No matter which part of the franchise, there's something the Star Trek production teams were always great at: bringing back actors they'd already worked with for different roles. Merritt Butrick was Kirk's son David and T'Jon on The Next Generation, Marc Alaimo was a Romulan on TNG before becoming Gul Dukat on Deep Space Nine, Suzie Plakson was Worf's lover K'Ehlayr as well as a Vulcan, a Q, and an Andorian. The list goes on, and it's a lot longer than you'd imagine.
For the purposes of keeping the list surprising, we're leaving out all the main cast members who appeared as different characters in other series or movies. We've made one exception for someone who was a regular cast member for one season, but already had a history with the original series. Feel free to guess before scrolling down!
Some of these are no-brainers and some will hopefully give you that "who knew?" sense of discovery. And speaking of Discovery, let's hope we get to see a of these actors there, too! Here are 19 Actors Who Played Multiple Roles on Star Trek.
19 Tony Todd
Tony Todd is a horror movie veteran, particularly loved by fans as the title character in Candyman and Ben in Night of the Living Dead. But he's also a big man in the Star Trek world, having played three different characters in three different series.
He's best known as Kurn, who was on both Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. Kurn is Worf's brother, the other son of Mogh, and uncle to Alexander. He also played a grown-up Jake Sisko in the moving DS9 episode "The Visitor," where we visit an alternate timeline in which Benjamin Sisko died young and Jake, now a writer, has never come to terms with it. And finally, in the Voyager episode "Prey," he played a wounded Hirogen determined to track and kill a member of Species 8472 that was loose on the ship. Todd had already dealt with intense make-up as Kurn, but being a Hirogen meant over four hours of prep for both make-up and costume, and the need to know about any bathroom urges a minimum of 20 minutes in advance.
He's still active on the Star Trek convention circuit, and gave an interview in February saying he's on a possible casting list for Star Trek: Discovery.
18 Jeffrey Combs
If it looks like one of Jeffrey Combs' characters is in there twice, that's because the one he played the most, a Vorta named Weyoun, was a clone, and we saw five different Weyouns during Deep Space Nine's run. He deserves two slots in the photo pool.
Combs first auditioned to play Riker on TNG, and while he didn't get the part, producers obviously liked him because he has played seven different characters across three series, appearing in a grand total of 43 different Star Trek episodes. In photo order, so you can play along, he started as Tiron on Deep Space Nine, a customer of Quark's, then played the greedy Ferengi Brunt. Weyoun #4 was next, and he or one of his clones remained a recurring character for the rest of the show's run. Then he was Kevin Mulkahey, on Earth in the 1950s, as part of a vision the Prophets gave to Sisko.
Then he moved over to Voyager, where he was Penk, who kidnapped Seven of Nine and made her fight in the arena against The Rock. Along came Star Trek: Enterprise, and he became Shran, the Andorian commander who slowly formed a friendship with Jonathan Archer. He also found himself in Ferengi make-up as Krem, looking for treasure on the Enterprise. Among all of these, he still says Weyoun was his favorite.
17 Diana Muldaur
Fans who didn't start watching Trek until The Next Generation only know her as Dr. Katherine Pulaski, the doctor who stepped in for a season in place of Beverly Crusher. Once behind-the-scenes issues were resolved, Crusher returned, and Pulaski was off on her next adventure. But original Trek fans remember her as two pretty pivotal guest stars.
The first was astrobiologist Ann Mulhall, who was summoned to a planet's underground chamber with Kirk and Spock to let the aliens Sargon, Thalassa, and Henoch borrow their bodies for a little while. Things went south quickly, but in the meantime, she got to have a few make-out sessions with Kirk, culminating in the moment when Sargon and Thalassa gave them their bodies back mid-embrace. Awkward!
The second was Dr. Miranda Jones, the blind woman with the sensor web who had studied mental discipline techniques on Vulcan and was traveling with Kollos, the Medusan ambassador whose very appearance would drive humans mad if they caught a glimpse. Being blind had its uses in this one, and her sensor web was the predecessor to Geordi's VISOR.
16 Robert Knepper
It's hard to believe that guy with the long flowing locks and the nice expression on his face is most famous as Prison Break's "T-Bag," leader of the Aryan gang and pedophile. He was much, much nicer than that as Wyatt Miller on the TNG episode "Haven." Miller and Deanna Troi were supposed to get married, thanks to an arrangement by their parents, and both were willing to go through with it despite their mutual feeling of "meh" about the whole thing. Luckily, he found the true woman of his dreams instead, and Troi stayed on the Enterprise.
Knepper returned again in Star Trek: Voyager, this time playing a character with more bite. He was Gaul, a Vaadwaur who had spent over nine hundred years in stasis and came out fighting. He offered to help Voyager find a subspace corridor that would cut years off their journey home, but of course, was secretly planning to take over the ship. If they'd only watched Prison Break, they would've seen it coming.
