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Star Trek actors who played multiple characters

Since its television premiere in 1966, Star Trek has become its own media empire, spanning over a half dozen different television series, 13 movies, and more comics, novels and games than we have space to name here. 

With so much Trek on television and in movie theaters, it shouldn't be a surprise that quite a few talented actors have wound up coming back to play multiple roles. Some actors played several minor roles in different movies and shows until finally being asked to join one of the television series on a regular basis. Some show up for the first time in the original series and either continue to appear in the movies or don't appear again until the Next Generation era of Trek. Still others — particularly during the time when there were multiple Trek shows running concurrently like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager — found themselves working with all the different Trek casts of the time in different roles. 

Curious to find out who you may not have recognized under all those prosthetic ridges and bumps? Keep reading for many of the Star Trek actors who played multiple characters in the various movies and TV series. 

Jeffrey Combs must really like the makeup chair

Speaking to TrekMovie in 2019, Jeffrey Combs said the original Star Trek was a show that he "absolutely adored" when he was a child. His efforts to become part of the Trek mythos are a testament to that old adage of trying and trying again, no matter how many times you fail.

Combs auditioned unsuccessfully for a couple of roles on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) before being cast in "Meridian." Combs plays Tiron, a shady alien obsessed with Major Kira (Nana Visitor). The role offered Combs a chance to reconnect with the late Rene Auberjonois, who cast him in a future episode as the Ferengi Brunt. Brunt would become a recurring antagonist for DS9's bartender Quark (Armin Shimerman), But the Trek role he's best known for is Weyoun — a deceptive but always disgustingly polite diplomat representing the evil Dominion. Weyoun dies at the end of his first appearance, but to facilitate his return it's explained that Vorta face the threat of assassination so often, there are always clones waiting to replace their predecessors. 

That still wasn't the end for Combs. He plays a gladiator "recruiter" in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, the recurring Andorian character Commander Shran on Star Trek: Enterprise, and made a one-off appearance as the hapless Ferengi Fenk in that same series. In his most make-up-light Trek appearance, Combs appears as an abusive police detective in the DS9 episode "Far Beyond the Stars."

David Warner works for just about everybody in Star Trek

Speaking to StarTrek.com in 2011, David Warner called himself a "recovering workaholic," so it shouldn't be surprising that he's played multiple Trek roles over the years.

Warner's first Trek role came in 1989's Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, in which he plays St. John Talbot — the Federation ambassador to the neutral planet of Nimbus III and one of the many converts to the teachings of the Vulcan Sybok (Laurence Luckinbill). Apparently, no one had any objections to Warner showing up in the weightier role of the peace-seeking Klingon Chancellor Gorkon in the 1991 follow-up Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Gorkon is assassinated early in the film, and Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Bones (DeForest Kelley) are framed for the murder. Eventually the truth comes out and Gorkon's efforts help begin a lasting peace between the Federation and the Klingon Empire.

Arguably Warner's most memorable role is as the Cardassian interrogator Gul Madrek in the Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) two-part story "Chain of Command." Madrek visits horrific torture on the captive Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), famously offering toward the end of the episode to free Picard if the captain will say he sees five lights when there are only four. Warner said he read most of lines in "Chain of Command" off cue cards — both because he only had three days notice to prepare for the role, and because the dialogue included "too much technobabble."

No matter who he played, Mark Lenard usually had pointy ears

Veteran stage and TV actor Mark Lenard's biggest and most well-known contribution to the Star Trek mythos is as Spock's (Leonard Nimoy) Vulcan father Sarek. Lenard first plays Sarek in the 1967 episode of the original series "Journey to Babel." He turns up to question Kirk about his dead son's Katra in 1984's Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, defends Kirk's actions in 1986's Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and is one of the many diplomats in Star Trek VI. He would meet and forge a powerful connection to Jean-Luc Picard in the TNG episode "Sarek," and meets Picard one final time in the two-parter "Unification." 

But Sarek was not Lenard's first role in Star Trek, or even his first Trek role that necessitated pointy ears. Lenard plays the Romulan Commander of an enemy ship in the 1966 episode "Balance of Terror." Speaking to Starlog (via MyStarTrekScrapbook) in 1984, Lenard said he never got to meet any of the stars while filming the episode: "Since the story took place on two separate space ships, I never met the regular cast... it wasn't until the second year, when they had me back as Sarek, that I met them." 

If you're keeping score, Lenard also plays an unnamed captain in 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture. He didn't need pointy ears for that one, though we wouldn't be surprised if he would've preferred that to the more involved Klingon makeup. 

