Leonard Nimoy Almost Replaced On Star Trek By Actor Who Returned 40 Years Later

By Kevin C. Neece | Published

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It’s hard to imagine Star Trek without Leonard Nimoy, especially since Spock, the character he originated, has remained the central figure of the franchise for almost 60 years. At one point, however, the most popular character in The Original Series was almost replaced, though it soon became apparent that he was more than just a set of pointy ears. Still, according to /Film, Lawrence Montaigne was suggested to replace Nimoy, and that actor would ultimately have quite an ironic role in the series.

Leonard Nimoy’s Salary

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Though Leonard Nimoy’s Spock was the most popular character on Star Trek, salaries for him and William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk, were at one point potentially going to lead the Vulcan science officer to the proverbial chopping block. Star Trek‘s production values look lean by current standards, but in today’s dollars, a single hour-long episode of the series cost $1 million. As the series was still struggling to find its audience, studio execs were unwilling to pay the salaries their stars were asking for.

Lawrence Montaigne

In 1967, as Star Trek was headed into its second season, executives were ready to cut Leonard Nimoy from the cast, despite his huge popularity with fans of the show. In his place, they would cast a new Vulcan character who was at one point set to be played by Lawrence Montaigne. While the actor’s name might not ring a bell for most people, he is well known among Star Trek fans as Stonn from the episode “Amok Time,” ironically the suitor chosen over Spock by his intended mate, T’Pring.

Nimoy Threatens To Walk Away From Star Trek

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The tale of Leonard Nimoy’s continuation as Spock is related by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman in their book The 50-Year Mission: The First 25 Years. In the book, Trek historian Marc Cushman relates that Leonard Nimoy’s agent had asked Desilu, the series’ production company, for a raise, but NBC was already considering the series for cancellation because it was so expensive and they were not recouping their costs. In response, Nimoy’s agent replied that the actor would not be showing up for work.

Producer Gene L. Coon was on vacation during this time and returned to news from Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek’s creator, that Spock would be replaced by an almost identical Vulcan character. The new character, to be played by Montaine, was set to begin appearing in Star Trek‘s second season. Apparently, even the Great Bird of the Galaxy could not keep the fan-favorite character from being replaced by his eventual on-screen rival.

NBC Strikes A Deal

Ultimately, it was NBC who had the final say in keeping Leonard Nimoy on the show. Realizing that the series’ biggest star was crucial to any success it could have, they instructed Desilu to pay the actor whatever was required to keep him on the series. For his part, Montaine was generally unbothered by the loss of the new job as he was working fairly consistently at the time. Though the deal would have meant steady income without the need to audition for new roles, the pay was not as high as what Nimoy had been earning and was one of a few series-regular positions for which the actor had been passed over.

Lawrence Montaigne As Stonn

Though he didn’t replace Leonard Nimoy as Spock, he was given the role of Stonn as a result of the negotiations to bring him onto the series, which led to him ultimately replacing Spock as T’Pring’s husband. For Star Trek fans, this was a positive development for the character as it kept him on the Enterprise, but little did they know that it also represented Nimoy himself staying with the franchise he helped to popularize and later steward over the decades.

While Montaine found the role of Stonn unappealing at first, his agent pushed for star billing and a big payday, to which NBC surprisingly agreed. Since Stonn had almost no lines in the episode, it meant an easy payday for Montaine and, decades later, a return to Star Trek.

Stonn Returns In Star Trek: Of Gods And Men

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Though he did not replace Leonard Nimoy in The Original Series, he did get to play Stonn again 40 years later in the Star Trek fan film Star Trek: Of Gods and Men. Also returning for the 2007 film were Original Series actors Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig, along with Alan Ruck, reprising his role as Captain John Harriman from Star Trek: Generations. Arlene Martel, who played T’Pring in “Amok Time,” also returned for the film, though not in a way viewers would expect.

Ultimately, the film was a fitting tribute to Montaine’s work in a legendary episode of Star Trek that, behind the scenes, represents Leonard Nimoy securing his place in the history of one of the greatest science fiction franchises ever.

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