The nineties were very nearly a much busier time for Peter Capaldi. Fans have long been aware that Capaldi’s first shot at playing the Doctor came nearly twenty years before he stepped into Matt Smith’s tattered frock coat, when he answered auditioned for the eighth incarnation of the Time Lord (a role that – for the moment, at least – went to Paul McGann). But as it turns out, the Doctor wasn’t the only high profile genre role for which Capaldi was in the running…
For the last year and a half, the trekdocs Twitter account has specialized in sharing memos, conceptual sketches, and other ephemera from the production of the various ‘Star Trek’ series. The documents offer a fascinating insight into the production process, and some still bring exciting new revelations even after twenty years. The latest such document is a set of notes from an early series of UK auditions, consisting of a list of actors who tried out and the roles for which they read.
The list begins with Siddig El Fadil’s audition for the role of Amoros. El Fadil, of course, would ultimately be cast and the character’s name changed to Bashir and was also briefly a potential Sisko. From there, it includes a number of actors who tried out for the part of Commander Sisko. Chief among these, of course, is none other than the Twelfth Doctor himself, Peter Capaldi. But it doesn’t end there. The list of would-be Siskos also includes another surprising name: everyone’s favorite Watcher (though at the time he would have been everyone’s favorite coffee pitchman), Anthony Stewart Head. See if you can spot any other familiar names on the list:
— trekdocs (@trekdocs) September 7, 2017
But wait, it gets better. Not long after the document was posted, the official Twitter account for the upcoming ‘Deep Space Nine’ documentary ‘What We Left Behind’ provided the icing on the cake. You see, the producers of that documentary have access to all sorts of archival footage, including the original audition tapes. While the footage itself has yet to be made public, thanks to them we have the following screenshots from Head and Capaldi’s auditions. Now we just need some intrepid fan to Photoshop them into Starfleet uniforms.
Of course, the real question in all of this is how close any of these people actually got to winning the role. Well, while he doesn’t mention Capaldi (or anyone else) by name, showrunner Ira Steven Behr did recently comment on Sisko’s casting in conversation with TrekMovie. Regarding whether or not Sisko was intended from the start to be African-American, Behr had this to say:
“When Michael Piller started his insidious plan to bring me back into the fold – so sitting together at baseball games, when he mentioned it to me, he mentioned it to me as an African-American captain. Some people say that is too specific and that it was definitely going to be a brown person, definitely not a Caucasion. They hadn’t necessarily locked into that person being African-American.
I actually have some of the auditions and some were sent in from England from some very good British actors. So they were covering on all fronts, but I think that was all just due diligence. It was always going to be a brown captain.”
That being the case, it certainly seems as though Capaldi was never seriously considered for the role. And honestly, that may be for the best. While Capaldi is a wonderful actor (as is Head, for that matter), it’s nearly impossible to imagine ‘Deep Space Nine’ without the gravitas that Avery Brooks brought to the lead role. There’s also the fact that casting a British actor as the captain would fly in the face of the show’s efforts in those early days to set itself apart from ‘The Next Generation’, with which it would share the airwaves for its first two seasons. And all of that is without getting into the issue of representation and the undeniable importance of a ‘Star Trek’ show with an African-American in the lead role.
But what if Capaldi had been cast? Can you imagine what form the ‘Deep Space Nine’ might have taken with the future Time Lord at the helm? Let us know in the comments and be sure to check back with ScienceFiction.com for more ‘Star Trek’ content as we gear up for the premiere of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ on September 24, 2017!