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Star Trek Characters Who Disappeared Without Explanation

In the canon of Star Trek, starships and space stations vary in size and population from that of a large office to that of a small town. For example, the USS Enterprise-D from The Next Generation is home to over 1,000 officers, crew, and families, and on a ship that big, it's easy for someone to get lost in the crowd. Star Trek is full of characters who show up to play a specific role in one or two episodes, and then they disappear into the background, presumably always there waiting for the next time the story might call for their specific skills or quirks. So, we can hardly expect to learn the ultimate fate of each one of these people (though they're likely to reappear in one of a hundred non-canonical licensed novels).

Now and then, however, a character is introduced on Star Trek who the audience has every reason to believe is sticking around ... and then they drop right off the map. They may play an important role on the ship, or they might be given a strong character introduction or relationship to one of the series leads. And then, suddenly, they've been replaced without explanation or simply returned to the sea of uniforms from whence they came. Recent Trek series are plotted and produced season by season, which has so far avoided any sudden character disappearances, but previous TV and film series have each contributed at least one "missing" poster to our wall.

Dr. Mark Piper was on Star Trek before Bones

Star Trek famously holds the distinction of having two pilot episodes with two almost entirely unique casts. The effort to reconcile these early efforts formed the roots of Star Trek's mythology, as both stories are acknowledged to have happened within the timeline of the show. 

The first pilot, "The Cage," is set 13 years before the first season, explaining why the USS Enterprise would now have an almost entirely new crew. The second pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before," introduces a few of the characters who would become the classic series regular cast — Chief Engineer Scott, Lt. Sulu, and of course, Captain Kirk. But among the senior staff of the Enterprise is also Dr. Mark Piper, portrayed by actor Paul Fix. Dr. Piper would've been the ship's elder statesman, but after actually seeing him on camera in the second pilot, series creator Gene Roddenberry decided that he wanted a younger actor for the ship's doctor once Star Trek was picked up for a full season order.

In keeping with his tradition of creating new characters rather than simply recasting, Roddenberry came up with the role of Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy for DeForest Kelley. By the next produced episode, which is set just one year after the second pilot, McCoy has already comfortably settled in as the chief surgeon of the Enterprise, and he has a very familiar relationship with Captain Kirk. Dr. Piper is never heard from again.

Yeoman Janice Rand disappeared after a horrible real-life incident

When Star Trek went to series, Yeoman Janice Rand was envisioned as one of the show's lead characters. Actress Grace Lee Whitney portrayed Rand in eight of the first 11 episodes produced for the first season, and she had a more prominent role than half of the actors who fans now consider to be the first generation of Star Trek royalty. She's the ship's everywoman, a regular working stiff among trained astronauts, and a "will they/won't they" romantic foil for Captain Kirk.

However, Rand disappeared without fanfare about midway through the first season. The writers and network reportedly had soured on the idea of a recurring potential love interest for Kirk, and she was written out of a number of episodes, most importantly "Dagger of the Mind," which would've further solidified them as a potential couple. Whitney was released from the show shortly after, and Rand wasn't mentioned again until her cameos in the film series and Star Trek: Voyager.

As told in her 1998 memoir, Grace Lee Whitney was informed that she'd been fired a week after being sexually assaulted by one of the show's producers (who she chose not to name). Having been given no official explanation for her dismissal and, in 1966, little chance at justice, Whitney was forced to assume a causation between the two events, and she struggled with substance abuse for years after. This led to false rumors after the fact that she'd been fired for drinking on set.

Where did Lt. Saavik go?

Introduced in 1982's Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Saavik is Spock's young half-Vulcan, half-Romulan protégée aboard the Enterprise, which is now a training vessel for young cadets. Saavik is a pretty meaty role, and since this was expected to be Leonard Nimoy's final performance as Spock, she may well have been meant to fill his shoes in future sequels. Saavik was originally portrayed by Kirstie Alley, a lifelong Trekkie for whom Star Trek II was her big break into film, but a botched contract negotiation led to Saavik being recast with Robin Curtis late in the preproduction of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

In Star Trek III, Saavik and Kirk's son, David Marcus, are the ones to discover the presumed dead Spock on the Genesis Planet, revived but rapidly aging back into his middle-aged self. When Spock reaches adulthood and suffers through pon farr — the agonizing Vulcan drive to mate — Saavik couples with him to save his life. This would've explained her smaller role in Star Trek IV, as drafts of the script explicitly state that Saavik is pregnant and chooses to remain on Vulcan rather than journey with the rest of the crew to Earth, where the bulk of the story takes place. These lines were cut from the final film, leaving fans to wonder why she stays behind. Despite plans for her to return in Star Trek VI, Saavik is never seen nor mentioned again.

