I know I already did a Trek 50 celebration, but today (this very day!) was the day, fifty years ago, when Star Trek first premiered on TV! And that merits an extra special edition post just for all y’all!
I’ve written about the greatest villains and the most heroic crews, but for this post, I wanted to give a shout out to the one-shot characters who only appeared in one episode or film, never to be seen again.
The rules: it’s OK if the actor has appeared in Star Trek before in another role (that happens a lot), but their character can only make one appearance (which includes two-part episodes). For example, Robin Lefler was a central character in TNG’s “The Game” (and I’m SO MAD she and Wesley didn’t end up together because they had fantastic chemistry), but she’s disqualified because she also helped Geordi out in “Darmok.” Also, James Cromwell’s Zephram Cochrane from First Contact is one of my favorite Trek characters, but he also makes a cameo in Enterprise’s “Broken Bow” and “In a Mirror Darkly,” and the character, played by another actor, appears in TOS’s “Metamorphosis,” so sadly he’s off the list…
Here we go (in no particular order)!
One – Captain Dathon from “Darmok” (TNG)
“Darmok” is a swell episode with a gorgeous theme of the importance of different peoples working together for a common good. Plus, it has Gilgamesh! Paul Winfield does such a wonderful job with this character, giving Dathon a depth that gives the episode so much more oomph. The episode has hints of the sci-fi classic Enemy Mine but instead of stemming from conflict, it stems from an unfamiliarity with another culture’s important metaphors, which is wonderfully poetic. And remember: “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra.”
Two – Doctor Carol Marcus from The Wrath of Khan
I guess this is a cheat since Into Darkness features the character (in her younger Victoria Secret days, I suppose) but I loathe how the character is treated, and besides, it’s an alternate universe, so we’ll just forget that version exists.
The REAL Carol Marcus is a strong, brilliant woman who creates the Genesis Device along with her son, David. And, after escaping Khan’s murderous rampage, she still has time to help Kirk find his confidence while he’s in the middle of a pretty extreme mid-life crisis. I love how genuine she is. She feels like someone you’d love to get to know. In the novelisations of the six Kirk-era films, Carol is a recurring character who drifts about in the background grieving for her son and the lost opportunities of her life, which seems a bit out of character for her. She would grieve for David, but she would also grab life by the ears and strike out in a new direction. She’s awesome and classy and strong and I love her..
Three – Commodore Matt Decker from “The Doomsday Machine” (TOS)
Matt Decker isn’t really a warm fuzzy character since he’s going through some pretty serious PTSD, but he’s a really interesting character and actor William Windom gives him enough depth to keep him from becoming the episode’s villain (which he isn’t). His heroic redemption at the end of the episode is bittersweet because, while he does show Kirk how to finally destroy the planet killer, he’s so consumed by grief that the only way he feels he can do this is end his life. It’s a wonderful performance.
Four – Tuvix from “Tuvix” (VOY)
Transporter accidents are common in the Star Trek universe (they really need to get those checked), but one of the most memorable is when a transporter fuses Tuvok and Neelix into a single individual. He embodies the best qualities of both people and becomes a beloved member of the crew, until Janeway decides that the life of one new individual isn’t worth the lives of the two crew people she lost. It’s a completely impossible ethical dilemma, and the final scene where Tuvix is screaming to the bridge deck that he doesn’t deserve to die is devastating. Tom Wright does such a good job of capturing the mannerisms of both Tuvok and Neelix that his performance is the reason why “Tuvix” is on Voyager’s Must Watch list.
Five – Lily Sloane from First Contact
Lily is the only character to go up against Captain Picard and match him word for word in a screaming match. On top of that, she convinces him to change his mind, which is no mean feat. I REALLY wanted her to come back with the Enterprise to the future a la Gillian Taylor, but Picard has more respect for the temporal prime directive than Kirk, so I get why he didn’t. She’s such a strong character, and I’m super sad we didn’t get to see her again.
