Christopher Plummer, best known for his lead role in The Sound of Music, has died at age 91. Though his cause of death has not yet been revealed, Deadline reported that his wife was with him when he died at their Connecticut home.
As fans of Star Trek: The Original Series know, Plummer was also a member of the Star Trek family. Plummer starred as the villain, General Chang, in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. He voiced the character in two Star Trek video games as well. Though Plummer only appeared in the Star Trek universe once, his contribution to the canon was huge.
Here’s a look back at Plummer’s iconic Star Trek role.
Bringing General Chang to Life
Plummer’s General Chang was a different type of Klingon than Star Trek fans had seen before. He was a warrior, of course, but he was also an intellectual. The character quoted Shakespeare often, giving Trek fans the highly quotable line, “You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon.”
Chang revealed himself to be a formidable prosecutor during the trial of the Enterprise crew. He was also revealed as a brilliant strategist when Spock discovered that he was one of the minds behind the conspiracy to frame the Enterprise for attacking the Klingon peace delegation.
Plummer’s portrayal of the villainous, clever, Shakespeare-spouting Klingon was well-received by fans and critics alike. The New York Times raved about Plummer’s ability to show his classical acting chops in a science fiction movie, under so much makeup. The Washington Post praised Plummer’s ability to find the line between serious acting and “the swaggering bravura of a consummate ham.”
The general consensus of the movie critics of the time was that Plummer had managed to bring all the gravitas of his classical training to a science fiction movie, and somehow it worked.
The Role was Literally Made for Plummer
Nicholas Meyer was the mind behind The Undiscovered Country. He developed the story, which was pitched by Leonard Nimoy, wrote the script, and directed the film. In an interview with StarTrek.com in 2014, Meyer revealed that the part of Chang was written specifically with Plummer in mind.
Meyer told the outlet that he’d “always been a fanatic Christopher Plummer fan.” He would listen to audio recordings of Plummer performing Shakespeare, and that’s actually where he got the idea for Chang. He wrote the part, and when the script went to the casting crew, he insisted that they get Plummer to play the role. Meyer even went as far as telling them that he couldn’t do the movie at all without Plummer.
However, Plummer wasn’t entirely sure that the role was the right career move. In the Blu-Ray extras for The Undiscovered Country, Nimoy shared that he had to call Plummer multiple times to convince him to take the role. Plummer was worried that acting under all that makeup, as a villain, in a science-fiction film would lead to him being taken less seriously. Obviously, Plummer finally relented and found a way to make the role work for him. His career was clearly unharmed as he went on to star in several film and television roles.
Plummer will be missed by Star Trek fans around the world. A rewatch of The Undiscovered Country would be a fitting tribute to the Star Trek legend.