The Star Trek franchise is famous for its recurring guest stars. Jeffrey Combs played eight different characters (some of them recurring) across three series — he even once played two characters in the same episode! Vaughn Armstrong played twelve different characters across four series… and there are others who turned up again and again, especially in the Trek shows of the 1990s.
But did you know that there are 13 actors who made their Star Trek debut on The Original Series and then turned up decades later on another Star Trek show? And that’s not even counting the biggies we all know about: Majel Barrett (Number One, Christine Chapel, Lwaxana Troi), Mark Lenard (Romulan Commander, Sarek), Diana Muldaur and her trio of doctors (Dr. Anne Mulhall, Dr. Miranda Jones, and Dr. Pulaski), and Clint Howard, who started his Star Trek career at age seven and subsequently appeared on Deep Space Nine, Enterprise, and Discovery. (Lower Decks should give him a call, no?)
Some of these 13 actors played the same characters, some were entirely new ones, and at least one got the chance to do both. And a surprising number of them shared the same Original Series episode, “The Trouble with Tribbles,” so let’s start with those.
TOS: Arne Darvin in “The Trouble with Tribbles” (1967)
DS9: Arne Darvin in “Trials and Tribble-ations” (1996)
Long before Voq’s bones were crushed and his internal organs were squished to transform him into Ash Tyler, Arne Darvin was a grain-poisoning Klingon disguised as a human, unmasked with the help of some “fuzzy miserable” tribbles and Dr. McCoy’s tricorder.
The episode became so iconic that when Deep Space Nine was looking to celebrate The Original Series’ 30th anniversary, it seemed like the obvious choice (although they also considered “Charlie X” and “A Piece of the Action”). New production techniques from Forrest Gump made producers realize they could effectively integrate old footage with new, but they also wanted to bring back one of the original actors. Ira Steven Behr and some of the producers went out for pizza to talk about it, and in a plot twist nobody could’ve predicted, Charlie Brill was spotted at the counter. Kismet! Brill reprised his role as Darvin, and an old classic was tributed with what would become a new one, with a great story, technical craftsmanship that still holds up, and some clever continuity thanks to great use of a guest star.
TOS: Korax in “The Trouble with Tribbles” (1967)
TNG: Karnas in “Too Short a Season” (1988)
Korax may not have been the captain, but he’s remembered by fans for goading Scotty into that famous bar fight —“Laddie, don’t you think you should rephrase that?” 21 years later, he turned up on season one of The Next Generation as Karnas, the vengeful governor of Mordan IV who took Federation hostages and then pretended terrorists did it to lure Admiral Mark Jameson to his planet. Still picking fights, two decades later.
TOS: Nilz Baris in “The Trouble with Tribbles” (1967)
DS9: Varani in “Sanctuary” (1993)
TV fans of a certain age will always think of Schallert as Patty’s father on The Patty Duke Show, but Star Trek fans know him as Nilz Baris, the thorn in Kirk’s side who wanted around-the-clock security on his quadrotriticale. (Turns out he was right.) His return to the franchise came 26 years later when he played a popular Bajoran musician named Varani on Deep Space Nine — so popular that Quark didn’t want him in his bar because his customers were listening instead of drinking!
TOS: Trelane, “The Squire of Gothos” (1967)
TOS: Koloth, “The Trouble with Tribbles” (1967)
DS9: Koloth, “Blood Oath” (1994)
Whether he was an omnipotent spoiled brat or an “aggrieved Klingon commander,” Campbell was always a standout. Fans have long been speculating that Trelane was a Q — Campbell certainly shares John de Lancie’s flamboyance and love of costumes — and it’s a tribute to his performance that the character still comes up in Star Trek talks across the internet. But it’s Koloth who had staying power in the end, turning up on DS9 to fulfill an oath of revenge on an old enemy.
TOS: Kang, “Day of the Dove” (1968)
DS9: Kang, “Blood Oath” (1994)
DS9: Jeyal, “The Muse” (1996)
VOY: Kang, “Flashback” (1996)
“Only a fool fights in a burning house!”
Ansara was a perfect choice to play Kang, the deep-voiced Klingon captain who had to forge a temporary alliance with the Enterprise crew to defeat a common enemy. He was back 26 years later for “Blood Oath,” where Kang (like William Campbell’s Koloth) fulfilled his oath and met his noble end. And thanks to the Voyager episode “Flashback,” Kang made one more appearance, joining fellow TOS vets George Takei and Grace Lee Whitney to reveal the secrets of Tuvok’s past.
Kang’s death didn’t keep Ansara from another DS9 appearance. He played Jeyal, Lwaxana Troi’s husband — Not quite making another TOS reunion, though, since Majel Barrett didn’t appear in “Day of the Dove!”
Stats-wise, Ansara is one of seven actors to play the same character on at least three different live-action Star Trek series, surpassed only by Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis, who have played Riker and Troi, respectively, on four series so far.
TOS: Kor, “Errand of Mercy” (1967)
DS9: Kor, “Blood Oath,” (1994); “The Sword of Kahless,” (1995); “Once More Unto the Breach” (1998)
Colicos was Star Trek’s very first prominent Klingon. He played Kor as ruthless but oddly charismatic, a man who enjoyed his own cruelty and became furious when his plans were thwarted by Organia’s surprisingly luminous residents in “Errand of Mercy.” The producers liked his performance so much that they tried to bring Kor back for “The Trouble with Tribbles” and “Day of the Dove,” but Colicos was a popular fella and was already booked.