Six – Haneek from “Sanctuary” (DS9)
“Sanctuary” is one of those episodes I feel just keeps remaining relevant. In it, a vast quantity of refugees fleeing the Dominion, come through the wormhole searching for their ancestral home. When they discover that Bajor is the planet they’ve been looking for (a planet recovering from a half century of violent occupation by the Cardassians) they’re devastated to learn that the Bajoran government refuses to grant them amnesty because they believe they wouldn’t be able to support the refugees (even though they insist that they can revitalize an abandoned section of the planet and support themselves without help). The episode doesn’t end well, and the whole dramatic core of the episode is carried by Deborah May whose character, Haneek, becomes the de facto leader of her people. She’s so warm and likable and strong and her friendship with Kira becomes something really genuine, especially in one scene where they’re laughing about a dreadful dress they both saw in a shop. When the refugees are turned away, that friendship ends and you can really see how it hurts both women. I always wanted Haneek to come back later on, but I think that would have hurt the message at the end of the episode.
Seven – Samuel Clemens aka “Mark Twain” from “Time’s Arrow” (TNG)
Jerry Hardin loved playing this character so much, he created a one man show around the character. And it’s no mystery why. He nails not only the look of the historical author, but he captures his personality well. He’s at his best when he’s ranting and raving, but he has a few quieter moments, too. He’s just a delight. I especially like his interactions with Data who has come back in time to stop a mysterious alien race from harvesting human energy. You get the feeling that Twain is baffled by Data’s inability to respond emotionally and steps up his game in terms of poking and prodding Data as he struggles to figure out what the android’s deal is.
Eight – Annorax from “Year of Hell” (VOY)
Captain Nemo! In! Spaaaace! Kurtwood Smith has appeared in Star Trek before (as the motherf$%@ing president of the Federation) but Annorax is a more substantial role perfectly suited to Smith’s style. For a genocidal maniac, he’s actually super likable. I get why Chakotay is so taken by him, but I also get why Paris is creeped out by him. What makes the character work is that he doesn’t realize that he can return things to the way they were easily. He has this huge time ship with the ability to erase whole civilizations from history, and yet he keeps trying to fix things by erasing more and more, when all he has to do is destroy the ship and reset everything back to where it all started. He can’t see the forest through the trees, and so even though he’s a brilliant mind with all this power, the only way he’s going to get what he wants is by giving up his power, which he doesn’t even consider. It takes a desperate Janeway ramming her ship into Annorax’s to reset the timeline.
Nine – Ambassador V’Lar from “Fallen Hero” (ENT)
She may very well be the sassiest Vulcan ever and I love her. Flanegan has appeared in Star Trek before as the unfaithful widow of a war hero (who had an affair with Curzon Dax) in DS9 and as Data’s mother (who’s actually an android and doesn’t know it) in TNG. This is a very different role for her because she usually plays such emotional characters, but it works. In this episode she’s a spy who is working to take down a criminal element in the Mazarite government. When she is discovered by this criminal element, she has the Vulcans create false charges which merit her expulsion from the embassy so as to bring her safely home, but things don’t go as planned. It’s a great episode in that T’Pol gets to learn how to relax a bit and Archer gets to meet another Vulcan (aside from T’Pol) who doesn’t look down on him. Flanegan’s a great actor, and I wish her character could have returned later (but alas).
Ten – Ensign Melora Pazlar from “Melora” (DS9)
Melora actually has a great career in the novels, joining Riker’s crew aboard the Titan as they set out on their own voyage of exploration, but sadly we only get to see her once on screen in this episode (even though this episode marks her joining the DS9 crew). She’s an Elaysian, a being from a world with very low gravity, and operating in normal (for us) gravity environments puts a great deal of strain on her to the point where she needs to wear a special servo exoskeleton and use a modified wheelchair. She hates being treated like a cripple and is extra driven to be the best at what she does so as to prove that there’s nothing wrong with her. Bashir is able to get beneath her tough exterior and get to know her (because that’s what Bashir does for most of the first few seasons) and we get to see the brilliant hilarious person she is…and then she never returns and that gives us a sad because I adore the character…
There are tons of other characters I could have added (such as Chancellor Gorkon, Gul Darhe’el, Gillian Taylor, the unnamed Romulan Commander from “Balance of Terror,” and so on) , but these are the ones who stick out the most to me at first glance.
Who are your favorite one shot characters?
I’ll see you on Saturday with our regularly scheduled post!