Why DeForest Kelley was in Encounter at Farpoint

DeForest Kelley reprised his role in Encounter at Farpoint

Gene Roddenberry wanted Star Trek: The Next Generation to find its own way to success instead of relying on the fans of The Original Series to keep the ratings high. In fact, he wanted the series to be so far apart from one another that he initially didn’t want Vulcans or Klingons to have any important roles on the show because of their connection to TOS. He felt the same way about the actors from TOS…at first. Though actors from TOS would go on to appear in TNG, only one did so because Gene Roddenberry asked him—DeForest Kelley.

Though Kelley didn’t officially appear as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy as the admiral in the pilot wasn’t named, he gently tied the two series together with his brief, walk-on role. As dedicated to Star Trek as the fans, Kelley refused to accept more than than the Screen Actors Guild rate for the brief appearance. And though Roddenberry didn’t want the two shows to be connected, by asking Kelley to appear, he paid homage to The Original Series and gave a high-five to the fans.

No fan needed to be told who DeForest Kelley was portraying in the pilot

Once the cameras panned to Kelley and the admiral started a cranky discussion with Lt. Cmdr. Data, we knew that Dr. McCoy had lived to see the twenty-fourth century. And the popularity of his role resulted in a special collectors’ edition action figure that was even wearing the admiral’s sweater. In 2006, the actual sweater that DeForest Kelley wore was sold at Christie’s auction for the “40 Years of Star Trek: The Collection.”

Such a brief scene had a lasting impact on the Star Trek fans who were willing to give TNG a try, despite not looking forward to seeing the Enterprise without Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Dr. McCoy. Though it didn’t completely take the sting away, Kelley’s appearance did offer a momentary balm for those who weren’t yet ready to see anything other than the original Star Trek.