Voyages About Nothing: How Seinfeld Influenced Star Trek’s Legacy

seintrek

Seinfeld is celebrating its 25th anniversary this month, and so TrekMovie takes a look at some of the connections between the groundbreaking sitcom and Star Trek.

Voyages About Nothing: “Seinfeld’s” Influence on Trek

Star Trek is “the ultimate male fantasy,” according to Jerry Seinfeld, because the bridge of the Enterprise had a comfy chair and a big screen TV. That is how he opened “The Apartment,” an early episode of the second season of Seinfeld (see video blow).

It would be hard to overstate the influence Seinfeld has had on popular culture. Of course, many have tried with this month’s 25th anniversary of the show – glowing effusively about how it changed television, shaped a generation, yadda yadda yadda.

During Seinfeld’s run from July 1989, through to May 1998, the show produced 180 episodes. In the same period Star Trek produced 399 episodes of Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager. And during that period there was a lot of creative crossover between Seinfeld and the TNG-era shows.

The most high profile was when Seinfeld star Jason Alexander guest starred on Voyager episode "Think Tank." As this UPN promo notes, "he may look familiar, but there is nothing funny about him."

Alexander broke from the George Costanza mold of playing a short, stocky, slow-witted bald man chasing women out of his league to play a short, stocky, quick-witted alien chasing Seven of Nine.

An avid Trek fan, Alexander has talked about how William Shatner has been his acting role model, and he does an excellent Shatner.  He even hosted the 1999 UPN special "Ultimate Trek: Star Trek’s Greatest Moments" (see promo below). 

But Alexander is only the tip of the Trek/Seinfeld iceberg. His character George’s mom, boss, and fiancée also all appeared on Trek…


Estelle Harris as Estelle Costanza and as Old Nechani Woman (VOY: "Sacred Grounds")


Richard Herd as Wilhelm and as L’Kor (TNG: "Birthright") +  Admiral Paris (VOY: recurring)


Heidi Swedberg as Susan Ross and as Rekelen (DS9: "Profit and Loss")

George wasn’t the only one exploring the final frontier. Seinfeld’s Elaine seemed to get attention from future pointy-eared aliens, such as her boss, her boyfriend, and her psychiatrist…


Richard Fancy as Mr. Lippman and as Satelk (TNG: "First Duty")


Marty Rackham as Jake and as Chu’lak (DS9: "Field of Fire")


It’s a faaaake!…not that there’s anything wrong with that –
Stephen McHattie as Dr. Reston and as Vreenak (DS9: "In the Pale Moonlight")

Jerry had his own Treks, dating a number of women from the 24th century. Here are just a few…


Melanie Smith as Rachel "shrinkage" Goldstein and as Tora Ziyal (DS9: recurring)


Angela Dohrmann as Donna Chang (aka Changstein) and as Ricky (DS9: "Blaze of Glory")


Teri Hatcher as "real and spectacular" Sidra and as B.G. Robinson (TNG: "The Outrageous Okona")

Kramer had his own crossovers, including the most famous member of the Trek family to guest on Seinfeld – DS9 star Armin Shimerman, appearing as the title character in “The Caddy.” Endlessly resourceful, Stan the Caddy has the answer to every problem (as seen in the clip below) – but, ironically, costs Kramer a lot of money with bad advice on lawsuit.

The episode "The Caddy" is also noteworthy as it features Trek veterans Brenda Strong (Rashella– TNG "When the Bough Breaks") and Phil Morris (who has appeared in TOS, Star Trek III, DS9 and VOY) playing the popular recurring Seinfeld character, attorney Jackie Chiles. All three Trek vets can be seen in the clip below.

And the above are just a sampling of the many people who visited both Seinfeld’s New York City and Star Trek’s future. However, the most important influence Seinfeld may have had on the Trek legacy is helping Wrath of Khan enter the popular culture. In the eighth season episode "The Foundation,” Jerry concludes Star Trek II was the best of the Trek films after a marathon viewing with Kramer (who likes “Search for Spock” better and claims to have a “katra”). The scenes below shows how this Khan viewing ended up getting George forced into the titular foundation, leading to the episode ending with the famous Shatner-esque explosion…

… which was then reprised a few episodes later in “The Susie” when Elaine does the same thing (see video below). By the way, Elaine’s coworker Peggy in that episode? Also a Romulan.

It’s easy to forget there was a time when the "Khaaan" scream (which even has its own website) wasn’t such a big part of mainstream culture. Did “The Foundation” and “The Susie” transform Shatner’s Star Trek II scream from a memorable movie moment into a “meme?”…Even before “meme” was even a thing.

In other words, when JJ Abrams decided to do this…

….maybe he was referencing Seinfeld.

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
dswynne
July 12, 2014 6:43 pm

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 25 years since I first began watching Seinfeld. And it’s nice to know how influential it has become in pop-culture.

Cygnus-X1
July 12, 2014 7:28 pm

Wow, I had no idea there was this much cross-over.

The VOY episode with Jason Alexander is actually one of the more memorable episodes of that series. He was very good in it.

TrekMadeMeFat
July 12, 2014 7:41 pm

There are memorable episodes of Voyager?

