Today, we explore the connections between that place “where everybody knows your name” and the places “where no one has gone before.” Cheers premiered about three months after Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, on September 30, 1982, and few could predict that the sitcom – which, like Star Trek, faced low ratings early on -- would become a cultural icon, nor that its characters would become popular parts of the TV landscape for more than 20 years. Join us as we share some of our favorite connections between Cheers, its spinoff Frasier, and Star Trek – including an amazing connection between the original Star Trek and Martin Crane’s famous recliner.
TREKKING TO BOSTON AND SEATTLE
Several of Trek’s series regulars made appearances on Cheers and Frasier before or after their time with Starfleet. Almost a decade before her pioneering role on Star Trek: Voyager as Captain Janeway, Kate Mulgrew played another leader in a three-episode arc of Cheers. Mulgrew’s character, politician Janet Eldridge, began a serious relationship with bar owner Sam Malone, played by Ted Danson. The fourth season’s last scene was a cliffhanger during which Sam made a phone call and proposed marriage to an unseen character meant to be either to be Janet or long-time love interest Diane Chambers.
Spinoff Frasier saw even more visits by Trek regulars. Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner made separate appearances during the 2003 season. Stewart’s memorable guest turn was as famed fictional director Alistair Burke in “The Doctor is Out” and Spiner played Albert, an airplane passenger seated next to Lilith (“Lilith Needs a Favor”). There is a subtle reference to Data’s countenance when Lilith comments about Albert’s pale complexion, and Albert states, “I am always this pale.” Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Rene Auberjonois (Odo) played Frasier’s mentor, Dr. William Tewksbury, in two episodes. Voyager’s Robert Picardo (The Doctor) appeared in “Bully for Martin,” playing a role that would’ve made Tuvok proud (if Vulcans felt pride, that is) – that of Charlie Koechner, a security specialist. Star Trek: Enterprise’s Anthony Montgomery (Travis) had a role as a waiter in “Something Borrowed, Something Blue.”
Many of Trek’s guest actors and actresses also appeared on the sitcoms, partially due to all three shows being Paramount productions at the time. Favorites include:
- Eric Menyuk (The Traveler on Next Gen) played a co-worker of postal carrier Cliff Clavin on Cheers
- Josh Clark, who portrayed the recurring and ill-fated Joe Carey from Voyager, in addition to a guest role as a tactical officer in the Next Gen episode “Justice,” guest starred on Cheers
- Vaughn Armstrong (Maxwell Forrest on Enterprise, among many other Trek roles) acted on both Cheers and Frasier
- Star Trek III: The Search for Spock actor Christopher Lloyd (Kruge) appeared as an eccentric artist named Phillip Semenko in a two-part episode of Cheers called “I’ll Be Seeing You”
- Keene Curtis (Voyager’s “Sacred Ground”) recurred on Cheers as the owner of the restaurant above the bar, named Melville’s. (PS: For Star Wars fans, it’s worth noting that Curtis also played the role of Grand Moff Tarkin on the PBS Star Wars radio drama)
- Georgia Brown (Worf’s mother, Helena Rozhenko) was Emmy nominated for her role of Carla’s spiritual advisor Madame Lazora on Cheers
- Saul Rubinek (Kivas Fajo on Next Gen) was Daphne Moon’s fiancée Donny Douglas in 15 episodes of Frasier
FROM BOSTON TO OUTER SPACE
Cheers and Frasier regulars returned the favor by appearing in Trek episodes. Star Trek fan Bebe Neuwirth (Lilith on Cheers and Frasier) played the curious Nurse Lanel in Next Gen’s “First Contact.” Kelsey Grammer, whose character of Frasier Crane appeared on TV screens for 22 seasons and who was the first actor in TV history to be Emmy nominated on three different shows (Cheers, Frasier, Wings) for playing the same character, was Captain Morgan Bateson (“Cause and Effect”). As captain of the temporally displaced U.S.S. Bozeman, the character became a fan favorite, making a voice cameo in First Contact and appearing in novels, notably Diane Carey’s Ship of the Line.
