As excitement grows around the newest show to become part of the “Star Trek Universe,” fans might wonder precisely how Kirk sat in the chair of the Enterprise and not Pike. From the start of the franchise, creator Gene Roddenberry had the captain of his ship as a stoic and stern man, Christopher Pike. He came before James T. Kirk, and he was portrayed by film star Jeffrey Hunter.
In a recent episode of “The Inglorious Treksperts” podcast, host Mark A. Altman suggested that if Hunter continued to play the part of Pike, then “Star Trek” as we know it would not have existed.
Altman said that if the original pilot for the show, “The Cage,” had been accepted by NBC, instead of demanding a second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” the show would have ended in two seasons, with no movies to follow.
“[Kirk] was dynamic and charismatic, and you knew from the moment … who that character is as soon as he walked onto the screen, you’d follow him to the ends of the universe,” said Altman. “Is that the case with Captain Pike?”
Altman also said that William Shatner’s “impishness” and charm made Kirk a fun character. This compared to Hunter’s seriousness and all-business demeanor. Altman noted that this was an unpopular opinion — Hunter being a better lead actor than Shatner — but some fans prefer Hunter to Shatner.
Fan and Star Trek food expert J.D. Keeling recently told Trek Report that she fell for his “prettiest blue eyes.” So opinions do vary.
It is a good thing, though, that some fans like Captain Pike, as the new “Strange New Worlds” show just wrapped principle filming and will likely be streaming on Paramount+ in 2022. Just for the record, here is a list of all the actors who have played Christopher Pike through the years.
As noted before, Hunter starred in the first “Star Trek” pilot in 1965. At the time, Hunter was a film star and had acted alongside John Wayne in “The Searchers.” He also portrayed Jesus Christ in “King of Kings.” Those are prominent roles, and after “The Cage” did not get picked up by NBC, he left Trek.
On the podcast, Altman also said that Hunter’s wife told him that he was a “movie star” and should not appear on television. When Hunter did not return, the part was recast for William Shatner. The move by Roddenberry to rename the captain allowed the producers of the show to repackage “The Cage” as “The Menagerie,” which cemented Hunter’s performance into Trek canon.
According to ScreenRant, Hunter “refused” to return to Trek to play Pike again. The show then turned to actor Sean Kenney to play Pike, this time in a non-speaking role. Kenney was Pike in “The Menagerie” in an advanced wheelchair, which allowed him to communicate only “yes” and “no” answers. Kenny returned to Trek later as Lieutenant DePaul in “Arena” and “A Taste of Armageddon.”
Kenny wrote a memoir about his Trek experiences, called “Captain Pike Found Alive!” and was cast to play “Commodore DePaul” in the fan-produced film, “Star Trek: Captain Pike.”
For J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” and “Into Darkness” films, veteran actor Bruce Greenwood portrayed Pike. Greenwood, a Canadian, is known for his role as U.S. President John F. Kennedy in “Thirteen Days” and as a villain in “I, Robot.”
Greenwood’s version of Pike was as a mentor to young James Kirk (Chris Pine). He motivated and was ultimately disappointed in the actions of his student. In “Into Darkness,” Pike was killed by Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch), causing Kirk to seek revenge.
Before Pike, Todd Shawn’s most significant role, according to IMDB, was as “Dude / Student #1” on the 1990s series “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose.” Shawn wrote, directed, and starred in the film “Star Trek: Captain Pike.” The fan film featured some huge names, including Walter Koenig (Chekov), Linda Park (Hoshi), and Chase Masterson (Leeta).
The movie’s IMDB page says that it was “the story of Captain Pike when he first takes command of the Enterprise and his first mission.” Production on the film started in 2015-16, and apparently, the film was never released. But photos, trailers, and other media are available, so fans can see what Shawn’s version of Pike is like.
Some called him the “mesmerizing” star from the second season of “Star Trek: Discovery,” Anson Mount will take the role of Pike into his own series. Mount, who admitted that he was a “Trekkie” to Space.com, is known for his role on the 1860s-era cowboy show “Hell on Wheels.” He also appeared opposite of Anthony Hopkins in the action-thriller, “The Virtuoso.”
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