Robin Williams Almost Played A Key Role In Star Trek: The Next Generation

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Robin Williams was one of the most beloved actors of his generation and his absence from the screen is sorely missed. Other than his comedy and movie and TV work, though, he was also a famous celebrity geek. He’s renowned as a long-time fan of video games, going so far as to name his daughter Zelda after Nintendo’s classic The Legend of Zelda series, but what’s not so widely known is that he was also a pretty hardcore Trekkie.

Williams repeatedly professed his love of Star Trek and there are many stories about his relationship with the show. For example, in the late 70s he was shooting Mork & Mindy on the Paramount soundstage and would apparently cycle over to the set of Star Trek: The Motion Picture just to hang out on the bridge set for the USS Enterprise. In the early 90s, Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s writers realized that they should take advantage of this and went so far as to write an episode of the show tailor-made for him to star in.

This was “A Matter of Time,” the ninth outing of the fifth season. The story centers on the eccentric Professor Berlinghof Rasmussen, who convinces the Enterprise that he’s a time traveller from the 26th century conducting research on their historic mission. After annoying the crew with his antics (and, uh, also endangering the lives of 20 million people on a nearby planet), he reveals that he’s actually a thief from the past stealing future tech and Data would be the perfect prize. Fortunately for the space/time continuum, the Enterprise crew stop him before he can do too much damage.

Rasmussen was written for Williams, though scheduling conflicts with Steven Spielberg’s Hook meant he couldn’t take the part and it ended up being played by Matt Frewer. Williams also reportedly later visited the set of Star Trek: Voyager, with Neelix actor Ethan Phillips saying he was vocal about his desires to appear on that show, too.

But sadly, he could never quite get the dates to line up and didn’t get the chance to take a role in Star TrekStill, if you’re ever watching The Next Generation and you get to “A Matter of Time,” it’s not hard to imagine how Williams might have played Professor Berlinghof Rasmussen.