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The Star Trek Original Series Cast’s Best Non-Star Trek Roles

Nichelle Nichols as Lucinda Winters in The Young and the Restless (2016)

Like her friend Doohan, Nichelle Nichols found her greatest non-Trek achievement in the world of soap operas. Nichols came to Trek with fewer credits than many of her co-stars, and she struggled again after the series’ cancelation. For some time, her most notable part came in the 1974 Blaxploitation film Truck Turner starring Isaac Hayes. But late in life, Nichols finally got the chance to show off her full acting abilities away from the control bridge, when she played Lucinda Winters on The Young and the Restless

Lucinda entered the series late in the arc of Neil Winters (Kristoff St. John), a character who saw plenty of drama in his 28-year tenure on the show. Like Doohan’s Damon Warwick, Lucinda Winters appeared after a long estrangement from her son, opening up old wounds. But unlike her co-star’s imperious character, Neil Winters worked to heal those wounds, giving her son some peace before her death. Nichols shone as a matronly woman with a complicated past, earning an Emmy nomination for Best Guest Performer in a Drama. 

George Takei as Arthur Takamori in The Twilight Zone, “The Encounter” (1964)

Unsurprisingly, many TOS cast members appeared on The Twilight Zone, the highly influential sci-fi series from Rod Serling. But few members of the Enterprise crew appeared in an episode as good as “The Encounter,” which starred Neville Brand as World War II veteran Fenton and George Takei as Japanese American Arthur Takamori. Written by Martin M. Goldsmith and directed by Robert Butler, the episode addressed the anti-Japanese racism many Americans carried long after World War II. 

The episode begins with only unspoken tensions, as the unpleasant Fenton listens to Arthur as he asks for work. But when Takamori takes hold of a sword with a magical incantation, he becomes possessed by a man Fenton murdered and seeks his revenge. In the tradition of the best Twilight Zone stories, “The Encounter” uses its fantastic concept to draw attention to a real-world issue, a difficult task at which the show succeeds thanks to Takei’s layered performance. 

Walter Koenig – Alfred Bester in Babylon Five (2004 – 2008)

On Star Trek, Koenig played a hip Russian kid with a Beatles ‘do, a guy later best known for his inability to pronounce the word “vessels.” While that defining role did limit the parts offered to him, Koenig kept himself busy as a writer, penning scripts for Star Trek: The Animated Series and Land of the Lost, as well as the comic book series Raver. So it’s no surprise that Koenig would choose a sci-fi series to put in his best performance. 

Created by J. Michael Straczynski, Babylon 5 shared more than a few elements with Star Trek. The series takes place on a space station where several different species must learn to live together, not unlike Deep Space Nine. But when Koenig strode onto the titular space station in the season one episode “Mind War,” he shook off any comparisons to Chekov without saying a word. As Psych-Cop Alfred Bester, Koenig had a chilly demeanor and a mysterious power that set him completely apart from the Enterprise’s navigator.

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