Karl Urban Talks Spock and McCoy, Justin Lin, And Reveals His Favorite Trek Film

Karl Urban unleashes his inner Trekkie/Trekker in a new interview.

Karl Urban and Simon Pegg are generally considered the biggest Star Trek fans among the new cast.  In a new interview with IGN conducted the day after the fan event at Paramount Studios, Urban shows just how big a fan he is, revealing his favorite episodes of TOS as well his favorite Trek movie.  Oh, and he speaks about Star Trek Beyond too and reveals the role Justin Lin played in convincing him to return for a third film.

Going Beyond

The grudging friendship between Spock and McCoy is a touchstone of TOS and a favorite of fans.  Star Trek Beyond gives a nod to that friendship when circumstances split the two off from the rest of their shipmates and they have to work together.  According to Urban, it allows the film to explore their relationship in some depth:

The dynamic is complex. There is a great deal of humor, but it’s contextualized by the framework of jeopardy and danger of the situation that they’re in. I believe that their relationship really evolves, and you get to see them both kind of drop their guard and be who they really are around each other — just get a little glimpse of that, which is fantastic and rewarding, especially for long-term Star Trek fans. It’s something that I believe you haven’t really seen before. To me, that was really the challenge of the film, to not only honor the 50 years of Star Trek, pay homage to what had come before, but also mine new territory and take these characters into uncharted waters — and that’s what we’ve done with Star Trek Beyond.

There has been a widespread belief among many people that the cast were initially locked into three-picture deals, which were set to expire with the release of Star Trek Beyond.  Not so, according to Urban, and he credits director Justin Lin’s new approach with convincing him to return to the Enterprise:

…the idea of [director] Justin Lin coming in — I think people have wondered what that meant, and I think after what we saw last night, everyone seems to be onboard now. But what was it like for you guys to have a new director come in, where you’re all this sort of established family?

Urban: It was fantastic. It was a breath of fresh air, and I really appreciated Justin’s intimate knowledge and understanding of the character dynamics. In fact, I was on the fence about doing the movie until I spoke with Justin.

IGN: Oh, really? Why was that?

Urban: Because I had a conflicting schedule, and I had a decision to make about which film to do, and I was no longer under contract to do a third picture. So I had a decision to make, and it was talking with Justin that enabled me to commit to it.

His favorite Trek film is…not what you think.

For Karl Urban, it appears that the human adventure is indeed just beginning.  He bucks the trend of naming The Wrath of Khan as his favorite film and goes for a choice that warms this carbon unit’s heart:

My favorite movie is Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

IGN: It is, really?

Urban: It is, and for the longest time I felt that it was too slow, but with age I’ve come to a great appreciation of it. I really love it. It’s still, you know, the essence of exploring the unknown. There’s great character dynamics, with Kirk being a little rusty, being out of the chair, feeling threatened by Decker, and McCoy really calling Kirk on his insecurity. You know, Spock returning from Vulcan not having achieved the Kolinahr and coming back to his calling and his friends, and also having an agenda that’s outside of the mission, his own personal agenda. I mean, there was a lot of interesting stuff in there. And then V’ger itself, the concept of something, an Earth probe, that was sent out and has become self-aware. I just think it was a really fantastic Star Trek story.

IGN: You’re right, it is. And it’s a pretty ballsy movie when you think about it, because it doesn’t have a traditional bad guy. Like, V’ger is not even really bad, actually. It’s just a confused child or something.

Urban: Yeah, exactly, which is in the tradition of some of the great Star Treks, like “The Corbomite Maneuver,” when you discover that Balok is just a little kid. He has this whole defense mechanism, but he’s just a vulnerable little child. Star Trek’s voice had that wonderful ability to flip things on its head.

Urban speaks more about Star Trek Beyond and also reveals his favorite episodes of TOS, which you can find here.






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Well, Balok wasn’t really a little child, his race just appears that way to us. There was certainly a physical vulnerability that explains much of the First Federation methods, but it’s not because he was actually the age that Clint Howard was at the time.

Much like the Talosians weren’t really slender, small males…

Ha. Maybe it’s been a while since Urban’s seen it. But, yeah, Balok wasn’t a scared little kid hiding behind automated defence mechanisms. It was all a test by a more advanced being (who looked like Clint Howard), wasn’t it?

I agree with him on TMP. I’ve always loved it – but, still, watching it is, at points, a slog.

Urban was a bit off by describing him literally as a child, but he never said “scared”, referring to him instead as physically “vulnerable”, which is 100% the truth. So all the First Federation’s tech is there to keep the bad guys as far away from them as possible.