15 Penny Johnson Jerald
Penny Johnson Jerald was both Larry Sanders' assistant Beverly, who managed his ego and maintained her own non-show biz moral code at the same time, and David Palmer's manipulating wife (then ex-wife) Sherry on 24. On TNG, she played Dobara, Worf's sister-in-law, sort of. His brother Nikolai Rozhenko (played by Paul Sorvino), assigned to her planet as an observer, had fallen in love with her and they were about to have a child together, a massive violation of the Prime Directive. But family's family.
Her bigger contribution was as freighter captain Kassidy Yates, frequent visitor to DS9. Jake Sisko set her up with his dad, and the two fell in love (after the usual ups and downs, like Yates being sent to prison for a while). They married, and she got pregnant, which would have worked out nicely had Sisko not joined the Prophets at the Celestial Temple at the end of the series.
Johnson Jerald did 15 episodes as Yates, who was hopefully something of a surrogate mother to Jake after his father left to go hang with the Prophets.
14 Paul Winfield
Paul Winfield, an actor with a long and impressive history in film and TV (including the first Terminator movie), first appeared in the Star Trek universe as Captain Clark Terrell in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. He was Chekov's commanding officer, and deserved a much better fate than what he got: after his mind was taken over by one of Khan's crawly little ear-slugs, he betrayed Kirk (against his will) and almost killed him. At the last minute, despite the slug, he couldn't bring himself to fire on the Admiral, so he shot himself instead.
He returned to Trek in one of the most memorable and quotable of all TNG episodes, "Darmok." He's a Tamarian captain, and Tamarians only communicate through allegory. A shaky premise, but a terrific episode, as he and Picard faced a vicious beast together and had to learn how to speak to each other. "Darmok and Jilad at Tinagra," is the battle they fought, and we got more great quotes like "Temba, his arms open," and "Shaka, when the walls fell," before Winfield's character, Dathon, was killed.
13 13. Joseph Ruskin
Joseph Ruskin's distinctive voice will give you a jolt when you hear it popping out of all these different aliens' mouths. A veteran of classic movies and TV shows, he first hit Star Trek in 1968 in "The Gamesters of Triskeilion." He played the unforgettable Galt, the Master Thrall who controlled the pain collars worn by Kirk, Chekov, and Uhura.
Sharp ears would recognize him again in as the Klingon, Tumek, in two episodes of Deep Space Nine, initially presiding over Quark's involuntary wedding to the Klingon Grilka. He returned to the show later as Odo's Cardassian informant, seen only in the shadows, but again, instantly familiar once he spoke. Next he turned up on the big screen in Star Trek: Insurrection, as a Son'a officer—one of the bad guys.
He made his way over to Voyager next, playing a Vulcan master in one of Tuvok's flashbacks to his childhood. And finally, he played a Suliban doctor on the premiere episode of Enterprise, "Broken Bow." The only show he missed was TNG.
12 Casey Biggs
Casey Biggs, believe or not, plays in a band with a bunch of other Star Trek acting vets, and like them, he's played multiple roles himself. The dominating one is Damar, the Cardassian military leader who served under Gul Dukat and eventually murdered his daughter, Ziyal. He led the Cardassians under the Dominion, then rebelled and led the rebellion against it. He was successful, in the end, although he died in the last few days of war, killed in mid-sentence.
He also appeared in as Dr. Wykoff in a vision of Benjamin Sisko's, again a villain as he tried to stop Sisko from writing the words that would free him from his vision and unlock the doors to a new Orb of the Prophets.
And finally, he turned up on Enterprise as an Illyrian Captain. Archer stole a warp coil from him, sentencing his ship to a much longer journey home, and yes, Archer felt guilty about it, and yes, the Illyrian Captain was still SOL anyway.
11 Mark Lenard
Other than human, there are three dominant species across the Star Trek universe, and Mark Lenard played all of them.
He first appeared in the iconic original Trek episode "Balance of Terror," as a brilliant Romulan commander who matched wits, honorably, with Captain Kirk. He was asked to come back and play Abraham Lincoln in "The Savage Curtain," but he had a steady TV gig at the time and couldn't do it.
Most importantly, he was Sarek, Spock's father. We first saw him in the original series' "Journey to Babel," and he returned as Sarek in the Animated Series, four Star Trek movies, and two episodes of The Next Generation.
When Star Trek: The Motion Picture came up, he asked to come back as Sarek, but that didn't fit into the existing storyline. They still wanted him in there, so he played Klingon Captain whose ship was destroyed by the V'Ger probe.
Lenard died in 1996, and was tributed in the 2009 Star Trek reboot, when one of the Starfleet officials presiding over James T. Kirk's hearing for cheating on the Kobiyashi Maru test was given the actor's name.
