15 Actors Who Were Almost Cast On ‘Star Trek: The Original Series’

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Despite its current ubiquity in pop culture, Star Trek had a famously difficult birth. It was the rare TV show to have two pilots — the first one was rejected. Without the will and passion of Lucille Ball (yes, that Lucille Ball) the series might have never made it to air.

Filming for “The Cage,” the first pilot episode, began on Thanksgiving weekend in 1964, nearly two full years before Star Trek premiered in the fall of ’66. This was after months of pre-production. Throughout that long process, there was much back-and-forth between visionary creator Gene Roddenberry, the network and the studio.

The casting was one significant area of debate. William Shatner and his Captain Kirk do not even appear in “The Cage,” of course. Before Shatner beamed aboard, several famous actors were considered for the lead. As hard as it is to imagine anyone other than Leonard Nimoy as Spock, a handful of names were tossed around for the Vulcan role. Roddenberry even offered DeForest Kelley the part of Spock. Imagine that — Bones as Spock.

Let’s take a look at some notable actors and characters that might have given Star Trek a far different look. Perhaps they won the part in some alternate dimension.

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1. JACK LORD AS CAPTAIN KIRK


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Captain Kirk grabs a Klingon by the collar. “Book ’em, Spocko,” he commands. Okay, that’s a silly scenario, but it is also difficult to envision James T. Kirk played by Det. Steve McGarrett of Hawaii Five-O. What is Kirk without his Shatnerism?

2. JAMES COBURN AS CAPTAIN PIKE


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A man’s man, Coburn sizzled and smoldered in classics like The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape. That being said, he proved he could also do lighter fare in the spy spoof Our Man Flint. According to the book, These Are the Voyages: TOS Season One, Coburn was one of three finalists for the lead role in the pilot.

3. MARTIN LANDAU AS SPOCK


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The late Landau instead took a lead role in another Desilu production, Mission: Impossible. Years later, he explained his passing on Spock to Starlog in 1986: “I can’t play wooden. It’s the antithesis of why I became an actor.” Landau left Mission: Impossible after its third season, just as Star Trek was ending. Leonard Nimoy filled his shoes as the show’s resident master of disguise. Funny how that works out.

4. JAMES HONG AS SULU


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Minneapolis born Chinese-American actor Hong has a stunning resume that stretches from the 1950s to Kung Fu Panda movies. (He’s the voice of Mr. Ping.) He’s been in everything — including T.J. Hooker. Which means he at least got to work alongside Shatner in some capacity.

5. DAWN WELLS AS ROBERTA LINCOLN


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The season two Star Trek finale served as a backdoor pilot for a proposed spin-off, “Assignment: Earth.” The story centers around Gary Seven, a human sent back to earth from the future. By his side is the young and lovely Roberta Lincoln, a 1960s secretary. In the end, the role was played by Teri Garr. However, this Gilligan’s Island veteran almost nabbed the role. However, Roddenberry preferred the lesser-known Garr’s look.

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