SYDNEY - The new cast of "Star Trek" has launched the starship Enterprise on its maiden voyage, with the crew showing a lot of respect for their predecessors.

The 11th big-screen film in the sci-fi series had its world premiere Tuesday at the Sydney Opera House in Australia in advance of its debut in theatres May 8.

Among the stars on hand: Chris Pine, who takes on William Shatner's old role as James Kirk; Zachary Quinto, who inherits Leonard Nimoy's Mr. Spock; Karl Urban, filling the shoes of DeForest Kelley's Dr. McCoy; and Eric Bana, who plays a villainous Romulan.

Out of admiration for the original Kirk, Pine noted that when he was cast, he wrote Shatner a "letter of introduction and said who I was and what I was doing."

Quinto had a chance to form a personal relationship with Nimoy, who reprises his role as the older Spock. The new Spock said he aims to carve out his own path as the Vulcan scientist with the pointed ears.

"Leonard and I have become very close in this process and his experience has been unique to him and mine will be unique to me," Quinto said.

Directed by J.J. Abrams, "Star Trek" is a prequel to the 1960s TV series and the subsequent movies, relating how Enterprise Capt. Kirk, best buddy Spock and their Enterprise crewmates first came together.

John Cho, who plays Mr. Sulu, said he avoided imitating the performance of his predecessor, George Takei.

"I didn't think it would be wise to do a copy of George Takei's performance," Cho said. "It just didn't seem like the right thing to do, and J.J. didn't ask me to do that, so I avoided it."

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