Mrs Spock? Not likely, says Star Trek producer Alex Kurtzman
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Mrs Spock? Not likely, says Star Trek producer Alex Kurtzman

Doctor Who's Doctor changed genders, as did Elementary's Dr Watson and Battlestar Galactica's Starbuck and Boomer. Netflix even did it with Lost in Space's Doctor Smith, recasting the iconic TV villain with actress Parker Posey.

But a female Mr Spock in Star Trek would be a gender swap too far, Star Trek: Discovery executive producer Alex Kurtzman has decreed.

Kurtzman was presented with the possibility while speaking to media at this year's Comic-Con, but nixed the rumour.

"I think everybody here would think seriously about doing something like that, but at the same time we must stay true to what canon is, and has been," he said.

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In pop culture terms, the word "canon" is used to describe the established parameters of a fictional universe; in the case of Star Trek it is established "canon" that Mr Spock, a character originated by actor Leonard Nimoy, is male.

"At the end of the day that would be something that I think would not feels like sync up with canon in the way that we are aiming to do now," Kurtzman said.

Though such gender swaps are often framed as "political correctness", in fact Lost in Space producer Matt Sazama has said previously the greater motivation in Lost in Space's case was to protect the actor and the new series from unfair comparisons.

Mr Spock (Leonard Nimoy), pictured left, with Captain Kirk (William Shatner), Dr McCoy (DeForest Kelley) and Scotty (James Doohan) in Star Trek.

Mr Spock (Leonard Nimoy), pictured left, with Captain Kirk (William Shatner), Dr McCoy (DeForest Kelley) and Scotty (James Doohan) in Star Trek.Credit:AP / Paramount Television

"Jonathan Harris’ performance [as Dr Smith] is so idiosyncratic and specific and iconic, that we felt that frankly a male actor was going to be compared to him and would end up maybe glancing into caricature or imitation," Sazama said. "A female actor was going to have the latitude to reinvent the character for herself."

In the Star Trek universe, loyalty to established canon has become something of a sticking point; some directors and writers in the franchise's five-decade-plus history have sometimes drifted from the rules.

In the case of Doctor Who's gender swap, there was no actual hard and fast rule about Time Lord's "regenerating" that required them to remain the same gender, and in the case of Elementary, Battlestar Galactica and Lost in Space those shows were total "reboots" of the original TV series concept.

Star Trek: Discovery, however, takes place in the same established continuity of the 1966 "original series" of Star Trek, and its TV sequels, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise.

Sonequa Martin-Green as first officer Michael Burnham in Star Trek: Discovery.

Sonequa Martin-Green as first officer Michael Burnham in Star Trek: Discovery.Credit:CBS All Access

A gender-bending departure from canon in the form of a female Mr Spock would contradict the show's current push to bring it more in line with canon.

Since its launch last year one of the criticisms of Star Trek: Discovery from diehard fans is that despite its close historical proximity to the "original series" - the time periods of two programs are less than a decade apart - they barely resemble one another.

Kurtzman flagged at Comic-Con that in the second season of Star Trek: Discovery fans would see a significant shift that would bring the two shows more in sync.

In the final scenes of the show's first season, the USS Discovery and the USS Enterprise - the iconic starship which featured on the original series - met up, and Enterprise's pre-Captain Kirk commanding officer Christopher Pike was named.

The cast of the 1966 Star Trek "original series".

The cast of the 1966 Star Trek "original series".

In the second season, Kurtzman said, Captain Pike would take command of the Enterprise, and audiences would see for the first time in Discovery the gold, blue and red uniforms which were one of the visual hallmarks of the original series.

In the original series command officers wore gold shirts, science and medical personnel - including the young science officer Mr Spock - wore blue shirts and security, engineering and support personnel wore red shirts.

Kurtzman also confirmed the series would introduce audiences to "Number One", Pike's first officer, seen only in the 1966 pilot episode of Star Trek, The Cage.

In the pilot Number One was played by actress Majel Barrett, the wife of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry; in Star Trek: Discovery she will be played by Rebecca Romijin.

Kurtzman also revealed at Comic-Con that Discovery would spin-off four short-films, collectively titled Short Treks, which would explore different aspects of some of the the Discovery crew's lives.

He also confirmed the show was looking at introducing a disabled character in an effort to explore how future medicine deals with physical differences.

"I'm very curious about what differently-abled means in the future, when modern medicine has advanced to a place where so many of the things that are problems now are gone," he said.

Last month, CBS Studios locked Kurtzman into a five year deal to oversee the Star Trek franchise.

That includes not just Star Trek: Discovery but several other rumoured projects including a Starfleet Academy series, an animated series and a limited series focusing on the events portrayed in the 1980s-era feature film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Michael Idato is a Senior Writer based in Los Angeles for The Sydney Morning Herald.