Star Trek is known as both a galaxy of talent as well as a potential career killer. The show has been through so many actors and incarnations that it’s no surprise that some faces are much more beloved than others. Despite talents demonstrated in previous TV shows and films, many actors simply flopped when it came to Star Trek. Some brought pretty faces without much substance, while others not only paved the way for future stars to enter the Star Trek universe, but revolutionized television for the entire world.
It’s not even always down to a character, either. An amazing actor like Etan Phillips couldn’t save someone as ridiculously annoying like Neelix, after all. Even so, some characters thought to be godsends ended up absolutely ruining every scene they starred in while others were tagged in to save the day and did so with flying colors. It just goes to show that, no matter how thoughtfully done, not every casting choice is a winner.
From actors who flourished with their character arcs to those who nearly crashed the Enterprise itself, here are 8 Casting Decisions That Saved Star Trek (And 8 That Ruined It).
16. Ruined: Denise Crosby (Tasha Yar)
Although Lieutenant Natasha Yar was a competent enough security chief most of the time, leaving before her first season was complete rendered her dead to many fans of The Next Generation. Denise Crosby, who played Yar, is often cited as the most hated actress in all of Star Trek by fans, even if she is eager to appear at Comic Con.
When Crosby decided to leave the show, she received one of the worst sendoffs in history.
Her character was awarded what is often referred to as the worst Star Trek death ever. A random energy blast sent at her for no reason ended her life, and upon her return show runners made her daughter betray her before she was executed yet again. Ouch.
15. Saved: Avery Brooks (Sisko)
Benjamin Sisko was the commander his crew needed on Deep Space Nine, and Avery Brooks brought not only a much-needed captain of color to the scene but also a completely different tone to what it meant to be a commander in the series.
READ MORE: Fun Facts About Ben Sisko
Along with the writers of the series, Brooks built a Game of Thrones style scene in space long before we witnessed one in Westeros on HBO. He infused the character with the kind of drama and passion that audiences crave while still maintaining the sci-fi integrity of the program. Brooks also demonstrated what it was like to be a single father in command, which was more new territory for the show.
It’s really no surprise that Brooks made DS-9 so awesome.
14. Ruined: Wil Wheaton (Wesley)
“Shut up, Wesley!” He’s the most obvious choice of all of the ruiners who ever stepped on a Star Trek set, which is really too bad because Wil Wheaton was otherwise quite a talented child actor and he’s currently a geek god, which is why we still tend to give him a pass.
Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher is like the Justin Bieber of Star Trek.
All of the young girls and boys who tuned in to watch with their parents had crushes on him, but everyone else was annoyed as hell.
Whiny, incompetent, and generally a pain to watch, Wil Wheaton’s Wesley is the character everyone loves to hate. He is the reason why Gates McFadden is probably asked why Dr. Crusher couldn’t prescribe herself birth control.
13. Saved: Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine)
She’s famous for literally saving Voyager from imminent death. Seven of Nine may have been written as a gorgeous and complicated ex-Borg drone, but it was Ryan who developed her into more than just a pretty face with a sweet wardrobe and a mildly interesting story line.
In the fourth season, Ryan saved Voyager from complete stagnation as it faltered, keeping fans riveted and bringing in new audiences to check out how a Borg might serve as the counterpart to Janeway’s lead.
Unlike several other women brought in to liven the show up, Ryan’s romantic interludes didn’t detract from the show, but only helped foster further development in her character. Given that Carrie Anne Moss, Ming-Na Wen, and Hope Davis were all considered for the role, showrunners have to be satisfied with the choice they made in casting Rya.
12. Ruined: Terry Ferrell (Jadzia Dax)
Some fans cheered when Jadzia Dax, played by Terry Ferrell, was killed off in Deep Space Nine. Ferrell was often cited as a wooden, stiff actress who failed to bring interest to the Dax symbiont she joined as Jadzia’s dream. By the time of her death, her character had failed to really develop much, rendering her one of the most unpopular actresses on DS-9.
