The doctor is back in business in Star Trek Into Darkness. In the latest Trek adventure, Dr. McCoy practices some serious medicine, including an important sequence involving… a Tribble. Plus, there’s a good dose of interplay between Bones, Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) and a great "I'm a doctor, not a _______" line. StarTrek.com chatted with the man himself, Karl Urban, about all of that and more. Here’s what he had to say:
It’s four years between Star Trek films. How eager were you to get back on a Trek set?
URBAN: It was wonderful to come back and work on this one. Everybody involved, we all like each other and it’s just so much fun. I think the excitement was palpable on the first day.
Were you at all worried that four years was too long?
URBAN: Well… no, I don’t think I was concerned about it because I had absolute faith in J.J. (Abrams) and in the script. Certainly seeing the film, and seeing it with an audience, was just wonderful because it proved that it was worth the wait.
You get to do some actual practicing of medicine in Star Trek Into Darkness. How satisfying were those moments?
URBAN: I was happy to do them. It was really nice to see more of that side of McCoy. You not only see him doctoring, but you see the scientist part of him, with the Tribble, where he’s developing serums and using his mind and his skill, and contributing his skills to the success of the mission, as it were.
You crack a lot of the best one-liners in the movie. How much of that was scripted and how much of it is a matter of Abrams giving you the leeway to ad-lib?
URBAN: A lot of it was written and some of it was J.J. saying, “Say this, try this, do this.” And other lines were lines that were improvised on the day or were alternative deliveries that I gave J.J. to consider. So what you see is a combination of all of those.
How big a kick do you get out of the “I’m a doctor, not a ________” line in the film?
URBAN: Oh, I just love that. Honestly, I had several versions of that which I delivered on the day. And it just gave J.J. the luxury of choice. But you know what? It’s just so much fun. As a long-term fan, for me, it’s kind of surreal to find myself in that situation where I’m actually getting to deliver these classic, iconic lines.
You’ve trekked across the world on the STID promo tour. How exhilarating and exhausting has it been?
URBAN: It’s a challenge. I won’t lie to you. Right now, my body clock is operating at three or four in the morning, but it’s just 6 o’clock in the afternoon here. Imagine staying up all night and then conducting interviews. That’s what it’s like. It’s a challenge, but it certainly helps, the fact that you’re talking about something you genuinely love and that the people who have seen the movie and are talking to you about it are thoroughly engaged and have enjoyed it.
During interviews for the first film, pretty much everyone involved said that the characters in the reboot would evolve into the characters fans first met 47 year ago on The Original Series. Do you still feel that way?
URBAN: It’s difficult for me to say because I’m not the writer, or the writers. But I think this is an alternate version and, that being said, it’s certainly opened the door for a lot of differences. And I embrace that because that’s one of the ways that you keep Star Trek fresh.
What do you hope to see for Dr. McCoy in the next film?
URBAN: Well, a couple of things, the most trivial of which is that I would just love to beam somewhere. I haven’t transported anywhere yet and would love to do that. And, most importantly, I would like to see the solidification of the triumvirate. I always really enjoy those scenes where Bones and Spock and Kirk get to debate whatever the issue is, and I certainly hope that, on a forward-going basis, we get to see more of that. And I would really like to see more of the friendship between Bones and Kirk.
A lot of your recent work has been in the sci-fi/fantasy/horror vein: Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, Priest, Dredd and your upcoming projects Riddick, Human and The Wonder. Is that just a coincidence? Where the good work is? Do you have an affinity for the genre?
URBAN: I don’t take material based on the genre. It’s just sort of happened to be that way, but I’m equally proud of the work I’ve done that hasn’t been in the science-fiction genre. But, yeah, I am a long-term fan of science fiction. I grew up in an era when George Lucas and Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott were making wonderful science-fiction films. It’s also been a blessing to live in an age where the technology is available to really pursue those visions in such a complex and realistic fashion.
Your next project is Human, a TV show that reunites you with the Bad Robot team. What’s the basic premise, and please give us a sense of your character.
URBAN: I play a detective who is partnered up with a synthetic life form. Their relationship is at the heart of the show.
A lot of people loved Dredd. How satisfied were you with it, and what are the chances of there being a sequel?
URBAN: I'm really proud of Dredd. It’s been wonderful doing press for Star Trek Into Darkness and having so many people wanting to talk about Dredd. I’m certainly open to the possibility of continuing to tell his story. That being said, Dredd was created as a one-off film and if it remains as kind of a cult classic, then I would be more than happy with that.
You've done tons of press for Star Trek Into Darkness with people from all over the world. What is the one question you've been asked the most often, everywhere and anywhere you’ve been?
URBAN: I keep getting asked "Were you so happy to reunite with everyone?" Of course I was!