Star Trek Debuts Its New Captain Kirk

Star Trek has debuted its new Captain James T. Kirk – the role made iconic by William Shatner in the classic Star Trek TV series. Vampire Diaries star Paul Wesley was announced to be taking on the role of Captain Kirk in the new series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds – a prequel to Star Trek TOS. It was a mystery when and how Paul Wesley's Kirk would debut in Strange New Worlds – but now we know. 

(WARNING – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds SPOILERS Follow)

Paul Wesley's Kirk makes his debut in the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1 finale, "A Quality of Mercy" – and it's a substantial one! 

After Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) tries to change his own doomed future, he's met by a future version of himself from an alternate timeline – one where Pike did cheat death. That variant Pike sends the Prime Timeline Pike into the alternate past, to learn why, exactly, he must accept his own terrible fate – and all that comes with it. During that "It's A (Not So) Wonderful Life" experience, Pike meets a unique fellow captain: James T. Kirk. 

Pike and Kirk (and the rest of the Enterprise crew) all work together to defeat a Romulan Bird of Prey hunting Starfleet outposts – but also end up starting a war between the Romulans and Federation that Variant Pike reveals kills billions and drags on for years. Pike eventually comes back to his own timeline realizing that his sacrifice will set in motion events – particularly in Spock's life – that are essential to the Prime Timeline. Pike's alt-universe experience also sets in motion another big event: Pike looking into his universe's version of James T. Kirk, seeing in him a worthy successor for the Enterprise. 

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As Star Trek: Strange New Worlds co-showrunner Henry Alonso Myers explained to ComicBook, Paul Wesley wasn't the choice for Kirk that came to a lot of minds – but Star Trek's casting directors knew better: 

"We auditioned a bunch of people. We talked to a bunch of people. Look, we saw some really interesting talented actors, but when it came to embodying the spirit and ideas of James T. Kirk, he was the one that we all saw and were like, 'Oh yeah,'" Myers explains. "And I have to give Margery Simkin and Orly Sitowitz, who are casting directors, credit because they were the ones who were like, "We think Paul Wesley." And we were like, "Really? Interesting."

Paul Wesley spoke to THR about taking on the role of Kirk. As the actor points out, he got to sidestep a lot of performance pressure by first being introduced as an alternate-universe version of Kirk, who was shaped by a very different history in a reality where Captain Pike never gave up the Enterprise: 

"Obviously, the season one finale is an alternate timeline that doesn't exist, because it takes place in the future. He's not captain of the Enterprise. He's never met Spock, and he's never had all those experiences. It's a Kirk who has been shaped differently," Wesley exlpains. "So in the season finale, it really was open to interpretation."

(Photo: Paramount)

Wesley also reveals just how much looking back he did to nail those Kirk mannerisms: 

"I rewatched every TOS episode, trying to understand the posture or where to put my hands – really just feeling at home in this chair... That was one of the things that I needed to understand, so it felt like I had been sitting there thousands of times. And it's like that in this [Captain Kirk] outfit. I know this outfit; I feel at home in it."

Finally, Wesley teases the upcoming debut of the Captian Kirk who will go on to fulfill the destiny we know he will have – when Star Trek: Strange New Worlds returns for Season 2

"In season two, we meet a Kirk who we know better. I think the most important thing was to pay respect to the important pillars of his personality: His morality, his incredible instinct, his courage, his empathy towards others and how protective he is of his crew."

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1 is now streaming on Paramount+