They weren’t all males, if that’s what you mean. The Keeper played the Mother Superior on The Flying Nun. It is amazingly prescient how in 1965, they could have predicted a time when people would become addicted to the entertainment value of an “artificial life” and forsake living in the real world. It was probably an allegory for television at the time, but with the advent of social media and online gaming over the past few decades, plenty of real-world examples can be cited.

TMP, all the way! :-)

Sigh. Did McCoy EVER fir a phaser in TOS? Did he ever even pick one up?

Yes. He heated rocks in “A Private Little War”.

He shot Nancy Crater/Salt Monster in The Man Trap.


He shot the Mugato in “A Private Little War”.

Sorry… please hand in your Fan-Card, nitpicking/moaning without it is a galactic offence and will be dealt with accordingly.

Never watched TOS did you?

I have been told here, that no one calls it tos.

It wasn’t a phaser, but Dr. Steady Hands was up to his elbows in torpedo modifications in TUC, too….

If you’re going to hate on NuTrek, witzend, try to as least be familiar with the source material.

Sigh. Googling McCoy and phaser shows the examples folks have given – and also show him holding one up in Operation –Annihilate and Return of the Archons. And a bunch of photos with a phaser on his belt.

Sure, often his hands were busy with a tricorder while others held phasers — often, I figure, so he could explain what had happened to the redshirt of the week. But I don’t recall him ever being written with an aversion to holding or carrying phasers.

And even if he had, a promo shot of urban with a phaser doesn’t mean this will be utter sacrilege y – unless he’s using it to slaughter an entire village of Tuskan Raiders.

Trying to remember if he’s holding a phaser in TWOK when they all beam onto the spacelab. I think just a tricorder?

Bottom line: TOS had action and conflict. I don’t recall these episodes of conflict-free peaceful exploration that some others seem to recall.

Well, Jack, McCoy could be holding a tri-corder, some improvised medical device, or a bunch of flowers, he’s made the mistake of appearing in a Bad Robot production, which to some is the unpardonable sin. For the folks with the need to gripe about this, they’ll gripe. If the movie does decent box office, BR gets to do another one, so this will continue on for quite some time…..

I’ll never really understand that outrage. It’s not like any of this erases our DVD collections.

Into Darkness’s story didn’t work as well as it should have – but it was entertaining, looked great (even if we did get a bit too familiar with every pore on Chris Pine’s face) had a decent message,had some great/imaginative sci fi touched and tried (too?) hard to be Star Trek-ky.

And for everybody who’d been saying for years that Trek must have a current events allegory? Well, they got one (which, years after the War on Terror, ended up being sort of prescient, arguably -given the current political climate).

Me, I’m thrilled that Trek is getting the big budget treatment.

And I’m hoping Beyond is great and makes a mint. Because if it tanks, it could sink Trek for another decade. Star Trek’s not Spider-man.

Nicely said, agree 100%

Sigh. Really, dude….REALLY ???

“Did McCoy EVER fir a phaser in TOS? Did he ever even pick one up?”

Many times, yes. You HAVE seen the show, right?

I agree, TMP is very underrated! I did not realise Urban was such a fan and I love his McCoy. It’s a pretty unique character and it really feels like he is channelling DeForest Kelley ^^

Talking about have Trek “cred.” Man, Urban has it in spades.

Good interview.
It is great have such a passionate fan playing Bones.

Yes. A breath of fresh air, indeed.

I have a similar feeling about TMP to what I had about Into Darkness: a movie with a lot of good bits that winds up being less than the sum of its parts. That said, I think I enjoyed TMP more; that was a feeling of newness to everything, even as it was a hoemcomng of sorts.

I STILL remember the feeling of anticipation for TMP. I went to the first showing in my town. I loved the movie. Yes, all the newness and the “big screen”. And seeing the new E was a treat. Love the pod scene as Scotty took Kirk around and over the ship. Chills.

I still get teary-eyed when I watch that. Shatner’s expression – and the music – kill me.

The Director’s Edition of TMP finally made me like the film. Earlier releases were badly paced and emotionally cold.

Karl Urban’s such a terrific choice as McCoy: an actor known for tough guy roles and bad guys, just like his predecessor. I remember the audience reaction when I was watching the first of the new Trek films: Karl Urban’s voice carried through the shuttle and people started cheering even before he appeared on screen.

C’mon, Urban! Balok is just a little kid at the end of The Corbomite Maneuver? You could’ve said “spoiler alert!” ;)

Him favoriting TMP solidifies my already-strong faith in him as a fan.

I’ve always liked Karl Urban anyway. And now it turns out he also basically likes the same aspects of Trek that I like. Good man!

