Star Trek opens in cinemas

IS there any phrase more quoted from TV science fiction than “Beam me up, Scotty”? - that ritual emergency issued to the chief engineer of the Starship Enterprise whenever Kirk and the boys got into a spot of bother, Simon Pegg laughs.

“It's one of those phrases that's never actually been said in Star Trek,” he said.

“It's one of those weird apocryphal things that's entered into common parlance.”

Still, for someone who grew up watching the original Star Trek series in the early 70s, what an honour it is, he said, to be filling the size nines of the late James Doohan in the brand new cinematic outing.

It was Doohan, of course, who played the Enterprise's chief engineer, one Montgomery Scott.

Sadly Doohan died before the new film went into production, so Pegg never got to meet him. Though Doohan's actor son Chris, who appears in the movie, was on-hand for information.

“Chris was my kind of foil in the transporter room,” Pegg said.

“We were able to talk about his father and I got a sense of who James was and what he was like as a man.”

Doohan, a former journeyman actor, a combat veteran of World War II, can barely have suspected that his audition for a part in a no-frills television series would go on to make him a pop culture immortal - so much so that after the venerable Canadian passed away in 2005, aged 85, he had his ashes blasted into space.

There were technical hitches that meant it took longer than anticipated. “But he's up there now,” Pegg smiles.

Needless to say, Paramount's spanking, big-budget Star Trek film - a real blockbuster extravaganza if ever there was one - is much anticipated as one of the event films of 2009.

Helmed by JJ Abrams, perhaps best known among numerous film and television credits, as the creator of Lost, the movie is a wham-bam thrill-ride, an affectionate, sometimes playfully irreverent prequel to the original 1966 show - one, people tend to forget, that was cancelled after just three seasons, only achieving a new lease of life when it went into international syndication a few years later. But the rest is entertainment history.

Thus was spawned a 1979 film - Star Trek: The Motion Picture - which begat a whole series of movies, which continually evolved as the TV show was reinvented first as Star Trek: The Next Generation and, later, as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager.

This time round, we see how a young Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Sulu, Chekov and Uhura came to graduate from Starfleet Academy and sign up for their fabled five-year mission to seek out new worlds, new civilisations.

These are interesting times for Pegg. Not so long ago, the actor-comedian from Gloucester in England's rural West Country, had seemed just another budding comic in his TV series Spaced.

Then, via two quirky, cult films - Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz - he established himself as one of Britain's hottest acting properties, whose everyman appeal was showcased, most recently, in How To Lose Friends And Alienate People, where he played the lone British journalist at a pretentious New York, Vanity Fair-style magazine. Hollywood had been taking note.

A small and unlikely part in Mission Impossible III, brought Pegg within the scope of its director, JJ Abrams. And thus follows Star Trek.

Dare one mention that, in his new social circles, Pegg is the godfather to Apple, daughter of London neighbours Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Actually, the amiable Pegg, 39, seems pretty down to earth, if famously private about his domestic affairs.

“I think what the filmmakers have really nailed is there is stuff in there that acknowledges and speaks very privately to the faithful and yet you can watch it, if you've never even heard of Star Trek, and it will be an absolutely rip-roaring, very engaging adventure about human beings in space, together with their alien counterparts,” he urges.

It will be an absolutely rip-roaring, very engaging adventure.

Check out session times for Star Trek and other movies in your region.

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