SoonerDave
July 12, 2014 7:55 pm

@3 okay, c’mon, Voyager doesn’t deserve the rap it gets. Was it great? No, no, but admit it – we were all getting a little oversaturated and complacent with all the Trek out there, and Voyager was just a case of bad timing. Heck, if nothing else it was an effort to force writers to come up with a story where we weren’t constantly fallling back to Starfleet Command for marching orders or to Wesley for saving the ship or what ever.

Hat Rick
July 12, 2014 8:14 pm

Trek was always about something. So was Seinfeld.

Son of Jello
July 12, 2014 9:16 pm

Not so much a crossover but the reality that actors like to work. I think you will find actors have been in many shows other than Seinfeld and Star Trek. The industry term for this is “An acting gig that pays, because there may not be work next week”

Son of Jello
July 12, 2014 9:33 pm

I’m still not too sure on the influence your talking about. I don’t remember the Sienfeld episode where they turned Jerry’s apartment into a star ship and changed the show from being about (funny) selfish self centered people to one of exploration of the galaxy.

ST has such a skill for claiming its the center for advancing humanity singled handedly. A comedian made a few jokes and we hear “never would have happened without ST see that rectangle? world would never have had rectangles if it wasn’t for ST. A reference is a reference calm down and get some perspective.

SoonerDave
July 12, 2014 9:54 pm

@7 There’s a pretty substantive difference between a casual mention perhaps one or two times in the course of a show’s history, but it was clear there was deliberate effort to integrate Trek in a humorous, almost friendly satirical way. You didn’t hear Seinfeld talking about, say, Happy Days or Dukes of Hazzard, did you?

While I might agree that the acting parallels may be a bit of a stretch, surely Alexander didn’t *have* to take the Trek gig. And we also know some then-notorious actors who were arguably put on the map essentially distance themselves from it – Kirstie Alley.

Point being that it’s a nice crossover piece that’s not without merit. A stretch at times, maybe, but a fun, interesting piece, and I for one always enjoy knowing about clever references to Trek in other media. It’s just fun.

Oosty
July 12, 2014 9:59 pm

This is a really stupid article. It is supposed to be about how Star Trek was influenced by Seinfeld, but some of these actors were on Trek first. Several of these actors were also in Murder She Wrote and Beauty and the Beast. Did Cabot Cove influence Star Trek too? Look at the filmography of any character actor and you’ll see that they’ve guest stared in dozens of shows. Pick any two long running television shows that cover the same time period and you’ll find numerous actors that played in both. Does that mean one influenced the other? No, there are just a limited number of good character actors available at any given time.

I am not Herbert
July 12, 2014 10:05 pm

EXCELLENT!! =D

…like a frightened turtle… ;-)

Rastaman
July 12, 2014 11:21 pm

Thanks! I enjoyed the article and agree “Khan!!!” is a bit of a meme.

Cygnus-X1
July 12, 2014 11:49 pm

3. TrekMadeMeFat – July 12, 2014

There are memorable episodes of Voyager?

Yeah. The one with Jason Alexander. ;-)

The one where Seven and the Doctor switch personalities/bodies is another that stands out for me. It’s the first time that we got to see how versatile Jeri Ryan is, and to very good comedic effect.

C909
July 13, 2014 4:00 am

Don’t forget Matt McCoy who played Devinoni Ral in the TNG episode ‘The Price’, but also appeared as Lloyd Braun in Seinfeld.

Lemingsworth Bint
July 13, 2014 8:25 am

They should have done their Seinfeld roles in the same makeup and costume as their Star Trek roles.

Captain Dunsel
July 13, 2014 9:10 am

Correlation does not equal causation.

Anonymous Coward
July 13, 2014 12:17 pm

Not only was Shatner’s scream pointlessly referenced in STID, it was so badly done.
Alexander’s and Louis-Dreyfus’ screams were better directed.

John in Canada, eh?
July 13, 2014 1:04 pm

I had no idea there were so many Seinfeld actors on Trek. Or vice-versa. Though I could never take Richard Herd as Tom Paris’ father seriously, due to his Seinfeld role.

Commodore Adams
July 13, 2014 8:55 pm

Lol “It’s a faaaake.” Ill never forget the first time watching that. Im thinking, “Shit! Sisko is fucked.”

Cygnus-X1
July 13, 2014 10:35 pm

18. Commodore Adams – July 13, 2014

They carry this on for 2 minutes too long, but it’s still funny: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lHgbbM9pu4

Red Dead Ryan
July 13, 2014 11:57 pm

Michelle Forbes (Ensign Ro) also appeared on “Seinfeld”. The episode where she hands Elaine a salad.

Cygnus-X1
July 14, 2014 4:56 am

20. Red Dead Ryan – July 13, 2014

That’s right. She takes credit for the big salad that George buys Elaine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7R7RbuJs5Y

Yet another Seinfeld/Trek cross-over.

Pensive's Wetness
July 14, 2014 8:20 am

I’m shocked there not even mention of Family Guy or Robot Chicken?

Nachum
July 14, 2014 1:40 pm

I remember that a sci-fi magazine (can’t remember the title) had a short story with all the characters in the Trek world. I remember Newman gets assimilated into the Borg and likes it, Kramer makes shady deals with a Ferengi, and so on.

Yanks
July 15, 2014 11:12 am

OK, just how did Seinfeld influence pop-culture?

I watched it, it was funny…. but a pop-culture influence?

Fabio Blanco
July 23, 2014 6:49 am

ABRAAAAAMMS!!!! :O

(I hate that hack)

wpDiscuz