10 Almost-Cast Star-Trek Actors that Would’ve Improved the Franchise
?For a franchise that had eight “evil universe” episodes and Roddenberry-only-knows-how-many time travel episodes, it’s hard to imagine Star Trek turning out any differently than it did. After all, when you think of Spock, you immediately think of the cool calm of Leonard Nimoy and when you think of Kirk, it’s hard to imagine anything by the slightly hammy over-acting of William Shatner.
And yet, for every actor that got a Star Trek part, dozens auditioned and got disappointed that they didn’t get their time on the cardboard sets of the various Enterprises. Of course many of those wanna-be-Trek-icons would’ve been worse than the final actors (I think we’ve all seen the footage of Genevi?ve Bujold’s creepily low-energy version of Janeway.), but some of those actors would’ve taken the franchise in interesting and probably better directions. Here are the ones we would’ve loved to have seen.
10) Tim Blake Nelson as Quark
?Most Trekkers agree that Deep Space Nine was the best Star Trek series. It had everything… drama, action, suspense and a wonderful absence of Neelix. But the one part where the series failed was some of it’s “humorous” episodes, which is a nice way of saying “Ferengi” episodes (the low point’s probably “Profit and Lace,” where Quark has a sex change and weeps all over the set.) Now, Armin Shimerman was a great Quark, but what if Tim Blake Nelson of Oh, Brother Where Art Thou and Hulk fame had ended up with the job? We’re betting he could’ve kept the wackiness to a slightly more manageable degree.
9) J.D. Roth as Wesley Crusher
?If Star Trek has an official whipping boy, it’s Wesley Crusher. Largely despised by the fans, the writers were forced to ship off to Starfleet Academy in The Next Generation‘s fourth season, although he still popped occasionally for the rest of the series. Now, how much of the ill-will towards him was based on Wil Wheaton’s portrayal is up for debate, but having TV game show host J.D. Roth play the role certainly couldn’t have hurt (after all, they ended up treating Wesley like a redheaded stepchild anyway. So, why not use a real redhead?)
8) Yaphet Kotto as Capt. Jean Luc Picard
?If you think we’re going to say anything bad about Patrick Stewart, you’re dead wrong
(heck, he’s the only reason we occasionally watch American Dad). But think how amazing having Yaphet Kotto as the captain of the Enterprise would’ve been? While his Picard would no doubt have been as smart as thinking-man’s captain Stewart did, he also would’ve added a toughness and strength to the part that would’ve been amazing. Hell, his Picard would’ve booted Wesley out of there after only one season!
7) Jenny Agutter as Dr. Beverly Crusher
?Gates McFadden did her job as ship’s doctor well enough, considering it’s just delivering technobabble while waving whirring things around a patient. But imagine how much better would’ve it have been if she was really, really hot? That’s what Jenny Agutter, the short-skirted hottie from Logan’s Run would’ve brought to the role. Sure, she probably would’ve seemed a little too young to have a son Wesley’s age, but I think we think the teenage male viewers could’ve overlooked that. Also, losing McFadden would mean we wouldn’t have been forced to watch that re-goddamn-diculous Data tap-dancing scene. And that’s what really matters.
6) Jeffrey Combs as Commander William T. Riker
?Oh, Jonathan Frakes. Sure you’re a good director if you completely ignore Thunderbirds (which luckily most people did), but there’s no denying that by the third season you were mostly acting with your beard. Sure a Jeffrey Combs Riker would’ve been weird, as he’s never played a character that wasn’t, but you’ve got to admit he wouldn’t gone completely bland like Frakes did by the end of the series. And as the only Trek actor to ever play two major characters (Weyoun and Brunt) in one episode, we know he has the chops… the odd, strange acting chops.
5) Linda Hamilton as Captain Kathryn Janeway
?Can you imagine how much better Voyager would’ve been with a captain that was, well, actually likable? Let’s face it, Mulgrew’s performance might’ve been pretty accurate to what a female starship captain might actually be like, but she certainly didn’t turn out as engaging as any of the other captains. We’re betting that Linda Hamilton would’ve worked out better… because who doesn’t like Sarah Connor? Not count apart from killer robots from the future, of course.
4) Sean Connery as Sybok
?Man, apart from that three-breasted catgirl, there was nothing good about Star Trek V. Particularly not good was the sudden sitcom-y appearance of the never-before-discussed half-brother of Spock, Sybok, played by Laurence Luckinbill. Now how much better would it have been if they’d gotten the original choice for the role, best-bond-ever Sean Connery? It was such a good idea, they even left his name in the film. Why else do you think they were going to “Sha Ka Ree?”
3) Martin Landau as Lieutenant Commander Spock
?It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Leonard Nimoy filling Spock’s pointy ears and androgynous bowl-cut. But if anyone could’ve done a better performance, it would’ve been Oscar-winner Landau, who turned down the part to star on the show Mission: Impossible. Sure he may not have been as hunky as Nimoy (which is saying something), but we’re betting he would’ve brought an intensity to the part that would’ve helped to compensate for having to walk around for an entire episode without a brain.
2) Lloyd Bridges as Captain Christopher Pike
?If you don’t remember Captain Pike, he was the original captain of the Enterprise as seen in the original pilot “The Cage” and the slapped-together-for-contractual-obligations two-parter “The Menagerie.” When NBC execs thought the first version was too cerebral, they made Roddenberry reshoot it and change the lead actor. Now, no one’s going to complain that Jeffrey “The Searchers” Archer wasn’t great, but if a more action-y Lloyd Bridges had originally taken the role, it’s just possible they wouldn’t have had to dumb down the series a bit with a new pilot. We could’ve seen a whole new, more intelligent Star Trek… at least until the network idiots inevitably canceled it.
1) Jack Lord as Captain James T. Kirk
?Wow. Try to imagine the Star Trek universe without William Shatner. It’s pretty hard, isn’t it? His particular brand of slow overacting and scene-stealing charm influenced a lot of what came after him. So, what if Roddenberry had gone with his first choice for Captain Kirk, the dignified (and far less cartoon-y) actor Jack Lord? It would’ve been an even bigger change than you might think as, according to William Shatner, Lord asked for 50 percent ownership of the show, which is why Roddenberry went with Shatner. So, not only would a major role have been changed, but we might have had a very different Star Trek without Roddenberry’s complete control of the franchise (for example, we probably would’ve had a couple less episodes dealing with Roddenberry’s “omnipotent being tests the Enterprise crew” fetish). We’re not so insane as to say Trek would actually be better without Shatner, but it certainly would’ve been very, very different.