Watch: Deepfake Has Leonard Nimoy As Young Spock In J.J. Abrams’ ‘Star Trek’

Over the last few years, creating fake videos that swap the face of one person onto another using artificial intelligence and machine learning has become a bit of a hobby for a number of enthusiasts online, with the results of these “deepfakes” getting better and better. Today, a new one applies that tech to Star Trek.

Deep Spocks

YouTuber Jarkan has released a number of “Deepfake” videos featuring different actors swapped into iconic film scenes. Today’s release takes Leonard Nimoy’s younger Spock from the original Star Trek and swaps him in for Zachary Quinto’s Spock in the J.J. Abrams 2009 film Star Trek. He does this in a scene where the younger Spock meets his older self, played by Leonard Nimoy.  Deepfake swapping of Nimoy in for Quinto or even for Ethan Peck in Discovery has been done before, but this new deepfake has more impressive results.


More recent Deep Trek Fakes

The technology of deepfakes is getting better and better, improving on early attempts which had a lot of obvious glitches. We have gathered a handful of some of the better recent Star Trek ones.

Deep Homage swapped out Tom Hardy and used a younger Patrick Stewart to play Picard’s clone Shinzon in a scene from Star Trek: Nemesis.

Perhaps inspired by how South Park portrayed Amazon founder Jeff Bezos as a Talosian, YouTuber TheFakening swapped Bezos into a clip from “The Cage,” with SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk swapped in for Captain Pike.

Futuring Machines takes comedian and podcaster Joe Rogan and inserts him into a mashup of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Austin Powers. [WARNING: contains adult languge.]

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Man that Nimoy fake is technologically impressive, but it reveals just how different Quinto’s approach and mannerisms are. The way he holds his head, the way his mouth rests, it’s just totally different than how Nimoy did it and you can’t replicate it.

You CAN replicate it. Quinto, wisely, chose not to. And I think that was a decision probably made by Abrams and co., who knew that trying to ape these iconic characters would likely have been a futile endeavor. The closest we got to any kind of imitation was Urban, and I’d say his performance works.

You can get away with a replication with a character like Lando in Star Wars (where Glover did a passable job) because he wasn’t a long-lived, well-travelled role. He appeared in just 30 minutes of film across two movies. Nimoy had starred in 78 episodes and 6 feature films prior to 2009.

Leonard nimoy actually went up to Karl Urban and said that DeForest Kelley would have loved his pork trail and Karl Urban was apparently moved to tears by it.

He definitely brought the bacon on that one.

pork trail ???

Ashleigh, I think the word you’re looking for is “portrayal”, not “pork trail”. :) Cheers!

Speech recognition, I would surmise…

Good thing Karl didn’t ham it up!

I think JJ gave each actor the leeway to channel as much or as little of the character they deemed fit. At least, that is what I got from the BTS stuff I uncovered.

And a couple TNG episodes…

” And I think that was a decision probably made by Abrams and co., who knew that trying to ape these iconic characters would likely have been a futile endeavor”
Well that makes no sense considering they did indeed copy the same characters. Otherwise they would avoid the same characters all together

Don’t get me wrong, if I’m directing this movie with this all new cast, I’m not asking them to impersonate the old people either. It was the right choice for JJ to let them find their own interpretations. I was just remarking that deepfakes can do a lot, but it can’t bring back that inescapable essence of the actor.

“Chose not to”, or “couldn’t be bothered to”?
Urban WAS McCoy. Quinto was… well, Quinto. I like Quinto, but that wasn’t Spock.

But well, now that they’ve made Spock into yet another character who can be randomly recast with any random actor, it doesn’t really matter.

Wow. Cringe-worthy. Nimoy was too old and too feeble by that time. I really wish the JJ-verse had broken complete ties and done their own, true, reboot. I guess TPTB weren’t confident enough.

What an ageist dick of a comment.

Shoo with the buzzwords. It’s no longer 2019, it’s post-covid and this lefty nonsense is no longer relevant, nor taken seriously.

A pandemic happens and suddenly that gives people an excuse to be overtly dickish when talking about the elderly? No.

Strong words coming from people who just fired on peaceful protestors and brought actual fascism to America.

While I agree they should not have done a reboot, LN being too old is just wrong.

What a dick comment to make… DICK…

I think the fake Spock there looks like a combination of Nimoy and Quinto. I’m wondering if they are combining facial features of both men into a composite, or if it’s only the hair and the mannerisms that are Quinto’s so it looks like Quinto combined with Nimoy. Because at first glance I thought it was just Quinto, but then to me it started looking like a combination of the two. I’m curious what other people have to say about this.

