When Jeffrey Combs first broke out as the electrifying Dr. Herbert West in Stuart Gordon’s classic cult horror movie Re-Animator in 1985, it began a journey that would turn the actor into a staple of genre cinema. After numerous adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft’s work in the late 80’s and early 90’s, Combs would eventually join the ranks of fellow character actors who took guest roles on Star Trek. For most actors this was a one-and-done deal— a week’s work on one of the most-beloved franchises of all time.
For Combs, it would become a decade: nine roles across numerous Trek-related projects, many of which were under heavy makeup, and several that were much, much more than one-time guest roles. With so many roles (and prosthetics) to choose from, Combs is the perfect subject for a good old-fashioned ranking.
From Weyoun to a background Holosuite Guest, here's how they all stack up.
9. Holosuite Guest
At the bottom of our list is an appearance so fleeting that most viewers probably don’t realize it’s Combs! In the series finale of Deep Space Nine, our main cast speaks about their plans for the future now that the Dominion War is over, and enjoys one final performance from their favorite holographic lounge singer, Vic Fontaine. Among the many other guests at Vic’s club is one conspicuously placed Combs sans makeup, but looking snazzy in a 1960’s style suit and tie. Is he a hologram? Is he another Starfleet officer who felt like dressing up that night? He doesn’t speak and remains in the background, so we’ll never know for sure! Let the fan fiction begin!
Combs has only had a handful of appearances in Star Trek video games, and usually appears as two characters we’ll see further down this list. In 2003’s Star Trek Elite Force II, Combs assumed the role of main villain Suldok, a Romulan commander responsible for planning a military coup against the Romulan Star Empire using — what else? — an ancient race of genetically engineered bugs. It’s unfortunate that the Elite Force games are somewhat lost to time — the original Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force featured some of the most faithful, fun to explore recreations of Star Trek ships.
Combs’ work is so closely associated with Deep Space Nine that it’s easy to forget that he appeared (along with DS9 alum J.G. Hertzler) in the season-six Voyager episode “Tsunkatse” as Penk, who kidnaps Seven of Nine and forces her to compete in a popular bloodsport. What makes it even easier to forget that Combs (or anyone else) appeared in this episode is that it also features Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson at the height of the WWE’s Attitude Era. He’s the most electrifying man in sports entertainment no matter what quadrant you’re in.
In the Deep Space Nine episode “Meridian,” Tiron is a super-creep, but it says a lot about Combs as a performer that even when he’s doing something so weird and off-putting, you can’t help but watch just to see what’s going to happen next. Tiron probably has the most in common with Combs’ breakout role in Re-Animator — he’s myopically focused on one (gross) thing, doesn’t care what he has to do or who he has to run through to achieve his goals, and ultimately falls victim to his own hubris. All the while, Combs gives us a totally dialed in, one-off performance that perfectly captures everything we like about him as an actor. It’s his work in this episode that would lead to him getting called back again, and again, and again.
5. Kevin Mulkahey
Part of the fun of an episode like “Far Beyond the Stars” is that, along with its still-relevant social commentary and stellar storytelling, it’s one of those classic Star Trek scenarios that allows the entire cast to play completely different characters. In Benny Russell’s Harlem of 1953, all of Sisko’s friends and enemies have a direct analogue. The DS9 crew are fellow writers and artists at Incredible Tales, while Gul Dukat and Combs’ Weyoun appear as (most definitely racist) detectives Burt Ryan and Kevin Mulkahey, who antagonize Russell about his suit and DS9 drawings. Things get worse (and the chilling parallels to real life become clearer) after Mulkahey and Ryan shoot and kill Jake Sisko stand-in Jimmy, and then proceed to beat Russell nearly to death in the middle of the street. Mulkahey never appears again in the series, but Ben Sisko carries these events with him all the way to his ascension to the celestial temple.
