This week’s W.Y.O.S.T. subject is Vaughn Armstrong. And the answer is a resounding YES, he HAS been in many a Star Trek show. In fact, he holds the record for having played the most different characters on the various Trek shows. He’s appeared 27 times as 11 different characters of 8 different races — 3 Klingons, 2 Cardassians, a Borg, a Romulan, a Vidiian, a Hirogen, a Kreetassan … and even a plain old human. He played 5 different characters on the Voyager series alone, and shares with Jeffrey Combs the distinction of being the only actor to portray 3 characters in the same season of the same show (Enterprise). The only Trek show he never appeared on was The Original Series … but I’m sure it’s only because he was a teenager at the time.
A Vietnam War veteran, Armstrong did a lot of stage acting in his early days, and didn’t actually enter the Hollywood scene until he was 27 years old. The following year (1978), he landed a one-shot role on a Wonder Woman episode, and the next decade would find him on such popular shows as Lou Grant, Matt Houston, Simon & Simon, Remington Steele, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Scarecrow & Mrs. King, and the classic 1984 time travel movie The Philadelphia Experiment.
Armstrong’s entree into the Trek universe came in 1988, when he landed the role of a Klingon during the first season of The Next Generation, after having come to the attention of the casting director when he auditioned for the role of Will Riker. As Korris, he was among the first few Klingons other than series regular Worf that the world really got a close look at, and he’s most proud of being part of the first “Klingon Death Ritual” shown on TV. It would be another 5 years before he’d play his next Trek role, but in the meantime, he didn’t lack for work, appearing on such sci-fi classics as Quantum Leap (as Donald Trump’s father) and The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. (with Bruce Campbell), as well as mainstream shows like Cheers, Seinfeld, and Saved By The Bell. When he returned to Trek in 1993, it was in the second episode of the new Deep Space Nine series, as a Cardassian. Two years later, he’d appear in the seventh episode of the new Voyager series … this time as a Romulan.
Throughout the rest of the 90s, Armstrong would find work on both Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place, on the short-lived X-Files knock-off Dark Skies, on procedural shows like NYPD Blues, Profiler, and JAG, on the long-running medical drama ER, on an episode of geek-favorite Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and would even play a Klingon in the film used for the “Star Trek Experience” ride in Las Vegas. Then in 1999, he returned to Deep Space Nine to play a Cardassian again … but a different one this time. That same year, he played a Borg drone over on Voyager. From 2000-2001, he’d return to Voyager three more times, once to portray a plague-ridden Vidiian, again to play an Alpha Hirogen, and again to play a much older version of the same Klingon he’d brought to life for the Star Trek Experience, all while also appearing on shows like The West Wing, Power Rangers, and the time travel show Seven Days.
An entirely new challenge awaited Armstrong in 2001, when he was cast in the pilot episode of Star Trek: Enterprise as, of all things, a normal old human being — Admiral Maxwell Forrest, the boss of Jonathan Archer, first captain of the Enterprise. He embraced the role, and would recur as Forrest through the series’ run, while also appearing once as a Klingon and once as a persnickety Kreetassan. Also around this time, Armstrong did voice work on no less than four Trek-based video games, thereby cementing his ties to the franchise. Enterprise was canceled in 2005, and since then, it looks as if Armstrong has taken on minimal work. (Although as recently as this past week, I was pleased to see him make an appearance on one of my favorite non-sci-fi shows these days, Mad Men.)
When he’s not acting, Armstrong — father of two — happily attends sci-fi conventions, and fronts The Enterprise Blues Band with fellow Star Trek veterans Richard Herd, Casey Biggs, and Steve Rankin. My guess is that he’s got his fingers crossed, waiting to see if J.J. Abrams 2010 Trek prequel movie will inspire the Paramount to create another TV show, and if so, he’ll be the first one in line at the make-up trailer.
Learn more about Vaughn Armstrong …