Interview: Duncan Regehr On His ‘Star Trek’ Roles: Ghost Lover and Resistance Leader

Duncan Regehr interview

Star Trek fans will recognize Canadian actor Duncan Regehr as Ronin, Dr. Crusher’s ghost—or rather, “anaphasic energy being” lover on TNG’s infamous Gothic outing “Sub Rosa,” and later as Shakaar, resistance fighter turned politician and Kira’s lover on DS9. He was a prolific leading man at the time; even when “Sub Rosa” aired, my 11-year-old self knew him from as the lead in the TV series Zorro (1990-3) and as Dracula in the 1987 movie The Monster Squad. Also a celebrated artist, he generously took some time  away from his workshop to answer a few questions.

Duncan Regehr

Actor and painter Duncan Regehr

Murray Leeder: Your acting career has included a lot of period pieces and a lot of fantasy/science fiction parts. And you played Errol Flynn in a 1985 TV movie: Was there a sense that you projected a sort of old-fashioned, classical Hollywood presence? Did that play into your casting as Ronin on the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Sub Rosa”?

Duncan Regehr: I think that may have been true for awhile during the 1980s. I did play a lot of swashbuckler characters, but also roles that could be regarded as iconic in nature: Dracula in Monster Squad, Charles in V, Lydon in The Last Days of Pompeii, and when “Sub Rosa” came along, I had just completed 3 years in Spain as Zorro for the new series.

ML: Were you up for any Star Trek roles prior to Ronin?

Regehr: I seem to recall that I was, but I may have been engaged elsewhere at the time.

ML: The Gothic romance episode “Sub Rosa” is one of the most polarizing of TNG episodes, as it is so off-format. It’s often described with affection—or derision—as the “sex candle ghost” episode. How do you feel about it today?

Regehr: “Sex candle ghost”? I didn’t know it was called that, but I like the title, and love the notion that the episode is both affectionately lauded and critically derided… gives it an air of notoriety, very Hollywood headline-sounding. Sex Scandal Ghosthaunts bedrooms, ignites darkest passions!”

Ronin was the quintessential romantic figure… Byronesque and a bit like Dracula, in a parasitical way. I really enjoyed the role and the idea of two lovers enjoined as one being…   also working with Jonathan Frakes. We were neighbors at the time. He has a wonderful sense of humor and a highly optimistic approach. As a director he’s an actor’s dream.

And beautiful Gates, what a pleasure! Full of ideas, she is one intelligent thespian, as is Patrick. I recall our first meeting:  He stood in front of me and looked straight into my eyes, challenging me in a friendly way to hold his gaze, which I did. I said, “Give us a kiss then!” and he replied, “Oh you’ll do!”

Gates McFadden and Duncan Regehr in "Sub Rosa"

Dr. Crusher and Ronin, the temporarily happy couple

ML: Moving on to your Deep Space Nine role, Shakaar: The character was inspired by Emiliano Zapata, and in hindsight it’s tempting to see him as a sort of Bajoran Nelson Mandela. How did you approach the character? Was it understood that Shakaar would be a recurring part when you were cast?

Regehr: The potential to return for other episodes was informally discussed at the beginning, as these types of guest roles often are. I was surprised to learn that subsequent episodes were part of the agenda.

I was never sure of what the intentions were for the character. As a rebel leader, Shakaar’s mandate was focused and he was full of vitality—a strong, selfless man of action. I understood him, and the character was fulfilling to portray. In hindsight, I believe I would’ve been content to leave him like that after one episode. He was transformed into another less colorful character as the Prime Minister, and with that his destiny became vague. In a way he was almost benign; his activities were reported on rather than shown. His purpose gradually devolved along with the importance of the character to the series.

The DS9 schedule was a difficult one to match with mine. I was juggling art exhibitions across the country and abroad. My first book, “The Dragon’s Eye – An Artist’s View” had been published and I was developing the next one along with a major series of art works as well as acting in a couple of films. Availability has always been very challenging and continues to be so.

I truly enjoyed working with the Deep Space Nine production and the cast, particularly Nana. She’s an enigmatic woman, very smart and so easy to fall in love with. René was a marvelous raconteur. We’d worked together previously in Gore Vidal’s Billy the Kid. Between scenes it was great to sit with him, listening to his stories and points of view.

