Star Trek Regeneration, a new video, features a familiar face.
If you’ve seen Star Trek: Picard season 3, or, by this point, even if you haven’t, but are spending time online (as you obviously are), you know the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D makes a triumphant return to action.
No less than an authority than Jean-Luc Picard declared, at the end of Star Trek: Generations, that the vessel could not be salvaged after its crash on Veridian III. Nevertheless, Picard season 3 revealed Geordi La Forge spent decades painstakingly and secretly restoring the Galaxy-class starship to its former glory. Writing for Inverse, Ryan Britt calls the plot point “perhaps the biggest nostalgia play for any science fiction franchise in recent memory.”
Now, in a new Star Trek video titled “Regeneration,” The Roddenberry Archive and graphics company OTOY have joined forces to bring Star Trek fans a two-minute short bringing some of the salvage of the Enterprise-D to the screen. But the Enterprise isn’t the only familiar sight we see in this trek back to Veridian III.
When the robed figure in this video pulls back his hood, we see Spock—played by the late Leonard Nimoy, looking as he looked in the mid-1990s. Then, we cut to a decades-younger Spock—Leonard Nimoy again, dressed in his uniform from Star Trek: The Motion Picture and looking as Nimoy looked in the late 1970s.
What does Star Trek Regeneration mean for the future?
Star Trek: Regeneration has created a lot of buzz among the portion of fandom I follow online.
A fan I follow on Facebook posted the video with the heading, “NEW CANON !!!” I’m not sure I follow that logic, since nothing in existing canon would prevent Ambassador Spock, who lived into the 24th century, from going to Veridian III to visit Kirk’s grave.
The snippet of the NCC-1701’s destruction in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock is odd. Spock might have seen the ship burn up, but since he was undergoing rapid aging (and at least one pon farr) at the time, it seems unlikely. No one saw the destruction in as much detail as this video presents it.
And why cut to Spock as he was at least a decade prior to the events at Genesis? Is the video perhaps slyly suggesting Spock undertook—or is about to undertake—some sort of time travel?
The video ends with the white numerals “765874” against a black screen. Not a stardate, these numbers comprise Yeoman J.M. Colt’s (“The Cage”) service number (per the Memory Beta wiki of noncanonical Star Trek sources). The Roddenberry Archive and OTOY have used the number to designate their previous CGI, virtual Star Trek projects.
The partnership’s newest project is a virtual, “tourable” CGI archive of all starships Enterprise, from the XCV-330 (unused production artwork) to the 1701-J (Star Trek: Enterprise, “Azati Prime.”) (There is also mention of an as-yet-unseen 32nd-century Enterprise from Star Trek: Discovery).
Whatever the canonical implications of “Regeneration,” its implications for the future of not only Star Trek but also movies and TV, in general, are, to put it mildly, fascinating. How ought Star Trek fans feel about “new performances” from beloved actors from the franchise who are no longer with us?
Digitally mapping Leonard Nimoy’s face onto a body double could be seen as a way of honoring Nimoy and the extraordinary work he did bringing Spock to life in the flesh across four decades. The technological achievement here is impressive.
On the other hand, the “uncanny valley” hasn’t quite been conquered. While Spock on Veridian III is more convincing, say, than Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher’s appearances in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and even better than the spookily de-aged Mark Hamill in season two of The Mandalorian, something’s not altogether “right” about this Spock. It’s something in the mouth area.
Besides, it’s hard to put aside the knowledge that Leonard Nimoy died in 2015. We’re not watching a performance Nimoy thought about, rehearsed, and performed on a soundstage, or even in front of a green screen. We aren’t watching a master of his craft at work here—we’re watching a computer do its thing, impressive though it is. In none of its iterations has Star Trek has ever been savvy about computers replacing people.
Yet Star Trek has often advocated for using computers to enhance the human condition. It even teaches humans to value and appreciate the contributions of machines. Think Data in The Next Generation, the EMH in Voyager, or Zora on Discovery. Could we apply the same criteria to computer-generated performances “from” deceased Star Trek cast members?
And why not use this powerful technology to create entirely new stories with entirely new characters in entirely new settings? Picard season 3 was a ten-episode overindulgence of fan nostalgia. Can we never let the past be past and boldly go into the future?
For the time being, I’d prefer to rewatch Leonard Nimoy’s actual performances as Spock. But in time—who knows? As Admiral Kirk told us Spock was fond of saying, “There are always possibilities.”