Good to see some respect to “the Motion Picture”. When you think of it, it´s the Star Trekkiest of the Star Treks.

SOME aspects of TMP are very Trekky. On the other hand, I thought Kirk and Spock were both out of character and made to do things in that movie that they would never have done. I thought the guys were the most IN character in TVH.

I think Spock and Kirk being OCC was a subplot of the film. The problem was that we’re never told why, and it was only towards the end that OUR Kirk and Spock came back.

The overarching theme of TMP is identity. Kirk, Spock, and V’Ger are all trying to find themselves. Kirk is facing a midlife crisis and has to overcome questions and doubts about his motivations and whether he deserves command. Spock thinks purging his human half and living a life of pure logic will allow him to have inner peace and hopes he’s found a kindred spirit in V’Ger. V’Ger, as we all know, is trying to learn what it’s true purpose is and thinks finding it’s creator will give it the answers it desperately seeks.

Decker also faces similar issues but they aren’t presented well in the film. Gene’s novelization gives a lot more insight into Decker’s character and motivations.

Kirk and Spock are more like themselves at the end of the film because they found their answers and know where they belong.

Urban is the main draw for the fans in these new Trek movies. Its shocking to now know Paramount does not consider him so essential as he had to be convinced to join Beyond. But I suppose after STID he was not as keen to return. So the end scene is also revealed they look at the new Enterprise when on shore leave @ Yorktown then it warps away!

Well, it kind of sounds like they did consider him essential and so they did indeed convince him to return.

love karl urban. good interview.

still mad they cancelled almost human.

Cygnus X-1,

Remember when I speculateded that Cho’s candor might be because he knew the 2nd tier weren’t being offered a fourth movie deal?

Major props to Urban’s defense of TMP. I’ve always kinda felt that within that 2.5-hour running time is a truly great 1.5-hour Star Trek movie.

I have said before, I say again, I like TOS so very nice. I remember I watch during 1970’s and as a small child, I was filled with the wonder and the excite.

Only other day, I get out TOS DVD’s and watch every episode. So wonderful, and I agree with Mr Urban, TMP fill me with the amazement when my momma take me to see at the cinema. Some people say ‘too slow, too slow’ but I think this most intelligent of the science fiction. No shouting and running around and blow thing up like Star Wars!

Who wants to see Urban and Pegg arguing TMP vs TWOK?

Karl & I are in 100% agreement on favorite Trek films & why. I, too, once griped about it, but since then have grown to appreciate it much more. The director’s edition is absolutely amazing & seeing the film finally FINISHED is great. The effects that were added finally complete that film, where previously those scenes felt awkward like something was missing, which in fact there was.

I really wish Paramount would upconvert/upgrade the newer effects of that version & release it on Blu-ray as a special collector’s Blu-ray. It deserves it. It makes no logical sense (other than financially) that they instead chose to release the theatrical version only in the Blu-ray set from several years ago. Even the director’s cut of Wrath of Khan has since gotten a Blu-ray release.

I think that film gets a bad rap and I believe people have either forgotten or never got why it had those long scenes with the Enterprise exploring the V’ger cloud & the V’ger spacecraft itself. It was to give a sense of awe. We, as the audience, are put right there with the crew. WE are experiencing what the crew is experiencing. We are there with them. Too many today expect non-stop action. Put yourself in the shoes of the crew. The concept of seeing this awesome unknown. The fascination & fear of what may or may not lie ahead. Not knowing whether they were about to be destroyed by this…thing. The ultimate reveal of who or what V’ger is is a great payoff.

The only thing I’d like different would be a bit more color in the uniforms & a little less jumpsuit look to them. Kirk’s with the white v-neck shirt he sports later in the film is great & feels more like classic Trek, but those bland crew uniforms are just…boring. Love the film, though.

I think Star Trek IV is the best movie so far. :-)

Karl doesn’t quite get Balok right but I give him major props for recognizing ST:TMP for the underappreciated film that it is. TMP did go to some interesting places with the characters and managed to introduce all kinds of personal and inter-personal conflicts which actually got resolved in a satisfying way by the end of the movie. It is also a really smart, hard sci-fi film and just beautiful to look at. Bravo to Karl Urban for bucking the “boring” trend and being able to see the movie for what it was intended to be.