Duncan Regehr as Shakaar Edon with Nana Visitor as Kira Neryswith

Shakaar and Kira having a moment

ML: Most Star Trek fans are probably unfamiliar with your art practice. Your father was a noted artist as well. Can you give us a brief summary of your career in the art world and what you’re working on now?  Did you always regard yourself as “an artist who acts,” or something similar?

Regehr: I don’t have a title for myself, but I’ve been described by others as a multi-media artist. I work in the visual, literary, and performing arts: painter/sculptor, poet/author, actor/director. Those three areas support and engender a way of life.

I’ve been painting since I was a child and from the beginning I knew myself to be an artist, but always had a sense that I would be active in more than one medium.

For me art making is exploration and it demands the lion’s share of my time. Most of my imagery is figurative (involving people). Paintings usually evolve as part of a series of works that relate to a specific theme or philosophy. A lot of series have been created over the years – I’ve lost track of how many. The works often manifest in very different styles. However, some compilations have been established through my art books, of which there are now seven, an eighth is in development.

Currently I’m working on three series of paintings: “Pilgrim,” “The Lost Man,” and “At Blinders Wall.”

Auroch - Pilgrim Series - Duncan Regehr

Duncan Regehr’s “Auroch” from his Pilgrim series

From The Tree Of Stars - Lost Man Series - Duncan Regehr

Duncan Regehr’s “From the Tree of Stars” from his Lost Man Series

DR’s latest book of paintings and poetry, “Presence,” offers a retrospective of his most moving images alongside penetrating poems of human relations and inner exploration. It is available along with his other publications and artworks through DRAW Studios. Exhibition information and artworks are available through Petley Jones Gallery in Vancouver. In-depth summaries and archival information can be viewed at www.duncanregehr.com.

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Danpaine

Beverly! I LOVE you!

Actually I’m one of the vocal few who like that episode…

Josiah Rowe

I just never understood the decision to make that episode. If they were going to do a Star Trek version of an Anne Rice novel, why not one of her good ones?

alphantrion

It’s good to hear from some former Trek stars and guest stars, they should do these articles as ongoing, maybe monthly to make the newer fans become more familiar some of these “older” actors and people involved with Trek.

Marc Henson

You canna light that candle!!

Cmd.Bremmon

A superb actor – when TNG was on he was on the awesome Disney Earth Star Voyager (kids put on a starship to find a new Earth – border line ‘hard sci fi’ with rail guns and cyrosleep) where they ended up fighting a military conspiracy using human- Borg like cyborgs. He was an ex commander of a previously doomed expedition who would have been the mentor / Father figure. He was a big part of why I loved that show though I was like 10 at the time. I think it was a 20 year mission that ironically they would have made it to the destination planet by now lol Wish it had been picked up as a series.

VoR

Loved Earth Star Voyager! “Rest in peace, Jacob Brown…”

Cmd.Bremmon

Ha ha That brings back memories.
Duncan Regehr had all the best quotes. I don’t know why but I remember this two hour show more fondly than all of TNG from the 90s and I’d say Regehr played a big part. That guy deserved a starring sci-fi role.

Brown: I mean, look at the mess you’re in. You’re an inexperienced captain, commanding an inexperienced crew, you’re in over your head, why don’t you just quit?
Capt Jonathan Hays: I can’t do that!
Brown: There you go.

Brown: “Which would you prefer? A non-existent laser weapon, or a well-aimed rock?”

Brown: Yes, no, none of your damn business.

Brody: But what about your body?
Brown: What about it?
Brody: Aren’t you worried about letting it go?
Brown: I’m a nice guy, I let it go wherever it wants to. Besides, I only need it to carry my brains around.

Vance Arthur: The access codes to the Voyager.
Jake: Pretty greedy, Vance. You still never paid me for the last ship you stole.
Vance Arthur: Give me the codes, and I’ll let you and your friends live
Jake: You know it’s funny? But for some reason, I just don’t trust ya’.

While I despise the whole Star Fleet Academy concept for some reason I was ok with the thought of highly trained kids having to take a ship because the voyage was too long for anyone else. I don’t get why Disney doesn’t reboot the concept honestly, it even sets up 90210 romances given these people are stuck on a ship together for the rest of their lives. Though I’d expand on the cyrosleep concept and get rid of FTL. Did AI with the ships computer better than anything in Trek too and it was funny as well.