Just shortly after Deep Space Nine’s conclusion in 1999, Combs was cast as a Ferengi for the Enterprise episode “Acquisition” as Krem, who along with his crew attempt to sabotage and steal the Enterprise. As part of a standout crew of guest performers including Trek vets Ethan Phillips (Voyager’s Neelix) and Clint Howard (TOS’s Balok), Krem offers a contrasting performance to his previous work as Brunt by showcasing a Ferengi capable of seeing the flaws in his hyper-capitalist culture, especially when he sees how his cousin Ulis has been exploiting his easy-going nature and forcing him to doing menial jobs for less pay on their raids. In many ways, he could possibly be an ancestor to Deep Space Nine’s future union leader, Rom!
Of course, the Ferengi we most closely associate with Combs is Liquidator Brunt. Brunt first appears in the third-season episode “Family Business” and for a time largely serves as an antagonist to Quark, who can’t help but continually fall under the scrutiny the Ferengi version of the SEC. As the series progresses, Brunt becomes our window into the inner workings of Ferenginar. He is the true believer in the Ferengi way of life, and perhaps the best example of how even in a future that is striving towards utopia, meddling middle-managers and bureaucrats are still waiting in the shadows to take a cut of your wages and credit for your work.
Weyoun is Combs’ own pick for his favorite performance in all of Trek, and it’s easy to see why! Weyoun started off as merely the third unique character the actor played in season three of Deep Space Nine, and he even perished at the hands of his own Jem’Hadar soldiers at the end of “To the Death.” It is soon revealed, however, that that Weyoun was merely the fourth in a line of clones, all created to serve at the discretion of the Founders. Combs would go on to perform as five different variations of Weyoun all the way to the DS9 series finale. Each version was masterfully performed by Combs with their own little quirks and insecurities, giving audiences enough variation that one could easily do a ranking of Weyouns on their own!
Combs plays Weyoun 5 for much of the middle seasons of Deep Space Nine when the Dominion finally takes the stage as the true antagonists for Sisko and the crew. Special attention, however, must be paid to Weyoun 6, who is considered “defective” for daring to question the motivations behind the Dominion War. “Treachery, Faith, and the Great River” is an important episode not just for Weyoun but Deep Space Nine as a whole, as it furthers the idea that not everything can be simply broken down into “good” and “evil.” Even the shades of grey have shades of grey — clones bred for diplomacy included.
When Combs portrayed both Weyoun and Brunt in the episode “Dogs of War,” he became the first Trek actor to portray two different, completely unrelated recurring characters in the same episode.
It would take nearly 40 years after the end of The Original Series for an Andorian character to appear as anything other than a background extra of a one-off guest appearance, so when Combs first appeared as Thy’lek Shran in Enterprise it was, needless to say, a big deal. Not only was this classic alien race finally getting a true representative in the Trek canon, the character of Shran radically reinvented what we had mostly acknowledged as “those blue aliens with the things on their heads.” Enterprise’s Andorians were pissed off, leather-clad commandos with a serious bone to pick with the Vulcans, setting up a lot of questions about how these people are going to become one of the founding members of the Federation by Enterprise’s end.
After nearly a decade playing various degrees of villains on Star Trek, it’s with Shran that we get to see Combs in a new light as an honorable anti-hero with a serious chip on his shoulder. He’s passionate, cunning, and tough as nails when it comes to defending his people from harm. He undergoes a lot of growth over four seasons, and, according to producer Manny Coto, had Enterprise gone to a fifth, he likely would have found himself stationed on the bridge of the titular ship with Archer and the crew having come to peace with the Vulcans and opened up himself and his civilization to the idea of the Federation. He is, in many ways, the living example of what Enterprise was all about from the beginning.
Andy Webb (he/him) is a social media producer from Brooklyn whose work has been seen on CollegeHumor, Dorkly, Big Think and beyond. His passion for all things pop culture has been channeled into live comedy shows at the Alamo Drafthouse, live music video riffing for New York Comic Con, and placing 7th in the last season of the New York Trivia League on team Otrivia de Havilland. Follow him on Twitter at @Webbslinger for pictures of his cat, Odo.