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“Star Trek” has a history of bringing in unexpected stars, all drawn to the franchise by their passion for the source material. And with the latest iteration, “Star Trek: Discovery,” that tradition has continued in a number of respects, but none more interesting than the casting of Tig Notaro as engineer Jett Reno, introduced in the first episode of Season 2 and who proved to be a delightful presence over the course of the following episodes.
Notaro is best known as a stand-up comic whose riffs on her cancer battle and pop culture ephemera eventually led to the critically-acclaimed Amazon series “One Mississippi,” which ran for two seasons before its unfortunate cancelation. Her low-key but raw and honest work in “One Mississippi” was not one that might obviously lead to an appearance on the newest edition of the sci-fi icon, but she happened to have a decades-old relationship with “Discovery” showrunner Alex Kurtzman, who created the character of Jett specifically for her. “He knows my voice really well,” Notaro told IndieWire in 2018. “My character, I’m telling you, the writing that was done for my character is just spectacular.”
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What’s fascinating is that while Notaro’s work on “Discovery” might feel somewhat unconventional, it actually invokes one of the great classic “Star Trek” characters — Dr. Leonard McCoy, first played by DeForest Kelley and later emulated by Karl Urban. While Jett Reno is officially an engineer, she uses her technical expertise to keep her marooned crewmates alive after the crash of her original ship, the Hiawatha. More importantly, she brings that same irreverent energy, that refusal to deny basic facts, that made McCoy so iconic to the original series. While the language is a bit more modern for the era, it’s not hard to imagine Jett growling “get off my ****” while in...
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