Star Trek fans everywhere are rightly thrilled over the recently announced spin-off subtitled Strange New Worlds, which will see star Anson Mount return to play Captain Christopher Pike for a set of all-new adventures on the U.S.S. Enterprise opposite Ethan Peck's Spock and Rebecca Romijn's Number One that seem primed to explore the early days of the famous starship.
Christopher Pike debuted in Season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery, taking over the helm of the titular ship after its previous captain turned out to be an evil Mirror Universe clone bent on destruction and world domination. Maybe it was just that Pike arrived on the scene in the wake of Jason Isaacs' Gabriel Lorca, who was kind of a huge jerk even before the show revealed that he was literally a monster from an alternate universe, but from his first moments onscreen, Mount's Pike is mesmerizing. He exudes goodness, warmth, and sunny, hopeful charm as if he were a recruitment poster for the ideals of Starfleet and the United Federation of Planets come to life.
It also doesn't hurt that he's both movie-star attractive and almost completely unaware of it. Modesty is hot, y'all.
As a character, Pike is remarkable for his aggressive normalness. Whereas James Kirk, the man who would one day inherit command of his starship — and become the blueprint for a large piece of the Star Trek universe that would follow — is a flashy and bombastic leader with an eye for the ladies and a dismissive attitude toward any Starfleet officer who isn't in his inner circle, Pike is... none of those things. Kirk becomes a captain by simply being gifted enough to be the best at everything he does; Pike puts in the work. He's a hero, but he's also a man who arrives at that designation by taking the long way around.
Captain Pike is kind, fair, and caring. He listens to his crew, values the opinions of others, and takes a hands-on approach to staff training, just not in a "Kirk hooking up with all the female crew members" kind of way. (And more's the pity on that point, honestly. We haven't even seen him shirtless yet!) He's everything we want in a leader, particularly in these perilous and difficult times when the ones we have seem to possess so few of these qualities. Mount's performance makes the character feel almost aspirational, particularly his quiet determination to the good of others over his own future, retrieving a time crystal that saves all sentient life but dooms him to an irrevocable future of radiation disfigurement and physical agony. It's not just the right choice for a Star Trek captain, but the one we hope we'd find the strength to makes ourselves too.
Mount himself exudes a similar everyman charm — from the rustic quarantine beard he's been sporting during the coronavirus lockdown to his Instagram-documented home improvement projects and dog photos. His podcast The Well is a mix of the artistic and the real, ranging from deep dives with fellow industry creatives about the process of how they make stuff to uncomfortable conversations about systemic racism and white supremacy.
And as an avowed geek himself — Mount is a self-professed Trekkie and believer in the service-oriented ethos espoused by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry — he's thrown himself into the world of Trek fandom with honestly adorable enthusiasm. From joining the Trek convention circuit to sharing fan art online, his enthusiasm for the series' universe and the joy he feels at actually getting to be part of it professionally has been both a palpable and deeply relatable thing.
Plus, in case you didn't know, Star Trek isn't the first time that Mount's played the man we needed at the exact moment we needed him most. In fact, over the course of his twenty-some year career, Mount has kept right on resurfacing as a Gen-X emotional lodestone, letting us crush on him as everything from a teenage hunk to a tortured former soldier and a superhero who was an extremely literal strong-but-silent type along the way. Across his array of roles — which clearly run the gamut in both content and tone — is a certain rugged hunk appeal, an extension of that same everyman vibe that makes his characters feel familiar and deeply relatable, whether they're outlaws, super-powered aliens, or iconic Starfleet captains.
The 2002 film Crossroads is memorable primarily because it marks the feature film debut of pop music icon Britney Spears. A fairly generic road trip movie, it was savaged by critics but made over $60 million dollars at the box office and introduced Mount to a widespread audience as Britney's broody, leather-cuff-wearing love interest, Ben. (The early 2000s were a weird time.)
Now, this isn't a role that required a tremendous amount of nuance or acting skill, but Mount did what he needed to do, which is to be the designated "bad boy" who loved rock and roll but actually did turn out to be a strong, supportive partner underneath. (Don't judge, back when I occupied the ideal target demographic for this movie, I still believed this was possible.) And while Ben may have been the film equivalent of a Tiger Beat poster — Mount does look adorable snuggled up with Miss Britney Jean — I still left the theater thinking love made him a better man.
From Mount's breakout role as ex-Confederate soldier Cullen Bohannon in AMC period Western Hell on Wheels to his turn as Black Bolt on Marvel's mercifully short-lived superhero series Inhumans, he is an actor who brings a similar soft yearning to many of the characters he plays, no matter how hard they're supposed to be. And it turns out that hunky dudes trying their best is apparently my Kryptonite, even if one of them turns out to be a revenge murderer and the other can't speak lest his voice levels a city.
Volumes of text could be written about the failure of Inhumans, but even as its easy to both recognize its awfulness and be furious that we were denied the chance to really see Mount play a superhero in a way that's worthy of his talents. But then again, maybe Black Bolt had to die so Christopher Pike could live. And perhaps Mount was always meant to play a hero who was a bit more like a regular guy after all — just one who was showing us the final frontier.