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How Star Trek: Discovery's Spock differs from the classic Nimoy take

It's more than the beard.

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It's a whole new Spock on Discovery. 

CBS

It takes only a split second to see what sets apart Star Trek: Discovery's Spock from Leonard Nimoy's classic take on The Original Series.

That scruffy facial hair.

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Both Nimoy and Zachary Quinto, who played Spock in the new movies, largely played the character as the clean-cut, logical science officer for the Enterprise. That's not what we'll get with Discovery's Spock, played by Ethan Peck.

"This is the unwritten chapter of a period of time for Spock that could only be told on this season of Star Trek Discovery," Alex Kurtzman, co-executive producer and showrunner for the show, said in an interview in October.

The embrace of elements like Spock, Capt. Christopher Pike and the starship Enterprise underscores Discovery's deeper dive into the Star Trek canon. While the first season of the show danced around bits of well-trodden Star Trek lore, Discovery seems unafraid to go all-in on the legacy aspects in the upcoming season, which starts Jan. 17.

And although Kurtzman said the show will respect the canon, it's clear that this Spock won't be the one you know.

Spock before Spock

Though Kurtzman confirmed that Spock would appear in the second season of Discovery, back in July during San Diego Comic-Con, fans didn't get to glimpse the new take on the famed Vulcan until October in a trailer released for New York Comic-Con.

The reaction in the crowd was noticeable, with audible gasps heard when the grizzled Spock first appeared on screen at the Madison Square Garden Theater.

"The beard is an external manifestation of his dishevelment," Peck said in an interview.

The actor, grandson of Gregory Peck, with credits like the television adaptation of 10 Things I Hate About You and the voicing of characters in the Halo video game franchise, says his swings between emotion and logic are more dramatic than Nimoy's more subtle performance.

"He's Spock before Spock," Peck said, adding that you'll see glimpses of Nimoy's performance here and there. He called the Original Series Spock the "light at the end of the tunnel, the benchmark."

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Ethan Peck plays the new Spock in Star Trek: Discovery. 

CBS

Kurtzman warned that this Spock has yet to evolve into the character we see on TOS, so viewers shouldn't rush to judgment.

Peck, for his part, is bracing for the attention and scrutiny that comes from playing such an iconic character.

"It'll be really polarizing," he said. "My strategy is to do my absolute best. I'm pouring my heart and soul into this."

Spock and Burnham

One of the central mysteries left dangling from the first season was the nature of the relationship between Sonequa Martin-Green's Michael Burnham, the lead character in Discovery, and Spock.

Burnham was adopted by Sarek, Spock's father, yet she's never mentioned in TOS. That continuity gap left fans scratching their heads.

Spock isn't just a one-off guest star in the upcoming season -- both Peck and Green say the show will fully explore their "complicated" relationship.

"We delve very deeply into it, and we don't leave any stones unturned," Green said in an interview.

Kurtzman vows we'll get answers about why Burnham is never mentioned in the previous show.

Discovery returns on Jan. 17 on CBS All Access.

(Disclosure: CBS All Access is owned by CBS, the parent company of CNET.) 

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