Sure, Ferrell may have been another victim of lousy writing, as her character was much more compelling prior to the symbiont link. She is also famous for butting heads with producers, particularly when she wanted to work on the show Becker and they refused to give her a smaller role on DS-9. They gave her an all-or-nothing contract offer that Ferrell ultimately refused, resulting in her character’s death.
11. Saved: Leonard Nimoy (Spock)
What can we say about the legendary Leonard Nimoy that hasn’t already been said? Forget Kirk, forget Bones… Spock was the original face of Star Trek, and the heart and soul of the series.
When the actor who played the famous Vulcan passed away it broke everyone’s heart, fan or not. Heroic and calm, Nimoy managed to convey a sense of compassion and plenty of humor as the character who had trouble understanding humans.
No matter how unbelievable or ridiculous a story might be, Nimoy could always ground and saved it. His strength lay in Spock’s strict moral code but also his subtleties, from his vocal variations to his facial expressions. Nimoy has always been and will always be what makes Star Trek the lasting beloved program that it is.
10. Ruined: Mark Lenard (Sarek)
The original Romulan, Mark Lenard, may have played a few parts in the series, and he may have even been Spock’s father, but he certainly was no Spock. Lenard is often cited as one of the most terrible actors in the series. When he wears Vulcan ears, he manages to make them look absurdly fake; when he spoke, he lacked the gravitas balanced with lightness that Nimoy seemed to effortlessly pull off.
Was Lenard’s true drawback the fact that he just couldn’t be Nimoy?
Perhaps the real reason so many fans have issues with Lenard is just that he couldn’t match Nimoy in a scene, which distracted and detracted from his onscreen son’s performance. Still, Lenard had to have some appeal after portraying three major alien races in the original series.
9. Saved: Kate Mulgrew (Janeway)
Long before she was the reason people tuned in to Orange is the New Black, Kate Mulgrew drew audiences in as the compelling Captain Kathryn Janeway in Voyager. Anyone who has seen Mulgrew in just about anything already knows that she steals the show, but Janeway is something special that fans hold close to their hearts.
A refreshing female captain, Janeway employed a balance of sarcasm and leadership that balanced to create an adventurous yet dedicated leader who would never leave a member of her crew behind.
8. Ruined: Robert Beltran (Chakotay)
Voyager‘s Commander Chakotay might have been a pretty face, but Robert Beltran’s portrayal of the character was such a one-note performance that many fans cite him as the reason they didn’t want to watch the show anymore. Much of the time he seemed to be bored in the role, not fully putting his heart into it.
Even when paired with someone like Seven of Nine, he still managed to be quite dull.
Some fans argue that had Beltran been given more airtime and better plot points to work with, he could have developed his character into a more well-loved persona. Featuring an Indigenous person on the show was an awesome idea, but Chakotay never seemed to get any great stories to develop the role. Perhaps that’s why the actor remains one of the most unloved in the entire franchise.
7. Saved: Brent Spiner (Data)
Lieutenant Commander Data was The Next Generation’s response to the need for a Spock. While Brent Spiner wasn’t Spock, nobody but Spock can be.
Spiner managed to create something entirely new and exciting.
As Data, Spiner was an emotionless android while remaining interesting, using his talents, often humorous expressions, and clear as a bell voice to portray the robotic humanoid. Though Data could not feel emotion, Spiner could convey emotions to, not to mention extract them from audiences everywhere.
Some of Data’s big moments proved to be the most stirring of the entire series, saving episodes with ludicrous plots from failure. Had anyone else played the android, the effect may not have been on the mark. Spiner’s experience as a singer and comedian definitely comes into play with his success.
6. Ruined: Rosalind Chao (Keiko)
Acording to many fans one of the most annoying characters in Deep Space Nine is Keiko O’Brien, played by Rosalind Chao. Anxious, a whiner, whatever you want to call her, it all came down to the character’s terrible personality, and Chao could not save her.
