The Star Trek community mourns the loss of renowned theoretical physicist and author Stephen Hawking, who died at his home in Cambridge, England, early this morning.
History-making guest appearance
Stephen Hawking is the only person to ever play himself in the history of the franchise. A longtime Star Trek fan, Hawking had toured the Star Trek: The Next Generation set during a visit to Paramount to shoot a promotional video for his bestselling book A Brief History of Time — and he made the very rare request to be taken out of his wheelchair so he could have a moment in Picard’s chair. He obviously enjoyed it, because after that he made a request (through Leonard Nimoy) to appear on the show, if there was ever a way that made sense.
Michael Piller was the one who came up with the idea of Data playing a holodeck poker game with intellectual giants, and the scene was written for The Next Generation episode “Descent.” It featured Hawking placing his bets against Data, Albert Einstein, and Sir Isaac Newton.
During filming, Hawking toured the set again, and upon seeing the warp core in engineering, commented, “I’m working on that.” No doubt.
In his foreword to Lawrence M. Krauss’ The Physics of Star Trek, Hawking wrote:
I was very pleased that Data decided to call Newton, Einstein, and me for a game of poker aboard the Enterprise. Here was my chance to turn the tables on the two great men of gravity, particularly Einstein, who didn’t believe in chance or in God playing dice. Unfortunately, I never collected my winnings because the game had to be abandoned on account of a red alert. I contacted Paramount studios afterward to cash in my chips, but they didn’t know the exchange rate.
Trek luminaries honor Professor Hawking
A number of Trek vets from in front and behind the camera tweeted their thoughts on the loss of this eloquent genius, including those who worked with on The Next Generation.
Farewell Stephen Hawking. A great man. Honored to have spent time with him. RIP.
— Brent Spiner (@BrentSpiner) March 14, 2018
— Jonathan Frakes (@jonathansfrakes) March 14, 2018
— Rick Berman (@berman_rick) March 14, 2018
We gave Mr. Hawking a tour of the TNG sets. @berman_rick pointed out the warp core & Mr. Hawking said, after a moment “I’m working on a space warp drive.” 1/2 of us laughed, 1/2 of us knew better. Re: the transporter set he said “What a way to beat LA traffic.” RIP Sir
— Dave Rossi (@ltMeansHope) March 14, 2018
— LeVar Burton (@levarburton) March 14, 2018
William Shatner included a shot of the two of them from Shatner’s documentary, The Truth is in the Stars:
Stephen was a brilliant man and an inspiration to all who met him. He will be missed. pic.twitter.com/ZU8EyWzLmH
— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) March 14, 2018
Star Trek movie stars Simon Pegg and Zoe Saldana – who worked together with Hawking on the short Caltech film Quantum is Calling – shared their thoughts, along with a link to the film.
“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.”
— Pegg News (@simonpegg) March 14, 2018
— Pegg News (@simonpegg) March 14, 2018
— Zoe Saldana (@zoesaldana) March 14, 2018
Many other Star Trek vets have shared their thoughts on the passing of Professor Hawking.
humbled by your brilliance.
inspired by your spirit.
saddened by your passing.
now you know… https://t.co/Q7ilxTu6az
— Zachary Quinto (@ZacharyQuinto) March 14, 2018
RIP Stephen Hawking
I'll never forget speaking to you on the set of Ds9. What a remarkable human.
— Nana Visitor (@NanaVisitor) March 14, 2018
The world is a better place for #StephenHawkin being in it. Getting the chance to meet him on the TNG set was one of the biggest moments in my life. Thank you for all you gave us Stephen. ❤️
— Terry Farrell (@4TerryFarrell) March 14, 2018
Rest In Peace Stephen Hawking. Your legacy will endure. pic.twitter.com/6pNQ0UdbiT
— Garrett Wang (王 以 瞻) (@GarrettRWang) March 14, 2018
Thank you, Stephen Hawking.🌟🙏🏼🌟 https://t.co/dHD6CuoC6F
— Mary Chieffo (@marythechief) March 14, 2018
— Bryan Fuller (@BryanFuller) March 14, 2018
— Nicole deBoer (@Nikki_deboer) March 14, 2018
TrekMovie offers our condolences to his family, his friends, and everyone who celebrated his tremendous contributions to our part of the galaxy.
“Science fiction like Star Trek is not only good fun but it also serves a serious purpose, that of expanding the human imagination. We may not yet be able to boldly go where no man (or woman) has gone before, but at least we can do it in the mind.”
Stephen Hawking, The Physics of Star Trek (foreword)