LOS ANGELES—Before he tackled the final frontier, before he went to a galaxy far, far away and completed missions impossible, Simon Pegg wrote and starred in a TV show called Spaced. The comedy, about a pair of strangers who pose as a couple in order to secure an apartment, lasted only two seasons at the turn of the millennium. But Tim Bisley, the character Pegg played on that program, has been on his creator’s mind lately.
“There’s a line in Spaced where Tim says, ‘As sure as eggs is eggs, as sure as day follows night, as sure as every odd-numbered Star Trek movie is shit,’ ” Pegg says at a Los Angeles hotel news conference. “I wrote that in 1998, I think. And here we are in 2016 and I’ve written an odd-numbered Star Trek movie.”
For Star Trek Beyond, the third installment of the latest Trek reboot, Pegg not only reprised his role as ship technician Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, he also took on writing duties with Doug Jung. And although navigating the universe of Vulcans and Klingons was a bit harder than traversing the cultural life of Vancouver, where the film was shot—Pegg used the Georgia Straight to aid with the latter, and yes, consider us flattered—the “formerly European, now just British” actor thinks he pulled it off.
“I’m happy to say that Tim was wrong,” Pegg declares. “It’s an incredible thing to look back on that, having grown up as a fan of Star Trek and science fiction, to now be participating in such an active way. I tried to just make the kind of Star Trek movie that Tim Bisley would like.…We wanted to embody the original show, instill it with what made Star Trek great, but also frame it in a big-movie way, which is a luxury they never had back in the day. They had to make these wonderful little teleplays that couldn’t rely on special effects. Now we can do both, and I was always thinking: ‘What would Tim Bisley think?’ ”
In addition to Beyond, Pegg filmed both Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol and Hector and the Search for Happiness in Vancouver, and in a private interview with the Straight, he shares some hazy recollections of filming Beyond in Lotus Land. “When we made the first two, they were in L.A., so everybody at the end of each day, we’d just go home and we all had our various places to go to,” he says. “Whereas in Vancouver, we were all away from home, so it was like, ‘Let’s go meet at CinCin. Let’s go to such and such,’ a bar or club. We had some crazy nights. It’s fun walking down Granville at 4 o’clock in the morning on a Saturday.”
On a more serious note, the actor makes it clear that he’s happy whenever he hears that he’s heading to Vancouver, acknowledging the talented film crews and the convenience a temperate rainforest brings. “It’s always a relief, because I know I’m going somewhere I really like,” he says. “The crews there, particularly my hair and makeup people, if I know I’m working there I pray that it’ll be them on the job. It’s just such a great city. It’s so self-contained. We were living downtown and we walked to a football match. We went to see the Women’s World Cup and we just walked there. You can pretty much walk everywhere.”
No photos of Pegg and company scrambling down the Granville Strip made it to social media, but the actor was spotted numerous times in Vancouver, often interacting with fans. Since Pegg abandoned his popular Twitter account a couple of years ago—he handed it off to his assistant and publicist—relating to fans in other ways has been important. Ultimately, he felt as if Twitter had started to put him in an uncomfortable situation.
“I felt like I’d given the world my phone number,” Pegg says. “You’re very available on Twitter. Also, every time somebody died, you felt like you had to say something, and when you did, it would get taken away for copy in magazines and TV shows.”
Still, some things don’t change, no matter how much you try to avoid social media. Pegg’s Twitter page is currently adorned with a photo of Anton Yelchin, the Russian-born actor who played Chekov in all three installments of the series. Yelchin passed away last month in a freak automobile accident.
“I couldn’t not do something,” the actor says, visibly distressed. “My feelings: it was too hard to articulate what to say. I wanted it to be known that I wasn’t blithely carrying on with my life. I lost one of my great friends.”
Pegg was born 19 years before Yelchin, and it’s fair to ask the Brit, a self-proclaimed science-fiction nerd, what’s still left for him to accomplish in the world of film. It’s clear that he has already thought about it.
“After I’d finished Star Trek,” he recalls, “I came home from Dubai [the film’s other location] and went, ‘Well, I’ve been in Star Wars and I’ve written Star Trek, what do I want to do now?’ But the truth is, my dream is really to make movies, whatever they are, and to keep doing that. I realized that’s what my real dream is. It’s been fantastic to be part of these big stories, and I want to keep doing that. I hope I can be in Star Trek forever, as long as they’ll let me be, but I want to do smaller stuff and diverse things and write and direct. I want to keep evolving and moving forward. But it’s nice to have your dreams come true.”
Tim Bisley would probably say so, yeah.