Remembering Christopher Plummer — General Chang from Star Trek VI

Christopher Plummer as General Chang
Christopher Plummer as General Chang

A legendary actor has passed today, known for his roles from the Sound of Music to Knives Out. Christopher Plummer died at the age of 91, and will be remembered for all of those roles which made him so famous the world over. But for Star Trek fans, he’ll always be the nemesis of Captain Kirk in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered County.

According to Deadline, Plummer “spent the past 75 years as a stalwart of stage and screen, the latter of which covered more than 100 films.”

“Chris Plummer was really the treat that I wanted,” said Nicholas Meyer, writer and director of Star Trek VI. Meyer spoke about how the part of Chang was written specifically for Plummer in an interview included on the Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Blu-ray extras disc. Meyer has seen Plummer perform in various Shakespeare productions through the years. Meyer used Shakespeare throughout the film, and Chang was the character who said many of those lines.

“I said I’m writing the part of General Chang for Chris Plummer,” said Meyer. “You have to get me Chris Plummer!”

Leonard Nimoy said that at first, Plummer did not want to take the part of Chang.

“I had to get on the phone with him several times… he had turned us down,” said Nimoy in the same video interview. “He was certainly a great choice… but we were turned down. There’s a certain kind of very good actor whose concerned about taking on this makeup and this persona of a bad guy in a Star Trek movie.”

“He wanted to find some way to say ‘OK, I think I can take this on,’ and make it worthwhile,” said Nimoy. “And he did!”

What many do not realize is that Plummer was a fellow Canadian, which was one of the reasons William Shatner interviewed and included him in his famous documentary, The Captains. In the documentary, Plummer said that his character in Star Trek VI, was a challenge.

Shatner interviewing Plummer for The Captains documentary in 2011. Courtesy of 455 Films
William Shatner interviewing Christopher Plummer for The Captains documentary in 2011. Courtesy of 455 Films

“It was a challenge to begin with because I didn’t want to look like every other Klingon,” Plummer to Shatner in The Captains. “We ran into great difficulty because … they said it was traditional to have all of this [the usual Klingon headpiece].”

“Finally, Nicholas [Meyer], who wrote that very witty tongue and cheek script, he stood up for me,” said Plummer. “The director stood up for me and I got my way — I didn’t have the long hair.”

When Plummer landed the role of Chang, he said that he relished it because it was a chance for an “upright, glamorous leading man to play a villain.”

“I was only jealous of David Warner (Chancellor Gorkon), who had the best line in the whole show, and I wished to hell General Chang could have said it, but it was David who said it,” said Plummer. “He said ‘You don’t know Shakespeare until you’ve heard it in the original Klingon’.”

BuzzFeed ranked General Chang as the third best villain in the Star Trek franchise.

Deadline reported that Christopher Plummer died at his home in Connecticut, with his wife [Elaine Taylor] of 53 years at his side.

Shatner comments on Plummer’s passing

In an interview on the CBC’s Power & Politics show, Shatner said that Plummer was “one of the most distinguished actors that lived anywhere. He was a magnificent actor and the parts that I knew of Chris Plummer were admirable.”