The 13 greatest-ever Star Trek guest appearances
The Star Trek series have been a valuable haven for the actor looking to pick up an episode's worth of work or for the youngster to launch a career.
By the time Star Trek: The Next Generation hit its stride in the early 1990s, the ST fans among the acting world were also trying to get in on the guest appearances list for this show or the massive ensemble that was Deep Space Nine.
The list of notable guest appearances on the first six ST series runs far too long to be conveniently included here, so Star Trek Guide has chosen our favorites from ST history. Those making our top 13 were chosen for name recognition, memorableness of his/her character’s appearance and general weirdness – but mostly the weirdness. And the enumeration is strictly alphabetically ordered.
Jason Alexander as Kurros – Voyager, “Think Tank”
Jason Alexander’s first television gig after Seinfeld went of the air in 1998? This March ’99 episode of Star Trek: Voyager! This season 5 episode featured Alexander as Kurros, leader of a small band calling itself the “Think Tank” who flit about the galaxy offering to solve problems for a price. Naturally, Kurros’s plan turns out about as successfully as any of George Constanza’s schemes.
Joan Collins as Edith Keeler – TOS, “The City on the Edge of Forever”
No list like this is complete without mentioning the guest shot by the future bitchy vamp of über-popular 1980’s prime-time soap Dynasty. Collins must have acted out her kinder, gentler tendencies though her portrayal of Edith Keeler, an unsuspecting victim of history who charms Kirk in one of the all-time most beloved episode of any Star Trek series.
Ted Knight as the Vendorian captain – TAS, “The Survivor”
Ture, only the hardest of hardcores would have identified the high-profile TV comedian and co-star of the classic Caddyshack, providing as he did the voice work for a shape-shifting Vendorian, clearly a refugee from the He-Man and She-Ra series, who mostly assumes the guise of Carter Winston.
Mick Fleetwood as the Antedian dignitary – TNG, “Manhunt”
How much prove do you need that Fleetwood Mac’s drummer is a devoted Star Trek fan? Not only does he get a completely gratuitous line of dialogue referencing the show in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film The Running Man, he took the role of an Antedian dignitary in which he’s completely unrecognizable. Seriously, if you spotted Fleetwood as the one-eyed, gray tree-looking alien when this episode aired in 1989, you’re at least part Betazoid.
Kelsey Grammer as Captain Morgan Bateson – TNG, “Cause and Effect”
How big was The Next Generation at its height? Big enough to snag Kelsey Grammer between co-starring in two top-ranked shows in America – Cheers and Frasier – in 1992. As the baffled Captain Bateson (hey, he was trapped in a time loop for, like 90 years), Grammer appears on-screen in “Cause and Effect” for about two minutes, but nevertheless subsequently inspired ST novels starring the character. (Though quite a cool cameo, the sad background story is that the role was originally written for Grammer’s Cheers buddy Kirstie Alley to reprise her Wrath of Khan role as Saavik.)
Stephen Hawking as himself – TNG, “Descent”
An unabashed Star Trek fanatic, Hawking features in the opening scene of this season 6 episode, besting Newton, Einstein and Data in a hand of poker. Hawking remains the sole person ever to appear on any Star Trek series as himself, and this turn certainly led to the zillions of cameo appearances the astrophysicist has made on The Simpsons and Futurama.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the Pendari Champion – Voyager, “Tsunkatse”
“Do you smell what the Rock is replicating?!?!?” Okay, so Dwayne Johnson didn’t actually get to say that line in his appearance as “The Pendari Champion”, title-holder in the extreme extreme-fighting sport of the episode title. The Rock gets to get up close and personal with Seven of Nine, though it’s not quite as delicious as it sounds, as said closeness involves mostly trash-talking and serious gladiator stuff…
Ricardo Montalban as Khan Noonien Singh – TOS, “Space Seed”
As with Collins, Montalban is a must-include on any such list. His over-the-top acting and the butt-whipping he gives to Kirk was ultimately parlayed into ol’ Mr. Rourke’s most popular film ever, Star Trek II. (And Wrath of Khan in turn surely led to his part as the baddie in The Naked Gun.)
Bebe Neuwirth as Nurse Linel – TNG, “First Contact”
Before Kelsey Grammer put in his ST:TNG cameo, his TV wife was. A huge ST fan herself, Neuwirth appealed to the show’s producers, who got a part specifically written in for her within the excellent “First Contact” (not to be confused with the ST movie of the same name). Neuwirth absolutely kills it in the tiny role, stretching her comedic chops to play a (just slightly) kinky alien. Incidentally, if you pay attention to the episode, you’ll note that studly Commander Riker in fact take up Nurse Linel on her offer of first contact of a different sort…
Joe Piscopo as The Comic – TNG, “The Outrageous Okuna”
Now at least two generations’ worth of Americans don’t realize that Joe Piscopo was once one of the leads on Saturday Night Live. Piscopo’s cameo on The Next Generation is notable for quite possibly the worst typecasting on any ST series: Piscopo plays a hologram created by Data to represent a distillation of great 20th-century humor – except that Brent Spiner comes off as ten times more hilarious and he’s not even breaking a sweat.
Iggy Pop as Yelgrun – DS9, “The Magnificent Ferengi”
Iggy gets some good exchanges (so to speak) with Quark and his lot on Deep Space Nine. Ultimately, the rocker gets a few good lines and acquits himself well. His character Yelgrun isn’t incredibly memorable, but you know he’s making this list because, well, it’s Iggy Pop, man!
Wallace Shawn as Zek The Grand Nagus – DS9, “The Nagus”
Say the name “Wallace Shawn” to most and you’ll get a blank stare; even the namedrop of My Dinner with Andre won’t ring a bell with the great majority. But just say “inconceivable!” in a certain tone of voice and bam, there’s the recognition. Technically, Shawn’s work as the Nagus is no more guest appearance, as he was so wildly popular in the role of the Grand Nagus that he was invited back for at least one episode in six of Deep Space Nine’s seven seasons.
James Worthy as Koral – TNG, “Gambit”
Before this episode of ST:TNG, no one knew whether former Los Angeles Laker great James Worthy could act. Aaaaaaaand we still don’t, for all the script called on Worthy to do was to look like a very large, tall, menacing Klingon, which he does very well. Worthy’s sole line in the script (repeated several times)? “No.” Actually incredibly funny work here.