There were definitely shots where it looked exactly like Quinto. Basically everything that wasn’t showing him from the front. I don’t know if they simply didn’t try changing those shots or if the algorithm only works for frontal shots.
Overall, I think it just looks weird.

This is a slightly cheap deep-fake. They didn’t do the extra work to make the side or back views.


Yeah it’s certainly not the best or most convincing DF

I had the same experience. At first I thought it was Quinto, then it looked like a combo of the two! I think it works.

I think its the eyes. The eyes look more like Quinto.

Well done but this illustrates the problem that I’ve always had with Quinto’s interpretation. The voice is all wrong. He doesn’t carry that quiet strength of Nimoy.

It’s never going to be possible for ANYONE to have the kind of voice that Nimoy had. Same with Sarek. That said, I think Peck’s tone and timber is a better match for the stoicism of the character.

As a slight aside, i’ve always felt Spock was the key to Trek: he more than anyone, even Kirk, embodies the heart of the franchise. It’s why the Abrams films can’t stand up to the classic films as well. Pine actually does a really good job, and carries Beyond, but Quinto really lets the series down.

I agree with every word of what you just said.

I don’t think it’s Quinto’s ACTING that lets the Abrams film down; I think it’s the way NuSpock is written. And that is not the actor’s fault.

That said, I agree completely that Peck’s voice is a much better match for Spock.

Yes. Quinto looks more like him but Peck has the better voice. Recasting of Spock seems to be pretty hard. But I don’t bemoan either of their interpretations. They are big shoes to fill.

Yes, those are enormous shoes to fill! Peck seems to understand how important Spock is to the fans and how valuable Star Trek is; I just hope SNW Spock will be WRITTEN well.

I heard Peck in an interview talk about preparations for Spock’s voice, and Nimoy’s Boston origin. I really appreciated that he put said effort into vocal preparation. It was notable and I immediately took to his interpretation of Spock within a few episodes, which I never could quite do with Quinto. And I tried. No complaints about Quinto. I like him a lot. He seems to have great reverence for Nimoy, the source material and his role in the franchise — I just thought he was miscast.

Yes, Peck’s investment in the role has been heart-warming! I love the story about how he sat down on the sidewalk and cried when he learned he’d won the role. He’s clearly taking Spock VERY seriously, and I adore that. I just hope they’ll write him something good to play.

Quinto has a boiling intensity that would be perfect for Spock if he reined it in and made it so that it was simmering just under the surface, since that’s what Mr. Nimoy so ably gave us. But Kelvin Spock wasn’t WRITTEN that way, so Mr. Quinto couldn’t play him that way. I still think that Quinto could play a great Spock if they would write him one.

“It’s never going to be possible for ANYONE to have the kind of voice that Nimoy had.”

Ethan Peck begs to differ. And while, yeah, his voice is certainly not identical to Nimoy’s, and Discovery is not exactly my favorite Trek ever, his interpretation of Spock was far closer and actually close enough to Nimoy’s to satisfy.

And as much as I was delighted with Quinto’s physical resemblance to Nimoy’s Spock at first, his version ultimately disappointed me. Something about the wig just didn’t sit right with him, and his whiny, high-pitched voice completely threw me off.

I once saw Nimoy live doing a “dialog” between him as Nimoy and Spock. If you closed your eyes, it really was two different people talking to each other on stage. Quinto never quite captured that.

Oh, wow, I wish I’d seen that; that sounds fabulous!


I honestly think they should get someone asian to do Spock. The green blood would explain the yellow undertone and they are (typically) more thin. That’s my problem with Quinto (aside from the bad wig), he’s too broad chest and the Spock in Discovery also doesn’t come across as lean enough.

I thought new Kirk was perfect. If they could somehow do Pine’s Kirk with Nimoy’s Spock that would be a winning combo.

This is so weird.

Wow, you have to imagine that as this technology improves we could see the original actors being “deep faked” into new content… Like a young William Shatner meeting Chris Pike on the future finale of “Strange New Worlds.” Or, old episodes of “The Original Series” being remade with the original actors faces and voices but using new actor bodies and updated visuals (i.e. the Discovery era Enterprise). I’m sure there are some legal and compensation issues with the actors and their estates that would need to be worked out, but it seems obvious that we are only a short time away from the technology being good enough to make something like this happen.

There was a VERY convincing splice of TOS actors inserted into the Disco Enterprise bridge design, I wish I could find a link for it, but I would totally be down for a remaster of that kind

I don’t think this was it but it shows you a bit of what is possible:

That’s not Deepfake technology, though. They took old footage, painted out the set around the actors and put in a new CGI set.

You are aware that DF have been around for years now and already used in TV/Movie productions right?
This isn’t new.