10 Carolyn Seymour
British actress Carolyn Seymour has played four different Star Trek characters across five episodes. We first saw her as Sub-Commander Taris on TNG, a Romulan suspicious of the Enterprise but in need of their help. She then played Mirasta Yale, a Malcorian astronomer who was thrilled to discovery that extraterrestrial life existed when a "First Contact" mission from Riker went awry. When her planet's leader admitted they weren't ready for true contact, she left with the Enterprise. Why her character was never mentioned again, we don't know; she would have had interesting stories to tell. She donned Romulan ears once more as Commander Torth in "Face of the Enemy," the episode where Troi was kidnapped and altered to look Romulan.
She moved over to Voyager next, twice playing Mrs. Templeton, a character in one of Janeway's lamer holo-novels. She was always a foil for Janeway, and made the stories featuring Lord Burleigh slightly more palatable with her sharp voice and withering looks.
9 David Warner
David Warner once went head-to-head with Malcolm McDowell (also a Star Trek villain) in the 1979 flick Time After Time, but on Star Trek, he started out as perhaps the only (named) character in the franchise who smoked cigarettes. He was St. John Talbot in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, who succumbed to the influence of Spock's half-brother Sybok.
He returned, more memorably, as Klingon chancellor Gorkon in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, murdered just before a peace conference between the Klingon Empire and the Federation. Kirk and McCoy are charged with his murder, and sent to a Klingon prison, then eventually rescued and absolved of the crime.
But most memorable of all was when he was the menacing Gul Madred in the TNG two-parter "Chain of Command." He interrogated a captured Captain Picard, using drugs and then torture to get the information he wanted. Those were some of the most intense scenes ever done on the series, especially when the two battled over Madred's Orwellian request that Picard admit to seeing five lights behind him when there were only four.
8 Michelle Forbes
Forbes may be the only actress or actor who repeatedly turned down offers to become a regular Star Trek cast member.
Her first appearance was on TNG as the daughter of Timicin, a scientist (played by M*A*S*H's David Ogden Stiers) who had reached the age at which his species commits ritual suicide. When Lwaxana Troi convinced him to buck tradition and live, it's Forbes' Dara who talked him back into kicking his own bucket.
The next season, she was cast as Ensign Ro Laren, a disgraced Starfleet officer and the first Bajoran we ever met. In her time on the Enterprise, she had a sexual tryst with Riker (when they all lost their memories), got temporarily turned into a child, and earned the respect of the crew.
When DS9 was starting up, Forbes was asked to join the cast as Ro, but she didn't want to get locked into a series, and turned it down. The character was changed to Kira Nerys, played by Nana Visitor. History repeated itself when Voyager started up, and again, Forbes said thanks but no thanks. Too bad; Ro was an intriguing, fun character.
7 Vaughn Armstrong
Vaughn Armstrong for the win! Armstrong played 11 separate characters over four different series, appearing in a grand total of 28 episodes. He's appeared on every series except the original one, which was in production when he was a teenager. Like Jeffrey Combs, he auditioned to play Riker, and even though he didn't get it, the Star Trek casting team kept him busy.
We put the photos in order, so you can follow along. He was Korris on TNG, the first male Klingon we saw after Worf. He was a Cardassian, Danar, on Deep Space Nine, then Romulan Telek R'Mor on Voyager, then went Cardassian again to become Seskal on DS9. Back to Voyager next, to play Lansor, formerly Two of Nine (of Borg).
Row two: This time on Voyager, he was a Vidiian captain and a Hirogen, then wrapped things up on that show as Korath (Klingon) in the final episode. Enterprise came up next, where he was a Klingon, a Kreetassian Captain, and the recurring character of Admiral Maxwell Forrest, for 12 episodes.
6 Clint Howard
Ron Howard's little brother Clint started acting at age one, on The Andy Griffith Show, in which Ron was co-starring as Opie. At age six, he got the role of Balok in the original series episode "The Corbomite Maneuver," the very first non-pilot episode of Trek produced, and one that really set the tone of the show much better than the episodes that aired before it.
He reprised the role 40 years later at Comedy Central's roast of William Shatner, where he played a grown-up Balok hooked on Tranya, the drink that made him laugh so hard in the original episode.
Howard returned to the franchise as Grady on DS9, a homeless and mentally challenged human who encountered Dax during a time travel episode. And finally, he played Muk, in the Enterprise episode "Acquisition," as part of a group of Ferengi determined to ransack the Enterprise for valuables. He wasn't the smartest kid on the block in this one either, trying to question Archer's dog, and demanding to be taken to the ship's vault. It's a credit to his acting--and good make up--that that most people probably had no idea it was Balok behind those lobes.