As the only old school Klingon to survive “Blood Oath,” Kor returned to DS9 twice more. The character met his end in “Once More Unto the Breach” but went out in style, 31 years after his original appearance. It was glorious.
TOS: Adam, “The Way to Eden” (1969)
DS9: Lt. General Denning, “Little Green Men” (1995)
“Gonna crack my knuckles and jump for joy, got a clean bill of health from Dr. McCoy!”
Napier co-wrote all the songs he sang as Adam in “The Way to Eden,” a stark contrast to the role he played 26 years later in “Little Green Men.” Napier’s Denning was an Air Force flag officer in the 1940s who found himself face-to-face with a trio of Ferengi in Roswell, New Mexico… about as far from a singing hippie as you can get.
TOS: The Keeper (voice), “The Cage” (1964)
TOS: Commodore José L. Mendez, “The Menagerie” (1966)
TNG: Senator Pardek, “Unification I” and “Unification II” (1991)
This one surprises even hardcore Star Trek fans. Most recognize Throne immediately as Commodore Mendez, and TOS historians also know that he originally provided the voice of The Keeper in Star Trek’s first pilot, “The Cage.” When they decided to wrap it into the two-parter “The Menagerie,” they distorted The Keeper’s voice so viewers wouldn’t make the connection.
But the bigger surprise is that he turned up decades later in TNG’s “Unification” as Senator Pardek, the Romulan who befriended and then betrayed Spock. He got the call to guest star from none other than Gene Roddenberry himself, and found himself once again filming scenes face-to-face with Leonard Nimoy.
TOS: Galt, “The Gamesters of Triskelion” (1968)
DS9: Tumek, “The House of Quark,” (1994); “Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places” (1996)
DS9: Cardassian informant, “Improbable Cause” (1995)
VOY: Vulcan master, “Gravity” (1991)
ENT: Suliban doctor, “Broken Bow” (2001)
Star Trek fans have seen Joseph Ruskin play five different characters in four Star Trek series, and chances are that they recognized his distinctive voice even if they couldn’t place it immediately.
Ruskin was obviously able to handle gobs of makeup, starting with the pasty-faced Galt the master thrall. He’s been a Klingon, a Cardassian, a Vulcan (probably the easiest of all), and then, just to take on the biggest challenge yet, a Suliban.
If five roles aren’t enough for you, add one more: he played a Son’a officer (more makeup!) in the movie Star Trek: Insurrection.
TOS: Sub-Commander Tal, “The Enterprise Incident” (1968)
ENT: Vulcan priest, “Home,” “Kir’Shara” (2004)
Donner appeared in Star Trek’s third season as Sub-Commander Tal in “The Enterprise Incident,” and could’ve kept those pointed ears: 36 years later, he was playing a Vulcan priest in two episodes of Enterprise. He auditioned for the role just like any other actor, and said he didn’t think the producers knew he’d ever been on The Original Series.
TOS: Boy in army helmet, “Miri” (1966)
DS9: Commander Thopok, “Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places” (1996)
DS9: Third Remata'Klan, “Rocks and Shoals” (1997)
VOY: Lt. John Kelly, “One Small Step” (1999)
Morris was seven years old when he played an Only in “Miri.” He came from a showbiz family: His dad, Greg Morris, was playing Barney Collier on a nearby soundstage in Mission: Impossible while Star Trek was in production.
By the time of his first DS9 appearance, he was 37, but still too young for the part he wanted — he’d auditioned to play Ben Sisko. Obviously the producers liked him, and he ended up in three different episodes, covered in makeup as a Klingon for one and a Jem’Hadar in another.
He got to show his real face as Lt. John Kelly, commander of the Ares IV mission to Mars who was given a full military funeral when his body was discovered by the Voyager crew. And if you thought that face looked familiar, you were right. In Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, he played a young cadet who asked Kirk if the Enterprise would be getting a special reception or ceremony upon their return to Earth.
TOS: Girl in hat, “Miri” (1966)
VOY: Umali, “Workforce” (2001)
Iona is the only woman on this list! She’s Phil’s sister, and made her Star Trek debut with him as one of the Onlies in “Miri.” (There were other stars’ kids in that episode: William Shatner and Gene Roddenberry’s daughters appeared in it too.) 35 years later, she got a fun role on Voyager as Umali, the bar owner in “Workforce” who hired Tom Paris as a waiter but didn’t put up with any of his nonsense.
TOS: Ray Tsing Tao, “And the Children Shall Lead” (1968)
TNG: Ensign Lin, “Night Terrors” (1991)
We reach the end of our journey with Brian Tochi, who was 9 years old when he played Ray Tsing, one of the Gorgon-summoning children rescued from Triacus after his parents died. 23 years later, he turned up in “Night Terrors,” taking over the helm when its operator forgot how to use the controls after being caught in a Tyken’s rift and not getting any REM sleep. He’s the one who had to inform Captain Picard that the Enterprise was adrift.
Laurie Ulster (she/her) is a freelance writer and a TV producer who somehow survived her very confusing adolescence as the lone female Star Trek fan in middle school. She's a writer/editor and was the Supervising Producer on After Trek.