Fans Weigh in on Paul Wesley’s Version of a ‘Star Trek’ Icon: Captain James T. Kirk

Three Kirks: Pine, Wesley, and Shatner

Paramount Three Kirks: Pine, Wesley, and Shatner

The “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” season finale was nothing short of a blockbuster episode. So say fans of “Star Trek” who are jumping all over themselves to make sure that everyone knows this. 

Trek fan Adam Filip tweeted that “A Quality of Mercy” might just be “the best episode ever of Trek.” Another tweet from fan Sybill Trelawney echoed that sentiment. Trelawney said that the episode was “amazing.”

“I have been watching Trek since 1966 when I was 11 years old,” said Trelawney on Twitter. “This was a rare perfect episode that deepens everything that came before it — including providing new insight into the basis of ‘The Menagerie’ — plus a brilliant homage to another perfect episode from TOS. A+.”

That final episode of Season 1, “A Quality of Mercy,” combined many of the best of Trek from the past. In a way, it was like “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” a classic TNG episode that forced Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) to make a decision that would affect countless millions who had not been born yet. 

Kirk clips from “Strange New Worlds”

Like Picard, Captain Pike (Anson Mount) was also forced to make choices that would affect millions of lives and, in the end, his own. Ever the Boy Scout, Pike did the right thing and realized he could not change his fate. What happened in “The Menagerie” episodes would indeed take place, and he would not try to alter his future. 

The interesting lesson from that episode was that Captain James T. Kirk (Paul Wesley) had better instincts than Pike. If given a chance, Kirk would have made different choices. And he did — since “A Quality of Mercy” took some of the events from the TOS episode “Balance of Terror.” 

That story featured Kirk (William Shatner) outfoxing the Romulan Commander (Mark Lenard) and avoiding a war between the Federation and the Romulan Star Empire. 

As much as fans liked “A Quality of Mercy,” there was one issue that seems to be coming up among fans. That is Wesley’s performance as Kirk. In Wesley’s defense, he has enormous shoes to fill. Following the path laid out by Shatner must be difficult. Wesley told The Hollywood Reporter that his aim as Kirk was to respect Shatner’s version and not to try to impersonate the legendary actor.

Pine meets Shatner

“The most important aspect is to not do an imitation of something that is sacred,” Wesley said in the interview. “And obviously, William Shatner’s interpretation of Captain Kirk has really touched people; it’s been important to people for a variety of reasons. I think the most important thing is to not do an imitation because it’s an insult to the character who is so iconic — and it’s a reminder that I’m not William Shatner. So, this is a version of Kirk we’ve never seen, and every episode is different.”

While Wesley’s approach to the character certainly makes sense, some fans were unhappy with his interpretation. Fans are weighing in on Wesley’s take, and the reactions are mixed so far.

“I liked him as an actor playing a random ‘Star Trek’ captain, but I couldn’t see even a glimmer of Kirk,” tweeted one fan. “Really bothered me.”

“I am sure he will grow into the role,” another fan tweeted. “He does need to give it a bit more confidence and swagger, though. The voice was fine. No one needs the part of [Shatner’s] performance that was always too scenery-chewing anyway. But he needs a physical presence that Shatner brought to the show.”

Many fans compared Wesley to Jim Carrey’s classic spoof of Kirk on the sketch comedy show “In Living Color.” 

“I’m sorry, I love ‘Star Trek’ more than anything, but this new Jim Kirk actor looks exactly like Jim Carrey, right down to the facial expressions,” one fan shared on Twitter

Jim Carrey or Jim Kirk?

Writer Rachel Carrington also disapproved of Wesley’s version of Kirk. 

“As portrayed by Chris Pine and Shatner, Kirk had bravado and charm that isn’t evident in Wesley’s version,” Carrington wrote. “The writers failed to include any of the noticeable traits that made Kirk who he was. The Kirk we’ve always known would have tried to take the lead, would have pushed his point home, not given in to Captain Pike’s demand that the Romulan ship not be destroyed.”

Not all fans were so grouchy, as many embraced Wesley’s version of the character. 

“Captain Kirk was cerebral and fearless,” tweeted one fan. ‘The interplay between Pike and Kirk was entertaining as heck. Good job [co-showrunners] Akiva Goldsman and Henry Alonso Myers. Tip of the hat to Paul Wesley for portraying Kirk so well.”

A New Spin on a Classic Episode

They were not alone in approving of Wesley as Kirk:

“All I want to say is that you were amazing in SNW,” tweeted another fan. “When you appeared, I jumped out of my chair, even knowing that you were cast as Jim! I’m so grateful to the producers for this! Can’t wait to see more of you, Anson, and Ethan. Congrats on the finale! Love from Argentina.”

Even though some fans disliked this first look, Wesley hinted that the Kirk fans saw in “A Quality of Mercy” would not be what they’d get in Season 2 of “Strange New Worlds.”

“In the Season 1 finale, it’s a very plot-driven episode [and] we don’t really get to explore Kirk in the same way that we do in Season 2,” Wesley told TV Line writer Keisha Hatchett. “It’s a younger Kirk. It’s a Kirk pre-Enterprise, and so we get to really have fun [next season].”

Following a legend like Shatner is bound to draw the ire of some. Some folks do not approve of Chris Pine as Kirk, even after three films. 

“I can’t get my head around how anyone thought Chris Pine, a guy with a history of annoying romantic comedies, would play a good starship captain, especially Jim Kirk,” one disgruntled Trek fan posted on Facebook in 2014. “Then again, I don’t really get anything the crew, writers, or producers of the reboot do, so… whatever.”

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