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Strange New Worlds' Paul Wesley Explains Why His Captain Kirk Seems So Different

The first season finale of "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" gave fans something they had long been anticipating: Captain James Tiberius Kirk. News that Paul Wesley would be playing the legendary captain of the USS Enterprise had been floating since CBS announced the news in March (via The Hollywood Reporter). We were even teased with the possibility that he might show up in the very first episode before it became clear Captain Pike (Anson Mount) was actually asking for Sam Kirk (Dan Jeannotte), the brother of the legendary Enterprise captain. Of course, the question lingered: how would "Strange New Worlds" interpret James Kirk?

10 episodes later, we got an answer to this question in "A Quality of Mercy." This was an episode that waded into some iconic waters generally, given that it was essentially an alternate-future version of "Balance of Terror," regarded by some as one of the greatest episodes of the original "Star Trek" series (via Gizmodo). Wesley's Kirk kept intact many of the characteristics we've associated with the character since the era of William Shatner. He's a bit roguish, strategically brilliant, and willing to take seemingly insane risks. In fact, one particularly memorable line has Pike asking Sam if his brother is a wildcard, to which Sam simply replies, "A whole deck of them."

Still, Wesley is his own actor, with his own choices and interpretations. So if his rendition of Captain Kirk seemed, somehow, different to you, then you aren't the only one. It is, ultimately, deliberate.

Paul Wesley knew he could not just imitate William Shatner

Speaking with Collider, Paul Wesley pointed out that he was born in the 1980s, well after the run of "Star Trek: The Original Series." Still, he would seem to have been a fan of "Star Trek," and of William Shatner's portrayal of Kirk. According to Wesley, Shatner even gave him his blessing in playing Kirk, which seemed to Wesley a very classy move. But ultimately, Wesley knew that while he could be inspired by Shatner's Kirk, he had to play this iconic captain his own way.

"What William Shatner did is not touchable," Wesley said. "You cannot mess with William Shatner. He created Captain Kirk. Period, end of story. For me to try to imitate William Shatner in any way would be, I think, an insult to Captain Kirk." Wesley echoed this in another interview he did with Entertainment Weekly. When asked if his Kirk was more Shatner or Chris Pine à la the Kelvin timeline, he responded, "He's somewhere in between."

Wesley also pointed out that Kirk is not the only classic character that "Strange New Worlds" has newly reinterpreted. After all, many series regulars including Pike, Spock (Ethan Peck), and Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) have long histories on prior iterations of the franchise. The actors portraying them aren't just giving us carbon copies of Jeffrey Hunter, Leonard Nimoy, and Nichelle Nichols. "There's a different Spock, there's a different Uhura, there's a different everything," Wesley told Collider. "You have to just create your own things. You can't just do an imitation, because that would be too shallow."