Before her Emmy-winning role as Rebecca Howe on Cheers, Kirstie Alley of course had appeared as Saavik in The Wrath of Khan. Alley’s Cheers co-star Paul Willson, who played frequent bar patron Paul Krapence, did a turn on Voyager as one of the Hierarchy aliens in “The Void.”
One of the most-interesting connections is actor Dan Butler, who played Robert “Bulldog” Briscoe on Frasier. Butler actually played the role of Tom Paris briefly, along with the roles of Steth and an imposter-version of Steth, in Voyager’s “Vis a Vis,” which involved a DNA-swapping alien.
ON THE SCREENS AND BEHIND THE SCENES
References to Trek were frequent on Cheers and especially Frasier.
Frasier character of Noel Shempsky, played by Patrick Kerr, is a coworker of Frasier at the radio station and an avowed Trekkie. In the episode “Star Mitzvah,” as revenge against Frasier for not securing him a promised Scott Bakula Enterprise autograph, Noel volunteers to translate a speech into Hebrew for Frasier to read at his son’s Bar Mitzvah – but actually translated it into Klingon instead. Making Noel proud would be the knowledge that the actor who played him, Kerr, had a role on Voyager as Dathon in the episode “Persistence of Vision.”
In the Cheers episode “Loathe and Marriage,” it’s learned that Frasier and Lilith got their friend Woody a set of Star Trek steak knives as a wedding present.
Because of its futuristic setting, the onscreen references to Cheers and Frasier cannot be as direct on Trek. However, they’re still there, including the Next Gen episode “Eye of the Beholder.” An onscreen personnel files for Lieutenant Anaanda Ziff shows previous postings on the U.S.S. Malone and U.S.S. Peterson, direct references to Cheers characters Sam Malone and Norm Peterson.
Norm’s first name also factors famously with the character of Morn, played by Mark Allen Shepherd. Morn appears in more than 90 episodes of Deep Space Nine, and guested on both Voyager (“Caretaker”) and Next Gen (“Birthright”). Morn is an anagram of Norm, and in addition to their names, both characters have a fondness for their respective bars and specific bar stools.
The television special Star Trek: 30 Years and Beyond was hosted by Ted Danson, and featured a skit set on the U.S.S. Voyager, with Kate Mulgrew as Janeway. Instead of the familiar family that comprises the Voyager crew, however, Janeway must contend with Frasier characters Roz (trying to snag a date with an alien), Daphne (who thinks she has Troi-like psychic powers), Martin (sitting in his favorite recliner), Niles (who wants a banality filter installed on the ship), and even Eddie the Dog (brought on board by… a Klingon).
Behind the scenes, there are also many connections. Stage 25, where both Cheers and Frasier filmed on the Paramount lot, was used to film parts of the “Under Construction” trailer for the 2009 Star Trek film.
Rick Berman, who executive produced Next Gen, and co-created and executive produced DS9, Voyager and Enterprise, was, prior to his time on Trek, Director of Current Programming for Paramount, with responsibilities over many Paramount shows… among them Cheers. Trek Production Designer and Art Director Herman Zimmerman, whose many contributions include co-designing Deep Space 9 with Rick Sternbach, and the bridge and Ten Forward of the U.S.S. Enterprise D, was Art Director for 68 episodes of Cheers.
Perhaps our favorite connection between the worlds of Cheers, Frasier, and Star Trek is Martin Crane’s famous, hideously upholstered, duct-taped recliner, which stood in contrast to his son Frasier’s refined taste in décor – and which symbolized the characters’ different approaches to life. The fabric from the chair actually came from leftovers in the Paramount warehouses from the set of the original Star Trek. We think it is pretty cool that two of TV’s most iconic chairs – that of Captain Kirk and that of Martin Crane – have a Trek-connection.
Goodnight, Seattle… and Vulcan!
Maria Jose and John Tenuto are both sociology professors at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois, specializing in popular culture and subculture studies. The Tenutos have conducted extensive research on Star Trek’s history, and have presented at venues such as Creation Conventions and the St. Louis Science Center. They’ve written for the official Star Trek Magazine and their extensive collection of Trek items has been featured in SFX Magazine. Their theory about the “20-Year Nostalgia Cycle” and research on Trek fans has been featured on WGN News, BBC Radio, and in the documentary The Force Among Us. Contact the Tenutos at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.