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Star Trek Changed The Course Of Kirstie Alley's Career Forever

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It would appear that Kirstie Alley can be included in the near-endless list of people whose lives were changed for the better by "Star Trek." The actor, who died of cancer on December 5, and whose recognizable credits include "Cheers" and the "Look Who's Talking" movies, got her big break when she was cast by director Nicholas Meyer in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan."

"That was my first acting job," Alley said in a 1996 interview with the Chicago Tribune. "So I owe everything to that film, to Nick." Alley went on to elaborate that she believed Meyer gave her the shot of a lifetime.

And indeed, Alley's inclusion into the "Star Trek" mythos, cast as the half-Romulan, half-Vulcan Starfleet Lieutenant Saavik, was a notable one. Not only does she play a key role in "The Wrath of Khan," not only is she in the film's very first scene, but she is also the first Starfleet member viewers ever see undergoing the infamous Kobayashi Maru, the no-win simulation designed to test the character of Starfleet officers, which has since appeared or been mentioned several times in subsequent "Star Trek" properties.

Alley turned down a role in Star Trek III

Saavik also appeared in subsequent "Star Trek" movies, though Kirstie Alley did not. Robin Curtis took over the role from Alley in "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock" and "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home." Curtis would also end up appearing in an oddly similar role in the final season of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" when she played Tellera, a Romulan disguised as a Vulcan in the two-part episode "Gambit."

Both William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy — who respectively played Capt. James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock — would later share in Shatner's book "Star Trek Movie Memories" that Alley's decision not to return was down to money. As quoted by Shatner, Alley said that her offer from Paramount came in shockingly low, which led her to believe that the studio simply wasn't interested in having her play the role. The actress would also comment on this matter in a 2016 interview with StarTrek.com. "That never made sense to me," she remarked. "Like, you're not paying as much as the first one, and it's a bigger role? It just didn't make sense to me."

In this sense, "Star Trek" didn't just change Alley's life by giving her a big break. In turning down "Star Trek III," she was freed up to accept the role of Rebecca Howe in "Cheers," a role that, far more than Saavik, would end up defining her career.