This week’s episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks introduced us to AGIMUS the evil computer, voiced by Star Trek veteran Jeffrey Combs. TrekMovie had an exclusive chat with Combs about what it was like returning to Star Trek in a different way, and how he could possibly return again.
How did you prep to play AGIMUS? Did anyone describe the character to you?
Well, they sent me the script. That’s always the best way to put your foot forward. Descriptions sometimes fall short. And so I read the script and I thought it was a tight, little clever thing. Honestly, I hadn’t seen—except for little bits and bobs on Twitter—much of Lower Decks. I just was really intrigued with this manipulative little box that’s just trying to get people to plug him in so he can take over everything. I thought it was quite witty and I love that he keeps trying. It’s all sort of pathetic. He’s a computer, but he keeps trying because all he needs is one fool and he’s good. He’s relentless in his pursuit. I just thought it was really great fun. And I was honored to be asked to be a part of Star Trek anymore. I just saw the final episode and I was really pleasantly surprised with it.
What was the recording process like? Was Mike McMahan there to judge just how evil to go?
It’s a bit of a challenge, because it’s not like usual normal times with voiceover where you have as many people as possible in the room working together. You’re just kind of flying solo with this stuff. So you don’t really know if you fit in quite as well, Quite honestly, I don’t recall who was there. You have to realize that you are in your car and they call you in. You have to have been vaccinated. You have to have a mask. You come in and you are placed in front of a podium. No one else is in the room. They are all behind glass or they’re on Zoom screens.
You are just are focusing on getting this dialogue right. It’s really sort of a blur to me because my focus is just on getting this right, not on who’s that and what do they do. I’m just listening and taking in whatever direction is coming my way and just trying to do the best I can under kind of a synthetic, isolating kind of dynamic. So, my adrenaline was just focused on the work. I don’t remember a whole lot of direction, but more encouragement. Or, “Let’s do it again, just for backup, but that was great.” That kind of feel.
Did you draw on any past characters of yours or in general? Did I sense a little Herbert West [Reanimator] in there, perhaps?
Oh, no, I didn’t try to do that. I consciously tried to not play a tone of any of my other Star Trek characters for sure. But I did feel like maybe the computer spoke well, and Herbert speaks well. You can’t get past who you are to a great deal. I can’t give the computer an accent of any kind, so that’s just my speaking voice. I tried to not be as dark as Herbert could be. I tried to keep AGIMUS more upbeat, positive. A little more happy, so people would fall for his nonsense. I never tried to emulate something else I’ve done before. I always try to do something different.
It sounds like you were excited when you got the call to come back to Star Trek, even for voice, that it wasn’t to do one of your previous characters but a new character.
Yes! love that. ‘Oh, good, they’re not asking me to do this, that, or the other.’ This is fresh territory. A new landscape. Totally different tone, I would say Lower Decks does not totally fit in with a lot of Star Trek, which tends to be a little more serious a lot of time. This is pretty rapid-fire, quick-paced storytelling. It was kind of refreshing. A lot of the humor catches you a little later than you expect. It goes by and then you go, ‘Whoa, wait a minute.’ I just really liked it. Good, fresh, fast writing. Crisp.
It’s true that DS9 was more serious but you did play some humor on that show. Of your previous characters, is there one you think might work well on Lower Decks? That you might like to come back as?
I don’t know. Have they done any Ferengis?… That’s sort of up to them. With Star Trek, they’re always in different timelines and so I don’t know if a lot of the characters can actually overlap into the timeline that Lower Decks is on.
They have included Ferengi. Lower Decks is set just a few years after DS9 wrapped up, so any of those characters can probably fit in, like Brunt or the other Ferengi you played.
Oh, sure. That makes the most spot-on sense because they were generally quite humorous. There’s quite a lot of humor in Lower Decks.
They killed off the last Weyoun, didn’t they? But they could always bring one back.
Yes. They said it was the last Weyoun, but if Weyoun is Weyoun, there’s a cave somewhere with Weyoun clones. You know that and I know that. It’s Star Trek. Weyoun became a recurring character after they killed him at the end of the first episode. And then the reason that Vorta are clones is because they wanted to bring me back. So, it’s sci-fi. They can do whatever they want.
The last time we spoke, we discussed how some fans were hoping to see you on Strange New Worlds as Dr. Boyce. You didn’t expect it to happen but said you would embrace the idea. Are you still open to doing live-action Trek, because there are three shows going, including one shot in Los Angeles.
Well, you kind of hit on it there with the LA thing. It’s challenging for American actors when two of the three are shot in Canada, quite frankly. That seems like it shouldn’t be, but it is. Canada wants Star Trek to use Canadian crew and Canadian actors as much as they possibly can. And that’s just the fact. There are some Americans on those shows but they’re not shot on the Paramount lot like every other show up until them. So, it really is a different talent pool. There are a lot of wonderful Canadian actors for sure. But, it’s more complicated for that to be manifest.
So yeah, Picard is shot here, but it seems to me Picard is very Next Generation-centric. And so it’s maybe not in harmony with the shows that I have done, Deep Space Nine and Enterprise, primarily.
Maybe not to bring back an established character, but you can play anything, including a computer.
Well, yeah, Now I can play a computer! I’m a computer now. So yet another Star Trek Christmas ornament I can hang on the tree. So, yeah, anything is possible. But, we’ll just see. I was really honored that there was a lot of enthusiasm for me about [Strange New Worlds], but I didn’t hold out much belief or hope in that.
So your Lower Decks episode wrapped up with AGIMUS being filed away at the Daystrom Institute, arguing with all the other evil computers. How do you think he’s gonna fare there? And would you like to see him return?
Well, I would say that AGIMUS is probably a cut above from some of those other evil computers. And where there is a will, there’s a way. So who knows. Maybe AGIMUS will find a way to get plugged in or convince someone to get him out of there. You just never know. We’ll just have to wait and see on that one. But it’d be cool, would it? It certainly set up the—you know, when they first asked me to do Shran in Enterprise, one of my first questions was, “At the end of the episode, does he die?” And they said, “No,” and I said I’ll do it.
Are you saying you wouldn’t have played Shran if it was a one-and-done?
Probably not. I felt at that point I had proven myself and I wasn’t particularly interested in a oner, if you know what I mean. I wasn’t asking them to assure me that it would be recurring. I was just merely wanting to keep the door unlocked in case. So, AGIMUS is not dead!
Is this a new rider for your contract, don’t kill the character?
Well, listen, there are no rules. But, there are tendencies. And, I lucked out when they did kill me at the end of the first Weyoun episode. But, you can only use that clone card once.
But it’s easy to clone a computer
Yeah, you can reboot, download, rebuild, upgrade. Yeah. Okay.
And now he has a true nemesis with Boimler.
Yeah, All I can say is AGIMUS is goal-oriented to the nth degree. So, we’ll have to see.
Thank you, it was a pleasure talking to you and and as always, it was an honor, congratulations on your return to Star Trek.
Thank you. I’m thrilled. I’m honored. Live long and prosper. And it’s so fabulous to be part of the Star Trek family.
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