Gone are the days when characters had to automatically be recast once an actor died or become too old to play a part. Of course, there's still a limit to what technology can do, but now there's the possibility of bringing them back to life with CGI. It was used to make Michael Douglas young again in Ant-Man, allow Paul Walker to complete Furious 7 after his untimely death, as well as recreate Peter Cushing's villain Grand Moff Tarkin for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Now the same could happen for Leonard Nimoy's iconic character Spock from the sci-fi franchise Star Trek. Nimoy passed away a little more than two years ago after a long battle with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Leading up to his death, however, the actor cameoed in 2009's Star Trek and its sequel Star Trek: Into Darkness opposite Zachary Quinto as a younger version of Spock. Clearly, the character is already able to live on without Nimoy, but the question now is could it live on with the actor's likeness created by CGI.
A new series, Star Trek: Discovery, is currently filming and takes place right before the years of The Original Series, which first introduced the world to the pointy-eared Vulcan. It hasn't been announced that Spock will actually appear in Discovery, but it's possible that CGI could revive the character one day. And in a recent interview with TrekMovie about his upcoming Deep Space Nine documentary What We Left Behind, the actor's son Adam Nimoy says even he's open to it happening.
Yeah I think it’s an interesting idea. I loved what they did in Rogue One. I thought it was pretty clever, and I was blown away by it, frankly. All of the stuff that Peter Cushing was doing was mind-boggling to me. I’m a sucker for that stuff. I think it should certainly be explored, but I’m not the final arbiter as to whether it’s going to happen, but I think it’s a great idea, personally. There are more parties involved than just me as to whether it’s going to happen. On a personal level, I think it would be cool.
While the younger Nimoy seems to be on board, there's of course the controversy of whether it's ethical to digitally bring someone back to life. For Rogue One, Lucasfilm got permission from Cushing’s estate to include Grand Moff Tarkin, but an argument could also be made that having his character in the movie was essential. If another actor were to play the part, it would have unnecessarily taken the audience out of the movie.
Then there's the question of whether Discovery has enough money to pull it off. Bringing Cushing back to life was reportedly expensive and time-consuming, which are both drawbacks for the new Star Trek series. It's already expected to premiere this fall on the fledgling platform CBS All Access, so it doesn't have the time or money to invest in this kind of endeavor. CGI could be used for the Star Trek movies, but that ship has already sailed in a way after the latest movie Star Trek Beyond confirmed the older Spock's death in the Kelvin timeline. There may not be place for Nimoy's Spock at this time, but it's nice to know that the possibility is out there.
Star Trek: Discovery is expected to premiere on CBS and CBS All-Access in late summer/early fall of 2017.