Actors whose careers were killed by Star Trek

Star Trek started as a humble five-year mission, but the franchise soon went into warp speed. Unfortunately for many of the men and women who've starred in the venerable franchise's many films and TV series over the last five decades (and counting), there seems to be a side effect of Star Trek: it can be something of a career killer. After wearing the same Starfleet uniform for years, many Trek actors seem to fall out of the spotlight. Here's a look at some of the acting careers that ended up on life support after Trek, as well as a peek at what these stars have been doing since.

Avery Brooks

As the Commander (and later Captain) of Deep Space Nine, Avery Brooks was a force to be reckoned with. He had the unenviable task of helming both a role (Benjamin Sisko) and a show (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) that debuted in the shadow of the critically and commercially successful Star Trek: The Next Generation. Despite that difficulty, he took his role into bold directions, navigating issues of race, religion, and family in a way that Trek hadn't before—and hasn't since. When Deep Space Nine ended, his character had been saved from certain death by the Prophets, where he'd live outside of linear time for the foreseeable future. For the fans, it seems like the same thing happened to Brooks, as he's largely disappeared from acting since the show ended in 1999.

What happened? In many ways, Brooks returned to his "day job." He has the amazing distinction of being the first African-American to get an MFA in acting and directing from Rutgers University, and he became a professor at Rutgers in 1976. He gained tenure and was promoted to full-time Professor over the years, and though Deep Space Nine disrupted his academic career, he's returned to teaching since, while continuing to pursue parts in theatrical productions. His commanding voice has also been behind the camera as narrator on several documentaries. Perhaps most entertainingly for Star Trek fans, the musical Benjamin Sisko ended up being musically gifted in real life: Avery Brooks has performed at music festivals, and released an album in 2009.

Jonathan Frakes

Jonathan Frakes played Commander William Riker, one of the more beloved characters on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Whereas Patrick Stewart played the stern and serious Captain Picard, Commander Riker got to be more of the sexy, swashbuckling Kirk throwback. He wooed numerous guest stars, played jazz on the trombone, and inadvertently created the TV trope "Growing the Beard," in which TV enthusiasts visually measure the quality of a maturing show by observing one of the characters growing a beard, as Riker does between seasons one and two, with the beard—and show—hitting its peak in season three. Nonetheless, after Star Trek: The Next Generation ended, it was rare to see Frakes appear onscreen outside the franchise.

What happened with Commander Riker? Turns out he finally sat in the Captain's chair…or at least, the director's chair. While acting in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Frakes directed several episodes and discovered he had a knack for it. In fact, he was so good that Paramount trusted him to direct Star Trek: First Contact (generally considered the best of the Next Gen movies) and Star Trek: Insurrection. He was quick and efficient as a director, earning the charming nickname "Two-Takes Frakes," and has gone on to direct movies such as Thunderbirds and Clockstoppers as well as episodes of everything from Castle to NCIS: Los Angeles. You may not have seen Frakes on your TV in a while, but chances are high you've seen his work on TV.

Dominic Keating

Dominic Keating had a background in theater as well as a robust series of guest-starring roles, but he came to international prominence when he starred in Star Trek: Enterprise as Malcolm Reed. He played the character for nearly a hundred episodes, but Enterprise had a wobbly history of ratings woes in spite of solid reviews, and the show was canceled in 2005. After Enterprise ended, it was rare to find the once-prolific actor anywhere on the small screen; he guest-starred in an episode here or a film there, but it seemed like even warp speed couldn't prolong his 15 minutes of fame.

What happened with Keating? Like a large number of actors, he's found a blossoming second career in voicework. He's voiced characters in everything from Dragon Age to Destiny, and such roles have absolutely dominated his time for the better part of the last decade. And while the Prime Directive forbids him from peering at his own future, chances are he'll continue to find work in the vocal booth.

Jolene Blalock

It sometimes felt like everyone who didn't have Quantum Leap on their résumé was under extra scrutiny on Star Trek: Enterprise, but it seemed like Jolene Blalock just couldn't win. She was the inheritor of the archetypal "Seven of Nine"-type character, playing a cold and logical Vulcan that also happened to be smoking hot. In fact, she was named as one of the sexiest women in the world by FHM halfway through Enterprise's run. In some ways, that was a problem—the show found increasingly convoluted reasons for the character to be in her underwear or even nude, and her default outfit was a tight and revealing costume. Some resented her as a symbol of blatant attempts at sex appeal being injected into a franchise that, historically, focused more on character and plot.

Blalock has kept a relatively low career profile since Star Trek, picking up roles in low-budget films like Starship Troopers 3 and a smattering of television episodes. Lately, however, she seems to have reinvented herself as a star of indie features like Sinners and Saints, and she still pops up in bigger-budgeted (if not better received) movies such as Sex Tape.

Roxann Dawson

Roxann Dawson starred as the half-Klingon engineer B'elanna Torres on Star Trek: Voyager. Voyager, like Enterprise, endured a lot of criticism for everything from its cast to its premise—but it was still able to complete its seven-season run, and Dawson was a major reason why. Unlike many Trek characters, Torres went through a profound arc transitioning her from rebellion to maturity. Along the way, she married Tom Paris, had a child that could potentially save the Klingon race, and explored assimilation and cultural identity. To the casual TV viewer, though, it seemed like Dawson's real struggle when Voyager ended was finding work.

Fortunately, this is not the case. Like Frakes, she took up directing episodes of Star Trek: Voyager and found her second calling. While she's starred in a number of TV shows since Voyager ended, she's now mostly known as a skilled and prolific director—her credits include episodes of Enterprise, Lost, Heroes, Agents of SHIELD, House of Cards, and many more.

