Thirty years ago, the big wigs at Paramount were faced with an unenviable task. The studio had to cast a new Star Trek series — the first all-new Enterprise crew since the iconic Original Series.
How do you replace Kirk and Spock? Not to mention Scotty, Uhura, Bones, Chekov and Sulu. Gulp.
Well, for starters you can take a good look at Hall of Fame baseball players and James Bond villains. That's just what Paramount did. A few years back, a fascinating internal memo surfaced from the studio. The document from the Paramount archives was dated April 13, 1987.
John E. Ferraro, producer of Star Trek: The Next Generation, was writing John Pike, Head of Network Television at Paramount. Ferraro had updated on the casting for the series, which would premiere in the fall.
It's fascinating to see how different the cast was just months away from the show's debut. Just consider who was in the lead for the roles. Ferraro wrote:
For the role of “Ryker,” Michael O’Gorman seems to be a favorite… Denise Crosby seems to be the only possibility for the role of “Troi” at this point; the same for J.D. Roth for the role of “Wesley.” …Rosalind Chao seems to be a favorite for “Tasha”; Reggie Jackson for “Geordi”; and Mark Lindsay Chapman for “Data.” For the role of “Beverly,” Cheryl McFadden is the favorite.
Totally different! [Source: Leaders of Note / Slashfilm]
Let's take a closer look at the Next Generation crew that almost was!
Yaphet Kotto as Picard
Kotto was no stranger to outer space. He had played Parker in Alien. Though, his biggest role had perhaps been the bad guy Mr. Big in Live and Let Die, the first Bond flick with Roger Moore. Though he missed out on helming the Enterprise, Kotto did land a role in The Running Man that year.
Image: Live and Let Die / United Artists
Patrick Bauchau as Picard
Another Bond villain was heavily considered for the captain. Bauchau had recently portrayed Scarpine in 1985's A View to A Kill, the second baddie under Christopher Walken.
Image: A View to a Kill / United Artists
Mark Lindsay Chapman as Data
Fascinating to note that Brent Spiner is not even mentioned in this Paramount memo. Four actors are listed for Data, including Kelvin Han Yee and Eric Menyuk. Chapman was in the lead at this point. He obviously did not end up as the android, but he did end up on Heroes & Icons! The actor played Anton Arcade in Swamp Thing.
Kevin Peter Hall as Data or Geordi
This towering performer was up for two roles! The 7' 2" actor had a, er, big year in 1987, as he played the killer alien in Predator. He also played the sasquatch Harry in Harry and the Hendersons. That would have been one tall Chief Operations Officer.
Reggie Jackson as Geordi
Yep, the New York Yankees legend and Mr. October himself was a favorite to play Geordi! He did look cool in a pair of shades. Alas, he never entered the Star Trek universe, though he did have a pretty delicious candy bar named after him.
Wesley Snipes as Geordi
Snipes was on the verge of stardom in 1987, with breakthrough roles in Major League, Mo' Better Blues and New Jack City just ahead of him. Casting directors took note of him in the Michael Jackson video "Bad." The potential Geordi list is perhaps the most interesting. It also included Tim Russ, who would later become Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager.
Image: New Jack City / Warner Bros. Pictures
Michael O'Gorman as Riker
A bit of an unknown, O'Gorman has just five credits to his name on IMDb. He first popped up on Miami Vice, sitting on a sweet boat as Onofrio Avila in the episode "Red Tape." Soap actor Gregg Marx and Ben Murphy of Alias Smith and Jones were also up for the role.
Image: NBCUniversal Television
J.D. Roth as Wesley
He missed out on a lifetime of "Shut up, Wesley!" internet memes, but Roth found great success as a game show host and TV presenter, including his co-creation The Biggest Loser. He started off on that path as the host of Fun House, an after-school staple for Gen X youth.
Rosalind Chao as Tasha
Chao had several credits to her name, notably starring as Klinger's wife, Soon-Lee, on the M*A*S*H spin-off AfterMASH. She also had a regular role on Diff'rent Strokes. Chao went on to a long career on the small screen, and regularly works today. Four others were in contention for Tasha, including Lianne Langland, Julia Nickson, Leah Ayers and Bunty Bailey. Who is Bunty Bailey you ask? None other than the girl in the immortal music video for A-ha's "Take on Me"!
Denise Crosby as Troi
Conspicuously not on the list for Tasha — Denise Crosby, Tasha herself! Instead, Crosby was listed as the only option for Troi. Funny how things shake out.