When Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered in September of 1987 most people (including the cast and crew) didn’t give it much of a chance of success.
Fandom was excited to see Trek return to TV with Gene Roddenberry (creator of the original series) at the helm. But almost immediately after it first aired, fandom lost its mind. A captain who didn’t chase skirts or do flying jump kicks who was BALD!?!?!?!? Not to mention there was a Klingon on the ship. It is likely that if today’s troll community online had existed then that the show would not have gone on to air for seven seasons or spawn four big screen adventures.
One thing that immediately separated the new show from the original was the fact that it was a true ensemble show. Every cast member would have episodes where they were the main focus and others where they were the B story.
So unlike the first article of this series where it was the non-leads of the original series that were brought to the forefront, this article picks a couple of the main cast and a couple of the secondary cast to highlight.
Cheryl Gates McFadden is best known for her portrayal of Dr. Beverly Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation and the four feature films it spawned but before that she had an interesting career.
She studied acting in France with famous acting coach Jacques Lecoq before getting to play her first doctor character on All My Children in 1970.
She would have a long lasting connection to Jim Henson company when she worked as choreographer and had a brief onscreen appearance in The Muppets Take Manhattan. That led to her being the director of choreography and puppet movement of the film Labyrinth. She also worked as choreographer on the film The Dark Crystal.
She would bring her skill as a choreographer to the Next Gen episode “Data’s Day” where she taught Data (Brent Spiner) how to dance for the wedding of Miles O’Brien to Keiko Ishikawa.
She prefers to work on the stage and was trained in stage sword fighting. Marina Sirtis was the only other cast member trained in sword fighting but in the episode “QPid” only the male characters were allowed to use swords.
When she was let go after the first season, she played another doctor with a husband named Jack, Cathy Ryan in The Hunt For Red October.
After a letter writing campaign, a personal invitation from Rick Berman, and the support of Patrick Stewart, McFadden was convinced to return for the third season. Pulaski wasn’t as bad as people think, but Crusher was a much better fit.
Denis Crosby, grand daughter of Bing Crosby and ex-daughter in law to Blake Edwards, appeared in Edwards’ film 10 in 1979 as a party guest in the Bo Derek vehicle. She also appeared in two of Edwards’ Pink Panther films. Her character in those films was ironically named Denise
Like McFadden her first big break was on a daytime soap opera. For Crosby it was the part of Lisa Davis on Days of Our Lives.
She would go on to appear in music videos by Black Sabbath (“No Stranger to Love”), Chris Isaak (“Dancin”), and Michael McDonald (“No Lookin’ Back”).
Originally cast as Deanna Troi, while Marina Sirtis was cast as security chief Macha Hernandez, Roddenberry switched them before filming began and we got Tasha Yar and her daughter, Sela.
When she left the show after one season it was rumored she had been fired due to the layout she did for Playboy in 1979. However, the truth was that she quit since the part had become boiled down to her “not being able to do much with the character. I had all these ideas and I couldn’t do them. I was just stage dressing.”
She is also a distant cousin to Seth MacFarlane.
Colm Meaney (it is pronounced Collum by the way) was born in Dublin, Ireland. He got his start on a BBC show called Z-Cars, a police procedural drama.
He would go on to appear in many TV shows (Moonlighting, Remington Steele, etc.) and films (Under Siege, Far and Away, etc.).
Meaney is, of course, best known for playing Chief Miles O’Brien on both Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. He is second only to Michael Dorn in number of appearances in the franchise (Dorn: 272 episodes and 5 movies, Meaney: 211 episodes).
He is the only actor to have appeared in the pilot and finale for two Star Trek series (Next Generation and Deep Space Nine).
He is the also only actor to appear in all three of the Barrytown Trilogy films based on the novels by Roddy Doyle (The Commitments, The Snapper, and The Van).
Here he is in the 1st film discussing Elvis.
He appeared with Patrick Stewart in the TNT TV adaptation of King Lear called King of Texas in 2002. In 2004, he joined the cast of Stargate: Atlantis as Chief Cowen. He also played Thomas Durant in the AMC series Hell on Wheels.
He was immortalized on a stamp by the Irish Post Office in 2008.
His character of Miles O’Brien was one of the few Star Trek characters that married on screen (“Data’s Day”). His on-screen wife, Keiko, was played by Rosalind Chao, who had been best known as Soon-Lee on the final few episodes of M*A*S*H and its spin off After M*A*S*H.
Michelle Forbes has made a career out of not doing what was expected of her.
She hoped to be a ballet dancer and while on vacation in NYC at the age of 16 auditioned for the first time for a film. She didn’t get the job but did sign with the William Morris agency. Like the other two women on this list she first gained attention by appearing in a soap opera, Guiding Light. She was nominated for an Emmy for her work on that show.
She first came to the Next Generation when she played Dara in the episode “Half a Life.” She soon found herself cast as the Bajoran, Ro Laren.
Ensign Ro appeared in 8 episodes of the series.
She turned down a return to her character Ro Laren on DS9. She decided she would rather focus on films. This led to the creation of Kira Nerys (played by Nana Visitor). She was also offered a spot on Voyager since it started with a heavy Maquis storyline. Again she turned the opportunity down.
She played in other roles that earned her praise. In Kalifonia she played David Duchovny‘s victimized girlfriend and later she played Admiral Helena Cain in the reboot of Battlestar Galactica, a role played in the original series by Lloyd Bridges who Roddenberry had wanted to play Captain Pike in “The Cage.”
She was nominated for a Saturn Award 3 times for her work in True Blood, Kalifornia, and The Killing. She finally won for her work in The Killing in 2011.
Are there other shows you’d like us to do similar articles about? Let us know in the comments below.