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This Is Why George Takei Declined Appearing On An Iconic Simpsons Episode

What does it take to create what could be the greatest episode of "The Simpsons?" You could start with this combination: a catchy musical number, a thrilling finale, and a superstar from the "Star Trek" universe.

"Marge vs. the Monorail" is often hailed as the pinnacle of the series. With appearances from Phil Hartman as Lyle Lanley, a public transportation-peddling con artist straight out of "The Music Man," and Leonard Nimoy, playing himself sans pointy ears and acting as grand marshal for the monorail's maiden voyage, the episode serves as a kind of character piece for the entire town of Springfield, showing how ridiculous, and how dangerous, local groupthink can be.

But Nimoy wasn't the first choice of the series' writers when it came time to put someone from "Star Trek" into the episode. They had originally gone to George Takei, who had appeared as a waiter at a sushi restaurant in the Season 2 episode, "One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish."  Unfortunately, Takei turned the show and the part down, and it wasn't because he had a bad experience the first time around. Why would this Star Trek veteran decline such an iconic episode?

George Takei didn't want to badmouth monorails

Spoiler alert for a 28-year-old episode of television: The monorail's launch does not go well. The controls malfunction, sending the train speeding around its track at dangerous velocities.

That didn't sit well with George Takei. According to supervising director David Silverman, the man who portrayed Sulu had a conflict of interest that made him hesitant to do the episode. "He'd requested a lot of changes because he was on the Southern California transportation board and he was worried about that," Silverman told Vice for its oral history of the episode. Takei didn't like that the episode's disaster was caused by a piece of mass-transit infrastructure. 

Adding insult to injury, perhaps, was Marge's suggestion for improving the town's roads with Mr. Burns' $3 million fine, a penalty for dumping toxic waste. This all-too-familiar funding tug-of-war for transportation advocates probably hit a little too close to home for Takei.

Luckily, the show had a backup plan. "So, because we were already thinking Star Trek, we decided to ask Leonard Nimoy," showrunner Mike Reiss said. "We didn't think we'd get him, but we did. He came in and he was game to do anything. He was game to make fun of himself."

The end result speaks for itself. It's tough to imagine anyone but Nimoy discoursing on the "cosmic ballet" of the solar eclipse while stranded on a runaway monorail. "When he got to that line he said, 'Okay, I know how to deliver this one,'" producer Jeff Martin told Vice. The delivery was perfect, and if you ask fans of "The Simpsons," so is the episode.