5 5. Daniel Dae Kim
Daniel Dae Kim is now starring on Hawaii Five-O, and will always be remembered as fisherman-turned-hitman Jin-Soo-Kwan on Lost. But before that, he made a guest appearance on Voyager as an astronaut from a planet in which time passes much more quickly than it does on the ship. Voyager became part of the planet's mythology, as it appeared to them to have been there for hundreds of years, and was causing seismic tremors ever since its arrival. Kim played Gotana-Retz, an astronaut sent up to communicate with them. Together they figured out how to get Voyager free of the planet, and end the earthquakes.
He also appeared on Enterprise as Corporal Chang, a soldier in a group of MACO (Military Assault Command Operations) officers sent aboard the Enterprise. He was in three different episodes of the show, sometimes rescuing the crew, other times, getting in the way and once having to be incapacitated by Lt. Reed and Doctor Phlox.
4 Gregory Itzin
Itzin played President Logan for a few seasons on 24, betraying Jack Bauer, terrifying his own wife, and threatening civilization as well as being something of a sniveling coward when push came to shove. On Star Trek, his characters were usually up to no good as well. He was on five different episodes across three series.
On Deep Space Nine, he played both Ilon Tandro, a man intent on bringing Dax to what he thought was justice, and a few seasons later, Hain, a co-conspirator working to steal Morn the barfly's secret fortune.
He visited Trek again on Voyager as Doctor Dysek in "Critical Care," in which The Doctor was kidnapped and forced to work at a hospital that treated people based on how important society deemed them to be, as opposed to how much care they actually needed.
He then played two new characters on Enterprise; one, a Vulcan captain, and the other, an Admiral in the mirror universe who met his fateful end in a phaser blast from the mirror version of Captain Archer. Jack Bauer would've appreciated it.
3 Ray Wise
Wise is probably best known as Laura Palmer's dad, Leland, on Twin Peaks, or as one of the bad guys in the original Robocop, a movie that's provided a bounty of Star Trek guest stars in addition to Wise himself.
On TNG, he was Liko in "Who Watches The Watchers," a member of a proto-Vulcan species living in a Bronze Age of development. The Federation's covert surveillance was discovered, throwing his people into chaos. Best line? "I believe I have seen the Overseer. He is called The Picard."
On Voyager, over 50 different actors auditioned to play Arturus, a deceitful alien who pretended to want to help the crew but had a secret, dark agenda. None of them seemed right, so the producers simply asked Wise if he was interested, and he was. Arturus came to a bad end, and was assimilated by the Borg. Alas.
Tellingly, Wise also spent some time on 24, as the Vice President to the Gregory Itzin's President Logan, who also deserved to be assimilated by the Borg.
2 Kurtwood Smith
Kurtwood Smith is yet another alumnus of both Robocop and 24, but he achieved TV superstardom as Reginald "Red" Forman on That 70s Show, who thought almost everybody else was a dumbass.
On Star Trek, he showed a different side, playing three extremely different roles in one movie and two series. He played the President of the Federation in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, saved at the last minute by Kirk and his crew. On a particularly excellent Voyager two-parter, "Year of Hell," he was Annorax, a man determined to keep changing time over and over again--in a Captain Ahab sort of way--until he could restore things to how he wanted them to be. And on Deep Space Nine he was Thrax, security chief before Odo, back when the station was still under Cardassian rule. He was seen in a telepathic reality created by Odo but shared by Sisko, Dax, and Garak, and he wasn't very nice.
1 James Cromwell
The 6'7" Cromwell initially struggled to get cast in movies, as filmmakers were worried that he'd tower over everyone else in the cast. Obviously that hasn't been an issue, as he's been working steadily in movies and TV since the mid-1970s. He was nominated for an Oscar for Babe, and has been on everything from All in the Family (he was Stretch Cunningham) to 24 (Jack Bauer's evil dad).
On Star Trek, he was, of course, Zefram Cochrane, the first human to create a warp drive system, in Star Trek: First Contact, and maybe the only Trek character who has ever uttered the words, "I've gotta take a leak." But he's made three other appearances on the show, and that's not even counting the mirror universe Cochrane, who popped up on Enterprise. He was Minister Hanok on DS9, who defused a bomb with Quark and triumphed at dabo; he was Prime Minister Nayrok on TNG, who expected the Enterprise to help him protect Angosia from the soldiers it created; and Jaglom Shrek, also on TNG, who sold information to Worf about a Romulan prison camp full of Klingons. He was actually supposed to have a larger role in that two-parter, but he broke his leg between the two episodes, and his scenes had to be cut. Doesn't matter; he still made his mark.
We know there are dozens of favorites left out, as there simply wasn't room to include them all. Remind us of your favorites in the comments, and tell us who surprised you.
Star Trek: Discovery is the newest series in the franchise, and is scheduled to premiere in 2017.