Star Trek’s Next Great Villain Could Be Its Strangest

Superfan Paul Giamatti is entering the Final Frontier.

DECEMBER 7:  An evil Klingon in a scene from the filming of the movie "Star Trek: The Motion Picture...
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Star Trek

Even though the overall vibe of Star Trek is optimistic and aspirational, the Final Frontier sometimes needs to be rocked by a massive villain to tell a great story. Now, seven years after Star Trek: Discovery brought in Rain Wilson to reboot Harry Mudd, the franchise is once again snagging a super-fan big-name actor to break bad. As revealed by CBS Studios and Paramount+, Paul Giamatti will be a recurring guest star in the upcoming series Starfleet Academy.

This comes after years of Giamatti publicly mentioning that he’s always wanted to be part of Star Trek. While on a press tour for his most recent film, The Holdovers, Giamatti even recited his famous Sideways monologue about not drinking Merlot, but in fluent Klingon. Because Giamatti is confirmed as the villain of Starfleet Academy, will he be a Klingon? Or something else?

On the casting of Giamatti, Starfleet Academy co-showrunners Alex Kurtzman and Noga Landau said: “Sometimes you’re lucky enough to discover that one of the greatest actors alive is also a huge Star Trek fan, and meeting Paul was one of those miraculous moments for us.”

Paul Giamatti, a huge Trekkie, at the Oscars in 2024.

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In 2019, Giamatti told Stephen Colbert, “My dearest wish in the world as a child and until this moment is to be a Klingon.” We don’t actually know what the Klingons are up to in the 32nd-century context of Starfleet Academy, since zero Klingons appeared in Discovery after Season 2. This isn’t to say that Giamatti is a Klingon for sure (we don’t know yet), but the press release states he’s “a man with an ominous past connected to one of our cadets.” Whether he’s human or not isn’t clear. Yet.

More broadly, Giamatti’s casting is part of a Star Trek tradition of sorts, one that arguably started in 1982 when Ricardo Montalbán was brought back to play Khan in The Wrath of Khan, after introducing the character in The Original Series. From there, several Star Trek films cast guest villain actors, including Christopher Lloyd in The Search for Spock, Christopher Plummer in The Undiscovered Country, Malcolm McDowell in Generations, Alice Krige in First Contact, F. Murray Abraham in Insurrection, Tom Hardy in Nemesis, Eric Bana in Star Trek, Benedict Cumberbatch in Into Darkness, and Idris Elba in Beyond.

Amanda Plummer’s (Pulp Fiction) turn as Vadic in Star Trek: Picard Season 3 was the last big-name recurring guest villain on a Star Trek series. But again, the casting that feels the most similar to Giamatti joining Starfleet Academy was Rainn Wilson on Discovery. While fans can look forward to whatever Giamatti ends up doing, he joins a proud tradition of famous geeks who have boldly gone here before. Let’s just hope his character gets a chance to talk about the Picard family vineyards, and whether or not he has any intention of drinking Merlot in space.

Starfleet Academy is expected to debut in 2025.

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