‘Star Trek’ Bit Players Cling On

L.A. Times has an amusing feature on some actors who played minor parts in Star Trek still cashing in on their “fame.”

‘Star Trek’ Bit Players Cling On

Michael Dante may not be on any Hollywood A-list, but on this weekend in Pasadena, he was intergalactic. Dante was capitalizing on his appearance in a single episode of the original Star Trek series. It aired Dec. 1, 1967. “But it was a very popular episode,” Dante insisted, speaking in the same wooden tone he used as Maab, lead villain on the planet Capella IV. “It had action. It had comedy. It had drama.”

More than three decades after the original “Star Trek” series ended in 1969, after 79 episodes over three seasons, Dante and other actors have discovered that they can milk even the most ephemeral appearances on the show by appearing at extreme fan conventions that can draw thousands of enthusiasts.


Tanya Lemani is in a similar pickle. “I do a lot of things, but nobody remembers anything but ‘Star Trek,’ ” said Lemani, who played a belly dancer in Episode 36, “Wolf in the Fold.” “I didn’t think anybody knew about [my role]…. But then I realized I have so many fans.”

Her “Star Trek” claim to-not-so-much fame? “I perform a tantalizing dance for the Enterprise crew,” she said. “And then accompany Scotty for a walk in the fog. But I get killed, and they think Scotty did it, but it was actually Jack the Ripper.”


Typically, conference organizers will pay tens of thousands of dollars to lure the big guns. Those who played minor characters typically must pay $100 to set up shop. While Shatner and others regale the audience with tales from the past and sign autographs for a few hours, bit actors sit in the auxiliary autograph room, in the wings of the main stage, amid merchandisers hawking “Star Trek” and other science-fiction memorabilia and movies such as “Lust in Space.” Some fans say they get the bit players’ autographs as a consolation prize for not being able to afford those of the bigger stars. But many others are trying to collect autographs from the entire galaxy of “Star Trek” actors and anyone associated with the show.

This reminds me of the Crewman #6 character from “Galaxy Quest.” The money quote: “You probably don’t remember me, do you? It’s the sunglasses, right? I was on the show in ’82. Episode 81. I was Crewman Number Six. I got killed by a lava monster before the first commercial.”

FILED UNDER: Popular Culture, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    Among the Trekerati, a “Crewman #6” type character, at least in the original series, is known as “Ensign Expendable,” or simply “red shirt.”

  2. bithead says:

    Yes, that’s the trick with TOS players… You gotta wear the red shirt, or they don’t know ya..

  3. Myopist says:

    “This reminds me of the Crewman #6 character from “Galaxy Quest.””

    Damn, but I loved that movie. It was approximately 25.6654X better than it had any right to be.

  4. Scott Dillard says:

    The red shirt was always the dead giveaway.