Tony Todd plays a brother, a son, and a hunter

You may know Tony Todd best as the subject of the supernatural horror Candyman films, or if you're a fan of CW's The Flash you may remember him as the voice of the villain speedster Zoom. But along with those franchises, Todd's made a memorable impact on Star Trek

Todd first shows up in TNG's third season as Worf's (Michael Dorn) younger brother Kurn. As part of a Klingon/Starfleet exchange program in "Sins of the Father," Kurn temporarily takes over as the Enterprise's First Officer. He reprises the role in the two-part "Redemption" when Kurn and Worf take sides in the brief but bloody Klingon Civil War. Todd plays Kurn a final time in the fourth season of DS9, when Worf's brother shows up at the space station wanting Worf to kill him in the wake of their family's disgrace. 

Before Kurn's final appearance in "Sons of Mogh," Todd plays an older version of Jake Sisko (usually played by Cirroc Lofton) in one of the series' most emotionally powerful episodes, "The Visitor." We watch Jake become a famous author, get married, eventually divorce his wife, and ultimately sacrifice himself as an old man to free his father from a quantum entanglement.

Todd didn't leave Star Trek: Voyager hanging. In the fourth season he shows up as one of the Hirogen — a nomadic race obsessed with hunting who become recurring Voyager antagonists. 

Ethan Phillips does more than just cook for Star Trek

Ethan Phillips first enters Trek with the third season TNG episode "Ménage à Troi" as the Ferengi physician Farek. He wears the big ears again in the Star Trek: Enterprise first season episode "Acquisition" as Ullis — the leader of a band of Ferengi thieves. But the Trek role he's best remembered for has nothing to do with the natives of Ferenginar. 

In Star Trek: Voyager, the Delta Quadrant native Neelix forces himself on to the crew as cook and morale officer. Usually an object of comic relief, Neelix is a big-hearted teddy bear who could probably use a few lessons in personal boundaries. Neelix was often on the outside boundaries plot-wise, and speaking to StarTrek.com in 2012, Phillips said that never bothered him. In particular, the heavy makeup he wore as Neelix afforded him some gratitude about often being left in the background. While wearing the makeup, Phillips was extremely limited in what he could do — "The only thing I could do without any problem was eat," he explained, adding that he gained some unwanted weight while playing the Talaxian morale officer. The fewer Neelix-centered episodes necessitating more time in the makeup, the better for his dieting. 

Unlike many of his Voyager co-stars, Phillips got a spot in one of the Trek movies. In First Contact, he has a cameo as the holographic maître d' who tries to keep the Borg out of his make-believe night club. 

No matter where you find her in Star Trek, Diana Muldaur is always a doctor

These days Diana Muldaur is perhaps best known among Trek fans as Dr. Kate Pulaski from TNG's second season who replaced Gates McFadden's Beverly Crusher as the Enterprise's doctor. Pulaski was a more stubbornly principled character who felt more like Dr. McCoy of the original series. Fans at large never seemed to warm up to the character, and by season 3 Dr. Crusher had returned. 

But the unpopular Dr. Pulaski isn't the first Trek character Muldaur played — or even the second. Late in the second season of the original series, Muldaur appears in "Return to Tomorrow" as Dr. Ann Mulhall, who allows an entity named Thalassa to possess her body until an android form is constructed for the wayward alien. Muldaur returns as a completely different character — the blind, psychic Dr. Miranda Jones — in season 3's "Is There in Truth No Beauty?" 

Speaking to StarTrek.com in 2013, Muldaur said there was nothing new or particularly surprising about being cast as three different doctors on Star Trek: "I was always asked to play doctors or lawyers. It's what I'd done for years and years and years." She went on to say that one of the things she enjoyed in her brief time as Dr. Pulaski was the "marvelous devices that were invented in the future" and the fun of learning to pretend to use them as medical instruments.

J.G. Hertzler is usually a man of honor on Star Trek

In order to get the role of General Martok, J.G. Hertzler abused furniture. Speaking to StarTrek.com in 2019, Hertzler said when DS9's casting crew asked him to dial up the classic Klingon aggression, he threw a chair into a wall "and one of the legs stuck in the wall a little bit before it fell out." Originally meant to only show up for one or two episodes, Martok eventually became a beloved recurring character on DS9 who ultimately replaces Gowron (Robert O'Reilly) as the Klingon Chancellor. 

The role of Martok wasn't Hertzler's only role in DS9, or even his first. Hertzler plays the Vulcan captain of the ship Ben Sisko (Avery Brooks) serves on when it's destroyed by the Borg in the beginning of the two-part DS9 premiere "Emissary." In DS9's final season Hertzler briefly traded the Klingon turtle-head for some different makeup in "Chimera" as the Changeling Laas who befriends Odo (Rene Auberjonois) and tries to convince him to leave the station and search the stars for more of their kind. 

DS9 wasn't Hertzler's only time as a Klingon. He played two other Klingons in the second and fourth seasons of Star Trek: Enterprise. He also played one of the hunting-obsessed Hirogen in the sixth season of Voyager, and got to wear a lot less makeup as the artist Roy Ritterhouse in DS9's acclaimed "Far Beyond the Stars."

