The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - JAMES WIGNEY

Zachary Quinto made his film de­but as Spock in J.J. Abrams’ hit 2009 Star Trek re­boot but has never been able to quite make the role all his own.

All that changed last year when Leonard Ni­moy, the man who orig­i­nated the highly log­i­cal, pointy-eared, green­blooded Vul­can in the trail­blaz­ing 1960s TV se­ries, died at the age of 83.

The two Spocks had bonded dur­ing the mak­ing of Abrams’ Star Trek, in which Ni­moy played a key role in pass­ing the ba­ton from the orig­i­nal cast to the new cast, which also saw Chris Pine step in for Wil­liam Shat­ner as Cap­tain James T. Kirk and Kiwi Karl Ur­ban play DeFor­est Kel­ley’s ship doc­tor, Leonard “Bones” McCoy.

Hav­ing been brought to­gether by the com­mon role, one of the most loved in TV and film sci-fi his­tory, the two forged a much deeper bond, which con­tin­ued right up un­til Ni­moy’s death.

“It was kind of shock­ing to me. The char­ac­ter brought us to­gether but then life it­self car­ried us be­yond that,” Quinto says of just how close the two be­came.

“By the end of our re­la­tion­ship and of Leonard’s life, I’d say that Spock was one small as­pect of this friend­ship that we cul­ti­vated and nur­tured over the last 10 years.

“I’m grate­ful that it’s Spock that brought us to­gether but I am more grate­ful that our con­nec­tion went be­yond.”

Af­ter Ni­moy had a small cameo in the sec­ond of the re­booted Star Trek films, Into

Dark­ness, the third en­try in the fran­chise, Star Trek Be­yond, which opens glob­ally to­day, was the first time Quinto would in­habit the char­ac­ter all by him­self.

He says it was al­ways the in­ten­tion of writ­ers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung to hon­our the pass­ing of the late ac­tor and his char­ac­ter in the new film. That trib­ute made Quinto feel even more of an in­te­gral part of the ever-ex­pand­ing Star Trek uni­verse, which cel­e­brates its 50th birth­day this year and has com­prised 13 films and six TV shows, with a seventh to pre­miere next year.

“(Leonard’s) pass­ing last year I think was a real tran­si­tional mo­ment for me,” says Quinto. “Prior to that mo­ment I had shared this role and now I have sole re­spon­si­bil­ity for it mov­ing for­ward, as­sum­ing we make more films. Even if we don’t, my as­so­ci­a­tion with this char­ac­ter and how beloved this char­ac­ter is through­out the world and what an im­pact he has had on gen­er­a­tions of peo­ple is some­thing that I don’t take lightly.”

Through­out its half-cen­tury jour­ney of boldly go­ing where no fran­chise had gone be­fore, Star Trek has al­ways pre­sented a hope­ful pic­ture of hu­man­ity’s fu­ture. Rather than be­ing set a long time ago in a galaxy far away like those other space movies, Star Trek is an ide­alised vi­sion of where cre­ator Gene Rod­den­berry hoped we were head­ing as a species. The some­times cere­bral, some­times silly, al­ways en­ter­tain­ing orig­i­nal se­ries tack­led hot-but­ton is­sues of the time such as racism and prej­u­dice through the prism of a United Fed­er­a­tion of Plan­ets en­coun­ter­ing new species and civil­i­sa­tions in deep space.

As a case in point of the tra­di­tional Star Trek in­clu­sive­ness, Star Trek Be­yond in­tro­duces a gay main char­ac­ter for the first time, when helms­men Mr Sulu is very un­show­ily de­picted as hav­ing a same-sex part­ner and the father of a daugh­ter.

The in­ter­net pre­dictably went into melt­down with ac­cu­sa­tions of to­kenism and re­vi­sion­ism as well as rap­tur­ous mes­sages of sup­port.

“The LGBTQ com­mu­nity has for a long time com­mented on the fact that as in­clu­sive as the world of Star Trek has been, there has not been an openly gay char­ac­ter rep­re­sented in the uni­verse,” Quinto says. “So I did feel like there was a mod­icum of progress and a re­flec­tion of the progress we have made in our part of the world — it hasn’t quite made it down here yet — and I think that is em­blem­atic of where we are go­ing.”

The de­ci­sion to make Sulu gay was in part a trib­ute to Ge­orge Takei, who played the char­ac­ter in the orig­i­nal se­ries and at the time was un­able to re­veal his own sex­u­al­ity for fear of los­ing his ca­reer.

“Look at the times that we live in,” Quinto says.

“It’s be­cause of peo­ple like Ge­orge who had to sac­ri­fice their own au­then­tic­ity and hap­pi­ness that peo­ple in my gen­er­a­tion and be­yond are able to em­brace theirs. ”

Star Trek Be­yond opens to­day

Amer­i­can ac­tor Zachary Quinto plays Spock in Star Trek Be­yond

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