Ever since the cliffhanger reveal of the USS Enterprise at the end of season one, a burning question has been on Trekkies’ minds: “Will we see Spock in Star Trek: Discovery?”
Other familiar Original Series characters have been introduced (Sarek, Amanda, and Harry Mudd), but Spock is one of the most iconic characters in the franchise and bringing him into the show would be a big deal. With Spock being such a well known character and assigned to the U.S.S. Enterprise under the command of Captain Pike, there simply is no way that he can be ignored. The question is, how will they address Spock?
A few times in the last year, the producers have said that they won’t recast Spock. However, there have recently been more and more hints that an adult Spock (and not just the reported childhood flashback) will be part of season two. These hints include include seeing Michael Burnham going into what appears to be Spock’s quarters on the Enterprise in the season two production teaser released in April, as well as more recent comments from the showrunners and Sonequea Martin-Green that all pretty strongly hinted Spock will be incorporated in some way.
According to the showrunners, Michael Burnham will be dealing with family issues and choices in season two, which means there could be some meaningful interaction with Spock. However, if producers stick with their commitment to remain true to canon, Sarek – who is also on board the USS Discovery – and Spock are only about halfway through their 18-year estrangement of not talking, as established in the TOS episode “Journey to Babel.”
Putting all this together, we have come up with a few different possibilities for handling the Spock-sized elephant in the room.
Perhaps the most straightforward thing to do is make Spock a full-fledged character in the second season, recasting him just as they’ve done with Pike. But there’s a reason the producers have spoken warily of recasting Spock; it’s something a lot of us are wary of, and difficult to get right. If Spock has a major part to play, it would require a seasoned performer, likely one who bears a good resemblance to the original actor, like Anson Mount as Pike. If Spock is used in a very limited way, they may not want to bring in a big name. However, can they risk an unknown from the Toronto actors’ pool for such an iconic role?
One thing is certain, it won’t be Zachary Quinto for a number of reasons. Having Quinto play Spock would create brand confusion between the Paramount Star Trek films set in the Kelvin universe and the CBS TV show set in the Prime Universe, plus CBS and Viacom/Paramount aren’t getting along these days. Lastly, Quinto is 41, while Spock would be about 27 at the time of season two, so they’d need someone younger. Discovery is a prequel after all.
One way to avoid trying to find someone who resembles a young Leonard Nimoy, is to recreate him using CGI. They’d take a stand-in with a similar build and facial features and map Leonard Nimoy’s face over his. Dialogue would be handled with a Nimoy soundalike, or possibly even with audio samples of Nimoy’s Spock.
This would allow for full interactions with the character, but due to the high costs involved, it would likely have to be done with in a very limited way. As the Star Wars movie Rogue One demonstrated, this approach needs to be done with care, and the illusion works best by keeping the character’s time in clear view short.
An even simpler – and cheaper – way to have Spock interact with characters but without having to be recast is to have him heard, but not seen. This method could easily allow for Captain Pike to flip open his communicator and give orders or ask a simple question and get short replies from Spock, possibly using sampled audio of Leonard Nimoy. More intricate interactions would require a soundalike.
This approach scratches the “we know Spock is over there” itch without actually showing him, and without ignoring it totally. However, it would not work well if they wanted him to have more meaningful interactions, especially with Michael Burnham.
One way to avoid the pitfalls of recasting is to find a way to have Spock as a character without really showing him. We could see a certain science officer off to the side, or just his shoulder, or via some other clever camera angle that gives us an implication of the famous character, without having him be fully in view. Perhaps Pike could bark an order, and a science officer with pointy ears, seen from behind, could nod and then walk away. Or perhaps Spock has had a life threatening illness or accident so he’s unconscious on a biobed in sickbay, that could even be the reason for the distress call at end of season one.
We did see a hint that Burnham might go into her brother’s quarters on the USS Enterprise. They could show her walking into his quarters and an obscured view of someone who vaguely looks like him, perhaps in shadow as he meditates, or with his back mostly to the camera at his desk. Then the doors could close, and we’d cut to Burnham walking back out, without us ever hearing the conversation between the siblings. This allows Burnham to deal with these family issues on her own, while her interactions with Spock remain off-screen.
A simple solution to figuring out how to deal with Spock is to avoid it all together and establish that he is currently not on board the USS Enterprise, possibly off on some mission. In fact, Spock’s absence could be part of the plot driving the arc that includes the USS Enterprise in the early part of season two.
In many ways this may be the best option, as it would demonstrate that the showrunners will stick not only to the technicalities of their words about not recasting Spock, but also the spirit of it — no workarounds, simply no Spock. However, simply dodging the Spock question may not be satisfying after all the hints and hype. And it is also hard to see how Michael Burnham would be able to deal with the family issues said to be part of season two, without some kind of interaction with Spock, on or off-screen.
To Spock or not to Spock?
Whether the Discovery producers recast, use a stand-in, or just explain Spock away, one thing is clear: the writers have a difficult road ahead of them when it comes to this particular Vulcan. What say you?
Star Trek: Discovery is available exclusively in the USA on CBS All Access. It airs in Canada on Space and streams on CraveTV. It is available on Netflix everywhere else.
Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery news at TrekMovie.