As with other characters, fans are quick to point toward bad writing for the character’s flaws, but Chao’s crabby expressions and irritating behavior have left a bad taste in many fans’ mouths.
Although O’Brien’s husband Miles actually expresses displeasure slightly more often than she does, and Keiko is often kind and loving toward her husband, fans still like him better. Some chalk it up to sexism while others say it was simply the actress who rubbed them the wrong way.
5. Saved: Nichelle Nichols (Uhura)
Out of all of the characters in Star Trek over the years, not many can claim that they’ve saved both the series as well as TV itself. Nichelle Nichols probably wouldn’t boast that she did just that, but the statement could be true.
Nichols, the first prominent black woman in a TV role, not only made the show more appealing to women and people of color who were thrilled to find someone like themselves on television, but also paved the way for more women of color to obtain similar positions of power in media.
No, the balance hasn’t completely shifted as of 2018, but Nyota Uhura is the trailblazer who made it possible for us to have Michael Burnham today. She was, and is, completely lovely and brilliant. She is also one of the most historical figures in TV history.
4. Ruined: Mark Allen Shepherd (Morn)
Even though Morn wasn’t one of the most popular characters of all time, he managed to make appearances in The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager which, even with the overlap, is more than many characters have been able to do. Even so, Mark Allen Shepherd wasn’t able to make the character a compelling one in any sense, often flubbing words and rendering Morn even more annoying than he looked.
Plenty of people thought that Morn, an avid drinker, was designed to be a tongue-in-cheek version of Norm from Cheers, but he never became as beloved as that character. On the contrary, he merely induced yawns and groans when he was on screen, pushing many otherwise so-so moments into the toilet-worthy category.
3. Patrick Stewart (Saved)
Ask anyone who their favorite captain of Star Trek is and the answer you’ll hear most often is Jean-Luc Picard. Patrick Stewart is simply an incredible actor. Like Leonard Nimoy, there’s not much more that needs to be said once his image comes to mind.
We all know that Stewart is the reason why The Next Generation lasted for seven seasons.
Commanding and compelling, Stewart managed to portray all of Picard’s flaws and strengths with such skill that he’s still largely remembered as the best captain Star Trek ever – rather than Professor X of his later X-Men years.
There’s a reason Sir Stewart was knighted, and that’s because he’s pretty much a sci-fi god. It’s incredible that Stewart didn’t really want to be on the show and was set to play Data. Everything worked out for the bes.
2. Ruined: Jolene Blalock (T’Pol)
While it’s true that T’Pol had a hardcore fan following, many of those people were only fans because they couldn’t wait to see her take her clothes off during an episode. Unfortunately Jolene Blalock, who portrayed the attractive Vulcan, was merely cast for visual appeal and it really showed.
The character had potential, but while it’s not easy to play a stoic alien whose logic overrides feelings of the heart, Blalock simply didn’t add anything to the show in terms of plot or character development.
It’s not that T’Pol’s attractiveness detracted from her character.
Star Trek has featured dozens of steamy characters from multiple genders that still managed to be interesting and help the show flow. She simply lacked the talent the character needed to really develop, and T’Pol herself assisted with the downfall of Enterprise.
1. Saved: Sonequa Martin-Green (Michael Burnham)
Sonequa Martin-Green has proved her mettle when it comes to talent over and over again, but by portraying Michael on the latest incarnation of Star Trek, Discovery, she has solidified her name among sci-fi fans forever.
The character herself is compelling, providing a chance for any young actress to shine, but Martin-Green brings energy and determination into the role like nobody else. As the first black female lead in a series long overdue for this representation, Martin-Green plays a fiery first officer who is capable and riveting.
Martin-Green isn’t alone in making Discovery work so well so far; the show has an incredible cast. But she is definitely the reason why millions of viewers tune in to watch Discovery and one of the reasons why it’s doing so well in the first place.
Who’s your favorite Star Trek actor? Sound off in the comments!
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