TNG had four chief engineers before Geordi took over

At the start of the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) in 1988, viewers learn that Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) has been promoted from helmsman to chief engineer of the USS Enterprise-D. La Forge retains this position for the rest of the series and into the Next Generation films, and he's so synonymous with the role that one can be forgiven for thinking he'd been the engineer from the beginning. Aiding this perception is the fact that, prior to La Forge's promotion, four different, barely remembered characters were identified as the chief engineer over the course of TNG's first season, and no explanation is ever given as to what happened to any of them.

Lieutenants MacDougal (Brooke Bundy), Logan (Vyto Ruginis), and Lynch (Walker Boone) each only appear in a single episode and are never mentioned again in dialogue. In between the introductions of MacDougal and Logan, Lieutenant Argyle (Biff Yeager) racks up an impressive four episodes before his disappearance. When Argyle is introduced in "Where No One Has Gone Before," Commander Riker calls him "one of [their] chief engineers," implying that more than one officer fills this role aboard the Enterprise-D, and that all four of these officers could conceivably have served concurrently. However, once Geordi La Forge takes over, no mention is ever made to there being more than one chief engineer on this or any other starship throughout the rest of the Star Trek canon.

Ensign Sonya Gomez was dropped after some miscommunication

In "Q Who," the second season episode of TNG that introduces perennial Star Trek antagonists the Borg, actress Lycia Naff guest stars as Ensign Sonya Gomez, a quirky and clumsy junior engineer who's just joined the crew of the Enterprise. Gomez is mostly a foil for Lt. Commander La Forge, coming across as a mentee or a younger sister in this and the following episode, "Samaritan Snare." Unfortunately, this wasn't what the writers were looking for, as — according to Laff in a 2012 Vulture interview — their plan was for La Forge and Gomez's relationship to turn romantic in her next appearance, and the chemistry didn't appear to be there. Laff and LeVar Burton can hardly be blamed for this, as the actors were never informed of these plans or directed to read their scenes in that way. The creators abandoned the idea, and Gomez along with it.

It's disappointing to see any storyline or character dropped due to such a preventable miscommunication within the production, but with the benefit of hindsight, setting Geordi up with a recurring love interest would've definitely altered the kinds of stories that were told with the character later in the series. As TNG wears on, Geordi's difficulty navigating flirtation and romance becomes one of his defining characteristics. Still, Gomez could've remained even without the romantic angle. Instead, she could've worked as an awkward comic relief character in the vein of Lt. Reg Barclay, who's introduced during the following season.

Lt. George Primmin disappeared without a trace

In "The Passenger," a lackluster episode from the first season of Deep Space Nine, Starfleet assigns their own security officer to the station to look over the shoulder of Constable Odo. This officer, Lt. George Primmin (James Lashly), is somewhat condescending towards Odo, much in the way that federal agents are often portrayed talking down to local cops on shows like Justified or Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Odo won't stand for this interference with his work, even threatening to resign as head of station security, but eventually, he and Primmin learn to respect each other and work together to catch a dangerous criminal who's brain-jacked Doctor Bashir.

As the episode wraps up, there's an implication that Primmin will be sticking around, an implication reinforced by Primmin's casual presence in Ops during the next episode, "Move Along Home." But evidently, he was totally forgotten about somewhere along the way. Stranger still, at the start of season three, the idea of a Starfleet security officer being permanently assigned to Deep Space 9 and butting heads with Odo is reintroduced in the form of Michael Eddington, who gets a three-year character arc.

Subcommander T'Rul wasn't interesting enough for Deep Space Nine

Deep Space Nine goes through the its first major shake-up in its third season, beginning with the two-part premiere "The Search," which introduces new characters and new concepts that would stick around for the rest of the series. Chief among the show's new additions is the USS Defiant, the tough little ship that makes berth at Deep Space 9 for the next four years. The Defiant's most unusual trait is its Romulan cloaking device, on loan from the Romulans themselves. In "The Search," we're told that the Defiant is permitted to house this cloaking device under two strict conditions — that it only be used on the other side of the Bajoran wormhole, and that a Romulan officer — Subcommander T'Rul — be stationed aboard to protect it. T'Rul is terse and "not here to make friends," and we don't get to know her very well in the season opener, which turns out to be her only appearance. The cloaking device sticks around, but its Romulan guard is missing hereafter.

According to the official Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, T'Rul was envisioned as a recurring character, while one of the episode's other guest characters, Lt. Michael Eddington, was meant to be a one-off, but the writers became more interested in Eddington, and T'Rul never appeared again. However, this wasn't goodbye for the character's actress, Martha Hackett, who very shortly thereafter would be cast as Seska on Star Trek: Voyager, where she would be featured in 13 episodes.

