Weren't You on Star Trek? – Don S. Davis Edition

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For this week’s W.Y.O.S.T. subject, the answer is actually no — Don S. Davis was never on one of the Star Trek shows. But he has been a regular on various sci-fi projects for over twenty years, including the other “Star” show, and odds are, you’ve seen him in something. Sadly, he passed away on June 29th, and for this reason, I thought it was only right to bump him to the top of the profile list.

Previously both a soldier and a theater professor, Davis was already 40 years old by the time he arrived on the television and movie scene. His first acting job was a one-shot on Joanie Loves Chachi in 1982, which he followed up over the next decade with a variety other small roles in shows like MacGyver, Wiseguy, L.A. Law, and 21 Jump Street, as well as the movies The Journey of Natty Gann, Stakeout, Watchers, Beyond the Stars, Look Who’s Talking, and Look Who’s Talking Too. But where I first became aware of him was in 1991, when he played the stoic Major Garland Briggs in 16 episodes of David Lynch’s creepy entree into television, Twin Peaks.

If you’ve never seen Davis’ work on Twin Peaks, CBS recently made the series available for free on their website. Check it out when you get a chance. The first season was some brilliant, ground-breaking television. The second season … well … let’s just say it served as a cautionary tale for future sci-fi TV producers like J.J. Abrams and Ronald Moore — know where your story is going, and know how you plan to end it when it’s done. Regardless, Davis put in a solid performance throughout, wending his way through the mysteries of Project Blue Book, the Black Lodge, and the White Lodge, and his role as an Air Force officer set the stage for a similar one he’d play some years later.

Over the next few years, Davis took on dozens of roles, in shows like Columbo, Highlander, Northern Exposure, The Outer Limits, and Profit, as well as the movies A League of Their Own, Hook, Hero, and Needful Things. Perhaps most notably during this period, he portrayed Captain William Scully, father of Special Agent Dana Scully, in several episodes of The X-Files. And then in 1997, Davis landed the role of a lifetime — Major General George Hammond, on the long-running sci-fi series Stargate: SG1, appearing in 160 episodes during the show’s ten year run. As a Stargate fan, I’ll say that the character of Hammond was arguably the very heart of the series — the team’s father figure, who always stayed behind to keep the light on, always fought to keep the project alive, and whose no-nonsense demeanor just barely hid his affection for the individuals under his command. Although the show was retired 2007, Davis’ last appearance as Hammond won’t actually be seen until later this month, when the direct-to-video movie Stargate: Continuum is released.

During and after Stargate, Davis continued to appear in a wide variety of other projects, including Best in Show, The Twilight Zone, Andromeda, The West Wing, The Dead Zone, Flash Gordon, and Supernatural. Not content to just act, Davis was also an accomplished painter and woodcarver, whose drawings, paintings, and carvings reflected a deep love for the environment and for the rural Missouri life that he experienced while growing up in that area. To view examples of his art and design work, you can visit his website at www.donsdavisart.com.

Davis passed away on June 29, 2008 of a massive heart attack at the age of 65, leaving behind a wife and three dogs. His presence in the science fiction community and beyond will be sorely missed. In accordance with the wishes of his family, if you would like to make a donation in Don Davis’ memory, please give to the American Heart Association.

Learn more about Don S. Davis …

» Don S. Davis’ Official Website

» Don S. Davis on IMDB.com

» Don S. Davis Retrospective on Selmak.org (thanks for the screencaps!)