Heston would have been great - the verbal tics are there. George Peppard would have been interesting - I concur with the collective opinion on Blue Max. Martin Landau is a solid possibility as well - he did eventually get a space craft of his own. A flying moonbase with a moon attached. Earl Holliman played a spaceman with issues in one of my favorite Twilight Zone eps. Cliff Robertson had the necessary gravitas with the crucial eye twinkle to pull the role off successfully.

However, with all this said, I do not think anyone could have made Kirk the Captain Kirk we know and love other than William Shatner. They may have been able to do an outstanding interpretation of the role and its nuances (blah blah blah) but it would not have been the one and only James T. Kirk. ("There's SOMEthing... on THE wing.)

AndrewPrice said...

Firefly, I agree. There is something about Shatner which just elevated the role out of reach of any other actor. I'm sure there are a lot of good actors who could have taken the role and maybe even made it memorable, but it was Shatner who him THE James T. Kirk.

AndrewPrice said...

Shawn and Jed, Connery would have been an interesting choice, though at the time I'm not sure he could have played science fiction.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I have no idea what parts Carpenter did. Either way, it was a great bit of work.

Firefly said...

Exactly. But is is fun to speculate, especially if you removed the space time continuum to include those who would have been a tad too young at the the TOST . . . Nick Nolte in his prime. Martin Sheen in his prime (before he went bat crap crazy). Nathan Fillion? No, wait, he already is an iconic spaceship captain.

AndrewPrice said...

Exactly! The purpose here is just to have some fun and to think about the essence of Kirk. It's not to denigrate Shatner or suggest he should (or could) have been replaced.

darski said...

I know I am late to the game today but I think Robert Culp could have done it. His work in "I Spy" was groundbreaking in doing "post-racial" before it was unprecedented. LoL He and Cosby did serious and funny very well.

AndrewPrice said...

darksi, I know Culp best from Greatest American Hero. He could have done it.

Anonymous said...

The only actor from that era besides Shatner who I can even think of as Kirf is Steve McQueen.Think about it, He had the thoughtfulness,that poker players face that told you there was more going through his mind than he let on while he was making his decisions. He could handle himself with the men and the ladies, which was a necessary part of the Kirk role. Of course he was way too big to do tv in the sixties,so it would never have happened,but the purpose of these discussions is to have a little fun. If the time space continuum is removed to let in actors from any era then Harrison Ford. Of course, just to get it on the record,this whole post is blasphemous! :) Shatner rules.

Individualist said...

Andrew

I would have to go with Adam Baldwin. Why?)

One: Husband level Sex appeal. Adam comes off as a good family man with conservative values and does not have a bad boy image in his personal life (although he plays it well for TV). Yet all the ladies are in love with him. he can;t make a post on BH about anything without several comments by female readers on how he is smart as well as dreamy.

Two: Intelligence and Tough Guy. Adam is physically imposing but he comes off as having the type of cunning the Kirk does. I think he'd play Kirk a little more low key but he'd add a tough guy type edge that people don't want to mess with (Brains and Brawn)

Three: Leadership Quailities, I think Adam could easily play the commander (although he has not been given that role before). He strikes me as the type you would see leading men into battle from the front lines which is necessary for the Kirk role.

Su Wei said...

I Spy was a very late discovery for me. But once I saw a couple of episodes on DVD I was totally hooked. Culp and Cosby had chemistry :o)

AndrewPrice said...

Anon, Steve McQueen would have been a fascinating choice. He would have brought us a very different Kirk, a much more "loner/rebel" Kirk. I don't know if it would have worked, but it would have been really interesting to watch.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, Baldwin is too modern for my view of Kirk. His acting style is very 1990s and I don't think that would have fit in the 1960s Star Trek.

AndrewPrice said...

Su Wei, I've only seen a couple episodes.

rlaWTX said...

Robert Conrad- Unless it would have resulted in no Wild, Wild West!!!
James Garner and Heston both sound like interesting ideas

But Shatner = Kirk

Indi - Adam Baldwin! I think he's fit better into TNG's Enterprise - IF they hadn't decided to have the Enterprise captained by a Brit-Frog wimp!

Individualist said...

rlaWTX & Andrew

I was thinking for the reboot.

I think Adam could have done a better job.

I was not understadning this was replacing Kirk in the original show.

I still maintain he could have done the role justice.

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, A "Brit-Frog wimp!" LOL!

Agreed, Shatner = Kirk.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, He could do it in the reboot. I actually didn't dislike Pine in that at all, I just didn't care for the script.

Individualist said...

Pine was not a bad actor...

He was just too young looking to play Kirk.

Shatner gave the role a level of maturity lacking in the reboot. but then again the plot in the reboot did not help with that either. IF it had been a good plot then who knows....

If only they had convinced Josh Wheedon to direct it.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, What I'm not sure of is whether it was his fault or the script? The script made him out to be a very immature jerk.

Floyd R. Turbo said...

Christopher George from The Rat Patrol. Manly, great leader on the screen in a Kirkesque "get your hands dirty" way.

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