VoR

Couldn’t agree more. The generational ship gives the show the ability to tell endless stories, and even though the crew had the potential to have the “shut up Wesley” factor with Beanie, the pilot avoided it by making all of the characters more failable and more human than TNG managed to do for years…

That “carry my brains around” quote always makes me laugh.

tom riker

i knew duncan… worked for his manager… very nice man… that’s the job that introduced me to all my trek friends and eventually worked on the paramount lot and trek itself… early 00s… super fun times…

TG47

Thanks for sharing Tom Riker!

DataMat

Sub Rosa is not a great episode, but to be honest, there are a fair number of episodes that are far worse in the franchise IMO. It’s not even close. I actually think it’s a pretty fun episode if only because of cheesy horror vibe that it has going for it.
Who can forget the grandmother scene? A highlight of the series!

alphantrion

Yeah, I always consider that episode to be the Hammer Horror episode of TNG.

Legate Damar

I think that the scariest part of that episode was the line “I did fall asleep reading a particularly erotic chapter in my grandmother’s journal.”

tom riker

ewwwww…

tom riker

sub rosa is one of many sub par episodes of the 7th season… the worst tng season IMO… yes worse than 1… 1 at least had fun creating these new characters and 2 got some footing… there was a clear leap forward with 3 through 6… then the dreaded 7

TG47

Not sure I’d say worse than the 1st season, but I understand your logic.

I hadn’t realized that it was so much worse at the time, but when I rewatched TNG with our kids a few years ago, I was surprised by how few of the episodes stood the rewatch test.

Chancellor Gowron

Season 1 is almost unwatchably bad. Season 7 has some good episodes and a bunch of mediocre ones.

tom riker

chancellor i respectfully disagree… the first season i understand is not what the show eventually became but it’s innocent charm of finding it’s way was fun… i prefer it immensely to the tired long in the face season 7. yes some good eps but my god so many dull ones. and masks the worst episode ever that didn’t include a writers strike. of course the finale is fantastic. but it feels like they spent the last season working on wrapping things up and prepping the movie.

Locutus

Everybody had a long lost brother, mother, sister, or son in that season 7. There are a couple guilty pleasures in there like “Genesis.”

Dvorak

There are only 10 strong episodes in season 7: Phantasms, Attached, Gambit 1 & 2, Inheritance, Parallels, Pegasus, Lower decks, Preemptive strike and All Good things…

FrostUK

Technically that’s 11 episodes because All Good Things is a 2 part episode. Personally I would add Journey’s End to that list, that episode ended Wesley’s arc in a good way, had some great moments between him and Picard, and continued to set the stage for the marquis story in DS9.

Also ‘Eye of the Beholder’, ‘Masks’ and ‘Genesis’, ‘Emergence’ are fun episodes. They’re not great, but they’re fun to watch. I remember thinking ‘Force of Nature’ was interesting as well.

And Tom Riker – no way is Masks one of the worst episodes ever. That description is reserved for episodes like ‘Code of Honor’ and ‘Skin of Evil’ and ‘The Last Outpost’.

Thorny

FrostUK… “Force of Nature” was a fiasco. All that “we have to impose warp speed limits!” pseudo-environmentalism, which was mentioned maybe once more after this episode and then ignored for the rest of DS9 and VOY.

As for “Masks”, that’s damning with faint praise if I ever heard it.

tom riker

no way… masks is inconceivable… incomprehensible… even the writers of it said they dont know what it’s about… it’s a vanity piece for spiner…

Thorny

Dvorak… You like “Gambit” and “Attached” a lot more than I do, I guess!

tony

he was a great Dracula in ‘monster squad’
shame about what happened to Shakaar in the books.

Just Another Salt Vampire

What happened to him?

tony

you not read the ds9 relaunch novels?
he became a victim of the parasites from ‘conspiracy’

Arathorn

He not. I not either. Most not.

Spock Jenkins

ZORRO!

A34

I had no idea that was him in DS9. I didn’t recognize him without the candle.

Kerry

I luved this episode! Beverly was absolutely breathtaking. It was haunting. The colors were beautiful. There was a mystery. And a whole episode featuring Gates McFadden – which we unfairly did not get enough of.