Lt. Joe Carey comes and goes on Star Trek: Voyager

One would think that the premise of Star Trek: Voyager — a Starfleet ship is lost in a far-off region of space with no contact with the Federation at large — would make it less likely for characters to be randomly introduced or forgotten than on other Star Trek series. After all, unlike the Enterprise or Deep Space 9, Voyager can't be trading personnel with other ships and starbases between episodes. But regardless of how contrary it seems to the premise of the show, new junior officers appear and disappear on Voyager about as often as they do on The Next Generation, and the most glaring example of this is Lt. Joe Carey.

Lt. Carey (Josh Clark) first appears in "Parallax," the second episode of the series, as the ranking Starfleet engineer who loses the position of chief engineer to his more ingenious and improvisational Maquis counterpart, B'Elanna Torres. Carey remains a member of Torres' engineering team, appearing in three of the next eight episodes. After this, Carey drops off the map, but curiously, he makes two appearances in seasons five and six, both in time travel stories set during or before the first season. Carey's later appearances are Easter eggs for longtime viewers, but they also seem to imply that Carey has been deliberately absent from the series for years. Had Carey died off-screen at some point?

Nope. Carey reappears without comment in one of the series' final episodes, "Friendship One," in which he's killed on an away mission.

The Equinox survivors evidently didn't survive for long

In "Equinox," an epic two-parter in Star Trek: Voyager that bridges seasons five and six, the titular ship encounters the USS Equinox, another Starfleet ship lost in the Delta Quadrant that's had it a lot harder than Voyager. While both ships have seen their share of scrapes, Equinox lacks whatever TV magic allows Voyager to start nearly every episode in perfect working condition and has turned to drastic, extremely unethical means to keep themselves alive and expedite their return to the Alpha Quadrant. The crews initially cooperate, but this proves to be a ruse by the Equinox crew to sacrifice Voyager to advance their own journey home.

Equinox is destroyed at the end of the two-parter, with most of her remaining personnel perishing along with her. However, five survivors from the Equinox make it back to Voyager and are inducted into her crew by Captain Janeway, albeit stripped of rank and with reduced privileges due to their betrayal. Among the newcomers are two characters who are featured guest stars in the arc — Ens. Marla Gilmore (Olivia Birkelund) and Crewman Noah Lessing (Rick Worthy) — and three more officers who are given names but are portrayed by extras and stunt actors and have no lines.

"This time, you'll have to earn our trust," says Janeway, before dismissing the new crewmen, seemingly setting up a plotline to be revisited later in the season. Of the five characters, only one is ever seen again — one of the extras — and the events of "Equinox" are never revisited.

Crewman Elizabeth Cutler vanished from the show after a real-life death

Like Voyager before it, Enterprise takes place on a smaller starship with no opportunity to transfer new crew members on or off for long stretches of time. This leads to a handful of recurring characters outside of the main cast, including Crewman Elizabeth Cutler, portrayed by Kellie Waymire. Cutler is an entomologist, and she serves as one of the Enterprise science division's resident exobiologists. She participates on away missions, but her most memorable moments on the show come from her relationship with Dr. Phlox. Cutler initially has a romantic interest in Phlox, but she's surprised to learn that Phlox's culture is polyamorous and polygamous. Deciding that she's not interested in becoming "Wife #4," Cutler easily shifts into a warm platonic friendship with Phlox.

Cutler appears in three episodes of the first season, and she's absent during the second. She's mentioned in dialogue in the third season episode "Rajiin," confirming that she's still a member of the crew and implying that she could still appear in future episodes. Sadly, this wasn't to be, as actress Kellie Waymire died suddenly in 2003 at the age of 36. It seems unlikely that there were plans for Crewman Cutler to return, but the producers chose not to recast or acknowledge the character's absence in future episodes.

Dr. Carol Marcus has disappeared from Star Trek twice

Originally introduced in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Dr. Carol Marcus (Bibi Besch) is a brilliant scientist, Admiral James Kirk's estranged ex, and the mother of their child, David Marcus. Dr. Marcus leads the team that develops the Genesis Device, which can reshape a lifeless planetoid into one capable of sustaining life but can also be weaponized, as the villainous Khan attempts to do in the film. Despite Star Trek III continuing the story of her invention and its inadvertent product, the Genesis Planet, Dr. Marcus doesn't appear, and her prerecorded explanation of Project Genesis from Star Trek II is even redone, now performed by Kirk. 

Dr. Marcus reappears 30 years later in 2012's Star Trek Into Darkness, which takes place in an alternate timeline from the rest of the Star Trek canon. Now portrayed by Alice Eve, Dr. Marcus boards the Enterprise to stop a conspiracy involving her father, Admiral Alexander Marcus. In the film's final moments, she's welcomed into the Enterprise family and sets off with them on their five-year exploratory mission. But, once again, Carol is left out of the sequel, as Star Trek Beyond co-writer Simon Pegg admits that he simply didn't have anything for her to do, and dialog explaining her absence was eventually cut from the script.