I loved ST:TMP when it was first released. I sat there in the dark with my trek friends and we cried, seeing the crew assembled after almost a decade of waiting for the Second Coming. Even now I still enjoy it.
The only thing that bothers me (and this has nothing to do with Stephen Collins’ recent problems) is the presence of Decker. I know he was placed there as a deliberately young character, but he seemed unnecessary and distracting.
If Spock had failed at Kohlinar and came back to Starfleet and was given command of the Enterprise, it might be more fun to see how Admiral Kirk would deal with trying to wrest control of the Enterprise back from the Vulcan (who always seemed to want to wrest control of the ship from him and who at one time was his best friend.) Also it would seem that a Vulcan who had gone through Kohlinar would be an ideal opponent for a Deltan. Everyone would expect her to go after Kirk, and with his, um, proclivities, he probably couldn’t resist her. But a super-Vulcan? Hmmmmmm….
Oh well, I can’t re-write history.

Well, Decker and Ilya were holdovers from Phase II, in which they would have been the Riker/Troi romantic couple. In that iteration, Decker would have been Kirk’s faithful Number One instead of the somewhat bitter ex-Captain he was in the film. Still, it was nice of the producers to keep them around even through their characters were repurposed to go away at the end of the film. The only guy who got totally shafted was Lt Xon, who went from being the ships new Vulcan to being Starfleet Columbia Station guy with about a minute of screen time.

Star Trek films always had a problem with adding new blood. As the cast RAPIDLY aged “Deadly Years” style, the producers failed to add youthful characters. I felt they had created a nice pseudo-next generation at the end of TWOK, but then in the next film they kill off David, and then the amazingly popular character of Saavik, played then by the less popular Robin Curtis gradually makes for the exit. Next thing you know, it’s a bunch of septegenarians riding horses.

“Karl Urban Talks Spock and McCoy, Justin Lin, And Reveals His Favorite Trek Film”

So I guess grammar in headlines is just being thrown out the window now.


I see no error in the grammar

I’m not sure about the exact grammatical rules, and whether they’re broken, but for clarity’s sake, I would have removed the word “Reveals” and I probably would have used an ampersand for “Spock and McCoy” because the topic was their relationship.

Was 15 when TMP came out. I’m an original generation Trek nerd, so it’s nice to see a few kind words for the film. I’ll never forget the “event” of it. I take the view that we only will ever have 6.3 movies that star the original cast, and they are to be enjoyed. Even STV and parts of Generations.

A few observations on the comment thread:

-This whole ‘Trek is pacifist’ canard is tiresome. No, it’s not. Neither is it thoughtlessly militaristic. This is where I parted company with Orci’s ham handed STID ideas. Too simplistic, and pat. Of course McCoy used a phaser a few times. Particularly didn’t like Scotty’s “is that what we are” line.

-While I really enjoy the DE of TMP, I wouldn’t call it the “Trekkiest” but rather the “Roddenberriest”. And that carries all the good and all the bad. The good, deep questions are Roddenberry at his “The Cage” best, and the boring re-hash of “The Changeling” are him at his worst.

If only my man Gene L. Coon hadn’t passed away in 1974, and was around to supervise the script for TMP, we might have had a true classic.

TMP is the “Trekkiest of the Trek FILMS” because it didn’t rely upon a person or a group of people to carry a movie plot. TMP, and TVH for that matter, are similar in that there are space probes that were threatening, but, unlike the probe in Changeling, those other probes did not kill just to fulfill a programming, but as a part of a process for a greater pursuit.

“This is where I parted company with Orci’s ham handed STID ideas. Too simplistic, and pat… Particularly didn’t like Scotty’s “is that what we are” line”

I have to disagree. Scotty’s question was most apt. The ideas were not simplistic at all. They were about the upholding of Federation and Starfleet ideals and protocols and not allowing the elite and powerful to run roughshod over them because they are in a position of power, eg Admiral Marcus.

Of course, not all exploring was/is or will be necessarily peaceful, but that was not the main theme of STID. (Some of) the higher echelons within SF, lead by Marcus, appeared to have lost their way and had given into fear, resentment, a level of arrogance and hypocrisy. That was what got exposed, even if it was by a man, who was as equally power hungry and hypocritical. Kirk and co. were determined not see such people continue to get their way, otherwise, if or when, the Klingons or whoever did come, there may well be little left of cultural/moral value worth saving.

One minute, naysayers have referred to STID as being “confusing and convoluted” and the next “simplistic”. It is not a hard film to understand. In many ways it is SIMPLICITY itself.

