Star Trek series have brought on a lot of guest stars, but only one has had a real person playing himself.
Starting with the season two episode “The Measure of a Man” the game of poker would be played among the Star Trek: The Next Generation crew of the Enterprise D on a reccurring basis. Over the series seven season run (starting with season two) the crew playing poker would become a staple of the show, appearing at least once, if not more, during the course of each season.
It is in my opinion that poker was used as a tool, not only to promote a feeling of comradery among the crew of the Enterprise but also to act as an avenue in which the character of Data could study humanity as well as attempt to strengthen his own.
Perhaps one of the most memorable poker scenes came at the beginning of the season six finale “Descent: Part 1.” The episode opens with Data playing poker on the holodeck, but he has replaced his fellow crewmates as the usual players with Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and Stephen Hawking.
Data explains to the holograms that he finds poker to be a useful forum into the facets of humanity, and he was curious to see how three of history’s greatest minds would react in this setting. Professor Hawking then proceeds to lay down a winning hand of four sevens.
It is a very brief scene and is quickly forgotten as the story line of the rest of the episode unfolds, but it would go down in history as the first and only time (so far) that a guest actor has appeared on Star Trek as themselves, for the man playing the holographic version of Stephen Hawking, was none other then the brilliant theoretical physicist himself.
Why Star Trek brought a well-known physicist aboard the Enterprise.
Professor Stephen Hawking will always be remembered as one of the greatest minds in history, but he would even make pop culture history with his memorable and very brief guest role on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
What is not well-known however, are the origins of this scene, for it was not a part of the original episode, but rather it came about when Professor Hawking made a visit to the set of TNG. He was actually on the Paramount lot during the release of the film based on his book, “A Brief History of Time.”
When Hawking was introduced to Leonard Nimoy, as a huge Trekkie, he asked to see the set of The Next Generation, and while there, he asked if he could sit in the captain’s chair which was virturally unheard of. So Hawking was placed in Captain PIcard’s chair, and afterwards, according to Digital Spy, Nimoy facilitated the Trek fan’s cameo on The Next Generation.
And this was not Hawking’s first (nor his last) foray into popular media. He had appeared alongside Arthur C. Clarke and Carl Sagon on Monti Python’s “God, The Universe and Everything” and after Thej Next Generation, his synthesized voice would appear in the Simpsons and Futurama. In addition, he appeared as himself in seven episodes of “The Big Bang Theory,” but for Trekkies, his greatest role will always be when he joined Data’s poker game and beat the other two of history’s greatest minds with a set of sevens.