Robert Duncan McNeill

On Star Trek: Voyager, Robert Duncan McNeill played Lt. Tom Paris, a Starfleet officer with a past who's taken out of prison to fly the Voyager on what is meant to be a quick mission but turns into a seven-year journey at the edges of the galaxy. On the show, he ended up marrying the character played by Roxann Dawson—ironic, because their post-Trek lives are almost identical. Like Dawson, McNeill seemed to disappear save for a handful of guest roles here and there, and, like Dawson, he's focused almost entirely on directing since escaping the Delta quadrant. McNeill's directing career is long and varied, and includes episodes of Dawson's Creek, Supernatural, The Mentalist, and Chuck (for which he also served as a producer and executive producer).

Garrett Wang

Garrett Wang played Ensign Harry Kim on Star Trek: Voyager. The character was meant to represent both youth and multiculturalism, and the actor brought a lot of natural charm to the role. Nonetheless, the show often portrayed Kim as both hapless (with cringe-worthy stories involving romance and holodecks, sometimes at the same time) and helpless (he was abducted by aliens more than a minor character on The X-Files). Like many of his castmates, Wang seemed to virtually disappear from the television screen after Voyager, but it turns out he has a pretty unique hobby keeping him busy: more Star Trek.

While still pursuing a variety of other roles, Wang has played Kim in a number of post-Voyager projects, including the Star Trek fan film Renegades and the fan-made production Star Trek: Of Gods and Men. He voiced Kim in the Star Trek Online MMORPG—an extension of voicing the character in the earlier game Star Trek: Voyager Elite Force. Perhaps most interestingly, he became involved with Dragoncon, a major genre convention held in Atlanta each year. As of 2010, Wang runs the Trek Track as its director, making him the first actor to fully cross over and take on such a role in a fan event.

Jennifer Lien

Jennifer Lien played the alien Kes on Voyager, a character who served as both a companion to Neelix and an assistant for the Emergency Medical Hologram. She was often presented as shy and passive in the show, which is one of the things that made her disappearance seem pretty understated, and Lien sightings in film or TV have been rare since. What happened?

It's something of a two-part story that starts out sweet and ends rather sadly. Lien starred as a voice actor in things like Superman: The Animated series and appeared in cult classics like the film SLC Punk! after she left Voyager, but once her son was born in 2002, she left showbiz to raise him with her husband. Flash forward about 10 years, though, and she started making headlines for all the wrong reasons, including being arrested for domestic assault, being arrested again for endangerment, assault, evading arrest and resisting arrestand. She was arrested yet again for misdemeanor exposure. She eventually sought treatment for her mental health, but was charged with a DUI as recently as 2016. One can imagine that even if she wanted to return to the world of acting, getting her personal life in order would take precedent.

Marina Sirtis

Marina Sirtis played the empathic and sexy Deanna Troi, a character that served as the ship's counselor on Star Trek: The Next Generation. In addition to helping keep the crew's often tempestuous emotions under control, her character was able to use her abilities to sense the emotions of others, something that Captain Picard often used to his advantage. Between her open nature, exotic accent, and her revealing and less than formal clothing, she was an instant fan favorite. When Star Trek: The Next Generation ended, though, fans didn't see their favorite counselor nearly as often. Where did she go?

Sirtis never really went anywhere—she just became much more selective about her roles. She also seemingly developed quite a passion for voice acting—she's lent her unique voice to everything from Gargoyles to Young Justice to Adventure Time, as well as playing Matriarch Benezia in Mass Effect. Beyond that, she primarily seems interested in small, one-off cameos on shows such as The Closer and Grey's Anatomy and the recurring role of Mossad Director Orli Elbaz in a series of related NCIS episodes. Fans can also look for Sirtis in genre fare like Finders Keepers and Little Dead Rotting Hood.

Gates McFadden

Gates McFadden played the inimitable Dr. Beverly Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Her character brought both drama and baggage, as she brought along her son, the controversial Wesley Crusher, and they both served as a reminder to Picard that Beverly's husband had died while serving with him. She had a relatively controversial and tumultuous time behind the scenes as well, clashing with showrunner Maurice Hurley and getting ejected from the series after Season One. She returned for the final five years of the show, but after the Next Generation faded, it's been exceedingly rare to see McFadden onscreen. What happened to her?

Fear not: she didn't end up trapped in a bubble universe, as her character once did. Rather, she's focused much of her post-Trek time on teaching. She's taught Theater at places ranging from Purdue and University of Southern California to Harvard. McFadden has even been the Artistic Director of Ensemble Studio at Theatre of Los Angeles since from 2009 to 2014—while it's not completely rare to see her on television (she starred in a few episodes of Franklin and Bash, for instance, which has caused her to teach less than usual), she's mostly focused on making other actors' dreams come true.

Michael Dorn

In many ways, Michael Dorn, who played the Klingon security officer Worf, is one of the hardest-working actors in Trek history. Not only did he star in every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and its subsequent movies, but his character transitioned to Deep Space Nine about midway through its run and stuck around through the end. He played an ancestor of Worf in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and he's voiced Worf in seven different video games. If that's not enough, he's announced he'd love to return as the star of his own series, and often encourages his social media followers to lend their support via the hashtag #WeWantWorf. Setting aside Worf-related activity, however, he's been a lot harder to find.

While Dorn's post-Trek career hasn't been quite as high-profile, it's included a bit of everything. Like some of his fellow castmates, he's found success in voice acting, booking roles in Mass Effect 2, Fallout: New Vegas, Starcraft II, Saints Row IV, and many more. He's also lent his voice to shows such as Adventure Time, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Justice League Unlimited. Aside from all that, Dorn seems to enjoy being more selective about his roles—since 2007, he's only appeared in a handful of films, and his only real ongoing television work was on Castle. Here's hoping he can bring Worf back—and show his career that today is not a good day to die.