Fair enough. But, what I found pat and hackneyed was the caricature of Admiral Marcus as a power mad war monger. Perhaps I am overly sensitive to this, but it bothers me. Anyone with a passing acquaintance with senior military officers is struck by their thoughtfulness and intelligence. They are often a better combination of book learning and emotional intelligence than their civilian counterparts. Orci resorted to a simple, overused caricature. If he wanted to be more insightful, he would have made Marcus a career minded pawn who was unafraid to buck corrupt Federation bureaucracy for fear of losing his pension. THAT is an actual type of senior military officer. I am not a complete STID basher. I enjoyed it, mostly. After all, it is a Star Trek movie with Kirk and Spock, and we don’t get those often. I had a problem with the Khan “homage” because I felt it was disrespectful of WOK and the JJtrek characters haven’t emotionally earned that moment yet.

I also had a problem with JJ doing that scene because he would NEVER re-interpret the Vader-Luke “I am your father” scene from ESB. It would be considered geek blasphemy. Spock’s death is more iconic, and should be cheapened.

Unfortunately, and this is not disputable, “Federation and Starfleet ideals” have evolved into those espoused in the post original series; TNG, Voy, Ent DS9. The 60s series was far better, and nimble, at balancing realpolitik, action, and idealism. It wasn’t perfect, but the “IDIC” stuff is definitely post TNG. Becomes preachy.

I like to chime in with humorous defenses of Gene Coon, but the modern writers would do well do read his best screenplays, and copy him.

Quite frankly Karl Urban’s McCoy is the first reason I’d go to these movies! The same could be said for Deforest Kelly.

Glad to hear that Bones and Spock will get more time together. Its one of the few complaints I have with the first two movies, not enough of the “Trio”. As far as favorite Trek movie I have very fond memories of watching STMP as a kid back in 1979 with my Mom and Dad. For a long time I didn’t really appreciate it and thought it was one of the “lesser” movies in the bunch. But in the past few years I’ really liking it more and more. Its a beautifully crafted Space Opera.

For me, my favorite movie is Star Trek III, The Search for Spock. I do like The Motion Picture, Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country was great too. I do recognize everyone here has a different favorite list. It’s cool to read what Mr. Urban’s opinion is.

I knew this from seeing Urban at a con last year. Bold choice, him being a fan and knowing the reverence for WOK! But good for him. I very much enjoy the Motion Picture…the orignal version, for nostagia sake, and the director’s cut for a much better paced, enjoyable Trek adventure. My problem has never been with the story,but the characters just aren’t quite right. They meld, on occasion….as in the scene with Kirk,Spock and McCoy, discussing Vger in the officer’s lounge…the characters, the writing, the acting…is all on-the-money. No so much, the rest of the film. McCoy and his confrontation with Kirk was a regular component of the original series…but in TMP it was…awkward. Kirk’s scene with McCoy in the transporter, begging him to come aboard, was also very awkward. There are instances like that scattered all over the film… which is part the director’s fault and partly the actor’s fault I suppose. Other than other issues dealing with aesthetics, the rest added up to a pretty good Trek adventure. Had all the components melded a bit better it would be a contendor for my favorite. (the director’s cut, that is)

I do agree with him about the Motion Picture. But it still slow, there is too much of peoples gazing around. Even in slow exploration there is always someone saying or doing something. It was the perfect occasion to show the routine operations on a star ship and how peoples creates links that way. Instead you got a lot of music and silent actors.

Interesting that he would cite TMP as his favorite. After the euphoria of “Trek is back!” wore off I decided I didn’t really like the movie myself. But, over the years it has actually grown on me. I wouldn’t rate it as a favorite or best, but I decided it’s not as bad as I originally felt.

You could easily edit 20 to 25 minutes out of it and it would run like a clock. Instead, I think the director’s cut adds about 25 minutes.

DC only adds 4, just seems like 25.

4 minutes? Wow!

And… with that, Karl Urban exposes precisely what’s been missing or wrong with these movies.

Interesting choice of favourite movie by Karl Urban.

I first saw the film at the cinema. I found it a bit long, but other people I hung out with loved it. I loved the music and it definitely carried you through the longer scenes. It is definitely a film that grows on you with repeated viewings.

I’m not sure what my favourite Star Trek film is. I like them all, with TUC being at the bottom of my list. Probably Star Trek IV is at the top and TMP is not far behind it. So hard to choose an order. There is so much to like about all the Star Trek films.

I too love Star Trek : The Motion Picture. Even back then, I loved the slow pace of the film, and no other Trek movie has ever matched it’s epicness. It is really an underrated film. They don’t make films like that anymore. I liken TMP to 2001: A SPACE ODESSEY. It shares many of the same qualities. I watch the movie from beginning to end every few months, and the effects are better than some of the modern films today. Nothing can beat practical models and effects.

Some more comments from Karl Urban. It’s nice to see that the actors are a bit more free to talk about their previous outings, and how those experiences have molded STB.