It is no exaggeration to say that the reason Star Trek is still being talked about 50 years after its premiere is because of the fans. When the original series was in danger of being cancelled after the second season, fans sprang into action (Possibly thanks to some prodding from Gene Roddenberry) and inundated NBC with letters. The show was renewed for a third season, which gave Star Trek enough episodes to reach syndication. And it was through syndication that the fandom grew even larger.
Over the years several celebrities have counted themselves among those fans. Certainly President Barack Obama has indicated his status as a Trekkie, and there’s the famous (among Trek fans) story of Stephen Hawking, who appeared in an episode, touring the sets of Star Trek: The Next Generation. He indicated the warp drive and stated, “I’m working on that.” This quote was later used by William Shatner as the title for his book about how Star Trek was affecting science. Rihanna has stated that she has been a fan since her father introduced her to the show when she was a kid, and she provided a song for the Star Trek Beyond soundtrack.
A TOS episode was written for Milton Berle, who wanted to appear on the show, but the script for the episode, “He Walked Among Us,” never came together. Eddie Murphy is also reportedly a fan, and early versions of the script for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home included a character written for him. The TNG episode “A Matter of Time“ was written for fan Robin Williams, but he was unable to appear due to his commitment to Hook. And Trekkie Tom Hanks had to turn down the role of Zefram Cochrane in Star Trek: First Contact because he was directing That Thing You Do!
Mila Kunis has stated in interviews that she is a fan and that she and Family Guy creator and star Seth MacFarlane argue about their lists ordering their favorite Star Trek series. MacFarlane took it a step farther and appeared in two episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise as a minor character, Engineer Stewart Rivers. King Abdullah II of Jordan appeared in Star Trek: Voyager, as did avowed fan Jason Alexander, and Mick Fleetwood, buried in tons of makeup as a humanoid fish alien, cameoed on TNG. Christian Slater’s mother was the casting director for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and he was able to convince her to give him a small role as an officer on the USS Excelsior in the film.
Kelsey Grammer is also a big Star Trek fan and showed up as Captain Morgan Bateson in the TNG episode “Cause and Effect.” He and the rest of the Frasier cast were also due to appear in a skit in the Star Trek: 30 Years and Beyond special celebrating the 30th anniversary of Star Trek back in 1996. Grammer, who was dealing with personal issues at the time, was unable to appear, but the rest of the cast members, David Hyde Pierce, Jane Leeves, Peri Gilpin, John Mahoney, and Moose the dog, all went on with the show with Kate Mulgrew jumping in at the last minute to play Captain Janeway in the skit instead. It’s a fun bit and available HERE. Or if you want to see the entire special, it is HERE.
Perhaps the most famous occurrence of a celebrity fan appearing in Star Trek is Whoopi Goldberg, who as a child was inspired by Nichelle Nichols’ character Uhura on TOS. When she learned that Star Trek was returning, she asked to be on the show, leading to the character of Guinan, who appeared in over 20 episodes of TNG and in two of the films.
The new films have not had as many opportunities for celebrity fan cameos, but, with Star Trek returning to television next year with Star Trek: Discovery, that could change. Maybe Tom Hanks will get his chance after all.
- Alan Decker
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