Tim Russ did a lot of Star Trek work before Voyage

In all things Trek, Tim Russ is best known as the Vulcan security chief Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager. But Russ had a number of roles in the franchise before landing Tuvok, including in one of the films. 

Russ' first Trek role is in a 1993 episode of TNG called "Starship Mine," known for essentially being the Trek answer to Die Hard. Russ plays the first of a band of thieves Picard discovers trying to steal trillithium resin from the Enterprise while the ship is evacuated for maintenance, and — fittingly considering Russ' future as Tuvok – Picard takes him out with the famous Vulcan neck pinch. Russ shows up again as a Klingon gun for hire in another evacuated Trek stronghold in the second season DS9 episode "Invasive Procedures." The following year, he played an unnamed Lieutenant on the Enterprise-B in Star Trek: Generations

Years before he played any of those characters, Russ was up for the role of Enterprise Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge on TNG. In a 2018 interview with TrekMovie.com, Russ said that in retrospect he was grateful he was passed over for the earlier part. "The role [of Tuvok] was somewhat more organic and much easier in terms of dialogue. I am glad I didn't get stuck with all that engineering tech talk... That kind of dialogue doesn't do anything for me."

Armin Shimmerman always knows the Rules of Acquisition

DS9 is known for, among other things, being the first Trek series to feature regular and recurring characters who lived in more of a morally ambiguous area. The Ferengi Quark — who Armin Shimerman played to perfection in all seven seasons of DS9 — is a perfect example. Quark is mainly interested in making profit and isn't above allying himself with the worst of the worst to do it. But he sometimes proves just as capable as doing the right thing (as long as he gets a cut). 

Quark is actually the third Ferengi character Shimerman played in the Trek universe. He's one of the very first Ferengi the Enterprise crew meets in the early TNG episode "The Last Outpost." While talking to Geektown in 2018, Shimerman said he wasn't proud of his work on that episode, insisting, "my time on Deep Space Nine was a huge attempt to try to redeem the Ferengi." Shimerman played another Ferengi — this time the commander of a Ferengi Marauder — in the second season TNG episode "Peak Performance." He also got to shed the ears and play a politically passionate science fiction writer in one of the most beloved DS9 episodes, "Far Beyond the Stars." 

Before he played any Ferengi, Shimerman played... a face. In the first season TNG episode "Haven," Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) receives a Betazoid gift box with a moving, lifelike face. That face belonged to Shimerman, long before he tended bar at DS9. 

Kurtwood Smith was a villain, a president, and an investigator

You may remember him better as a bad guy from 1987's RoboCop or as the dad from the hit sitcom That '70s Show, but you might not know of Kurtwood Smith's wonderful work in Star Trek. Smith's first time in the playground Gene Roddenberry made was in 1991's Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country as the President of the United Federation of Planets. It's a relatively minor role, but one that gives us the chance to see the more political side of the Federation. 

His next Trek appearance is a lot more interesting. In "Things Past" — part of DS9's fifth season — Odo unintentionally brings some of his friends with him into a hallucinatory remembering of a time when he wrongly accused a group of innocent Bajorans of a crime for which they were all killed. Smith appears as the Cardassian investigator Thrax, who we eventually learn is a stand-in for Odo. Speaking to StarTrek.com in 2017, Smith called him "a character within a character" and said that he "loved the depth of it," comparing it to Shakespearean roles he'd played. 

Smith would return to TrekVoyager this time — for the two-parter "Year of Hell" as the villain Annorax. A temporal scientist, Annorax is obsessed with using his technology to returning the powerful Krenim Imperium to its former glory and doesn't care who or what he has to wipe out to achieve his goal. 

Majel Barrett left a deep mark on Star Trek

Majel Barrett remained part of the Star Trek galaxy longer than most. It doesn't matter if you consider yourself a hardcore fan or just someone with a passing interest — in most likelihood if you have seen a single movie or episode of a Star Trek TV series, then you have seen (or at least heard) Majel Barrett.  

If you're hearing the voice of a Federation computer speak back to the heroes on TNG or any of the late '80s to early aughts series, in most likelihood you're hearing Barrett. She did the computer voice work on TNG, DS9, and Voyager. That includes the TNG era movies Generations, First Contact, and Nemesis.

On the original series, Barrett appeared both as Number One in Star Trek's pilot episode and later as Nurse Chapel. Nurse Chapel would eventually become Doctor Chapel, and show up in both Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek IV. In TNG and DS9, Barrett had the fan-favorite recurring role of Lwaxana Troi — Deanna Troi's overbearing mother and regular pain-in-the-neck to Captain Picard. 

Interviewed for Star Trek: The Next Generation — The Official Magazine Series in 1988 (via StarTrek.com), Barrett showed little interest in ever reprising the role of Chapel, but said Lwaxana Troi was a different story. She called the elder Troi a "much more fun character" than Chapel and said she could "play her forever."