This is amazing!

great emotional powerful scene even without the change… impressive though… such a great movie. nimoy was terrific and it’s crazy he played spock in 6 different decades.

It was a garbage movie, just like all of the other JJ ST movies.

Imagine Leonard Nimoy screaming in anger and punching people in the face.

In the 60s series, I could see it. The thing to remember– and I know it’s hard for a lot of fans to grasp– but Quinto’s Spock and Nimoy’s Spock are two different characters. I had no problem with Spock getting emotional, angry, or violent in STID because it fit that version of the character. One who never really embraced the Vulcan side.

Like in “This Side of Paradise” or “All Our Yesterdays”?

But in those incidents Spock was most certainly “under the influence” and not himself at all. What alien spore was affecting Quito’s Spock?

I’m just playing the Devil’s Advocate here. I mostly liked the rebooted KU Trek. Less impressed with STID but the two bookends were fun.

In “All Our Yesterdays” he evidently lost control because he, 10,000 years in the past, was no longer connected to the Vulcan psychic ‘great link’ or whatever it was. The same was true after Vulcan was destroyed in “Star Trek 2009.”

In AOY he was beginning to act as a Vulcan would in that time period. I thought it was just an effect of the Library machine had on Vulcans as opposed to humans or the indigenous people. Prime Spock admitted he was compromised by the situation. I saw those as two very different things. Not similar at all.

Deepfakes offend me to my core. This is a dangerous technology, and it should not be celebrated. I’m disappointed that Trek Movie seems to enjoy them.

Like any technology, it can be used for good or evil. It can allow William Shatner to play a younger Kirk. It can be used to fool people and take jobs away from actors.
But it is inevitable, like Thanos. >;>]

Thanos lost.

That’s an ignorant comment. It’s the use of them that should be judged not the technology itself.

You don’t see the harm that technology can and will do, but I’m the ignorant one? Right…

Enjoy your fake-Spock videos and whatnot, though.

It was weird to hear Quinto’s voice coming from Nimoy’s face. The one with Hardy’s face replacement was not nearly as good as the ST09 one.

Yeah, I thought that Shinzon’s Picard-face looked arkwardly old for what it was supposed to be.

There probably wasn’t enough training data of Patrick Stewart at the right age.

Pretty cool, can’t wait for all media to be deepfake and we won’t know what’s real or not anymore. The Bezos/Musk clip made me LOL so hard

What makes you think you have to wait?

At least in these clips it’s still very obvious that they’ve been tempered with.

Even with the advances, the differences in Quinto’s and Nimoy’s appearances made it difficult to be convincing. They did not even try to fix the profile shots. And if they could fix the voice, too.

Brings to mind the old movie, “Looker”.

Or Simone.

Not the most convincing DF, seen much better

I would love to see Mark Zukerberg as Data

It is incredible what this method of vfx can accomplish.

I love the physicality of that shuttle in the background. After completing a rewatch of Discovery S2 this week and finding the external CGI ship shots to lack a real sense of dimension and weight, it’s nice to see something like that, even if in this case it is a physical prop.

do this for the whole movie: we see ‘Twilight Zone’ era Shatner trying to chat up a ‘The Lieutenant’ Nichelle Nichols at the bar before ‘The Cage’ Jeff Hunter breaks up the fight. Then go to ‘Cage’ era Nimoy in front of the Vulcan high council.. then later a ‘Gunfight at OK Corral’ De Kelley talking to a young Shat in the shuttle.

then do STID with Space Seed era Montalban (or maybe we just see him in a brief flashback as khan was supposed to have had Die Another Day style face surgery to turn him into Cumberboots)

In the future, when studios are really hungry for cash and too lazy to come up with something new, I can see them doing entire switcheroo movies. “See the cast of 2009 Star Trek in 1966 Star Trek, and vice versa!”

And yeah, honestly, I’d probably watch it.

Not a deepfake exactly but someone using the tech to fix up Brent Spiner in Star Trek Picard.

I like the Rogan fake much better, and it’s funny too. Love how “Picard” just has to see the moose clip [tho it turned out sad] and Data cracking up at Dr Evil bc of Rogan’s doobie.

The Nimoy-Quinto fake just reveals how different their performances were and how different their voices were/are, it’s kind of weird watching it. Especially with Quinto’s profile on display …. I liked the new interpretation, I like new iterations of iconic characters. Now all I have to do is get used to Ethan Peck’s cute little, not acquiline, nose.

This looks soooo much better that the weird Leia in Roque one :-) Good Job!
I didn’t like Quinto’s voice in 2009 Statr Trek, but in the next one he improved.