The final frontiersmen: 6 times Star Trek actors appeared on classic westerns

Six times Enterprise crewmembers traded blasters for revolvers

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Outerspace might seem lightyears away from the wild west, but the two are closer than you might expect. The sprawling scope of shows Bonanza, The Big Valley, Gunsmoke and The Rifleman each pulled galactic stars into their cowboy orbit orbit. 

With hundreds of episodes spanning the 1950s, '60s and '70s, it's no suprise that a lot of these shows' call sheets crossed over with the voyages of the USS Enterprise. For eagle-eyed Trekkies and casual viewers alike, here are six times that Star Trek crew members saddled up and hit the dusty trail!

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1. Leonard Nimoy


Well before Whoopi Goldberg tended bar on the USS Enterprise as Guinan, Leonard Nimoy was slinging sasparrillas as a bartender in an episode of Bonanza. In the 1960 episode "The Ape," Nimoy made his first Bonanza appearance as Freddy, a character mostly relegated to the background of continuing Cartwright drama. Nimoy would also star in the 1995 TV film Bonanza: Under Attack!

2. DeForest Kelley


Bones on the Range: Dr. Leonard McCoy himself appears as another doctor on the 1962 Bonanza episode "The Decision." Here, Kelley is Dr. Michael Jons, a physician who has been arrested on suspicion of murder. When Hoss suffers a life-threatening injury, it's up to the Carwrights to determine whether Jons hangs for his crimes.

3. James Doohan


In the 1962 episode "Gift of Water," Hoss and the Carwrights are pulled into a conflict between flatlands families and high country ranchers involving a drought. Along for the ride is Star Trek's Scotty. Although Doohan doesn't have much to do, he is joined on this episode of Bonanza by another Starfleet soon-to-be.

4. Majel Barrett


In that very same episode, "Gift of Water," Doohan is joined by the First Lady of Star Trek. Barrett, known for her roles as Nurse Chapel, Lwaxana Troi and the voice of most of the computer interfaces in the original series, was also married to Star Trek creator Gene Roddenbury. Luckily for Trekkies, she's more heavily featured in this episode of Bonanza than James Doohan is. 

5. William Shatner


Before sitting in command at the captain's chair on the flight deck, James Tiberius Kirk played a suspected counterfeiter on an episode of The Big Valley. Playing Jarrod Barkley's old friend from school, William Shatner rouses the suspicions of the Secret Service in the 1966 episode "A Time to Kill."

6. Grace Lee Whitney


While Whitney's character Janice Rand was cut midway through Star Trek's first season due to budgetary restraints, the actress did appear Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, and The Big Valley. Whitney would later leave the world of saloons and shootouts to re-enter the Trek world in three of the first six theatrical releases.

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TravisBalling 13 months ago
First: In "the Ape" Leonard Nimoy" played conniving gambler, not a bartender. Second: DeForest was in three episodes of Bonanza, the first he played a Cavalry Captain wanted by Cochise, in the second he played a doctor about to be hung, and in the two part third episode he played a reporter looking for a story he could exploit.
Avie 13 months ago
"While Whitney's character Janice Rand was cut midway through Star Trek's first season due to budgetary restraints..."

That's budgetary CONstraints.
Adanor Avie 13 months ago
It's possible that she was unable to continue due to her health issues.
Moverfan 13 months ago
Not sure who wrote the title and subtitle for this, but..."traded blasters for revolvers"? No, no, dear, BLASTERS are Star Wars. PHASERS are Stark Trek. Easy mistake to make, but still...
Mark 13 months ago
Everybody and their brother did Gunsmoke (I think there was some sort of unwritten law that every actor working in television was required to do an episode), and the Trek folks were no exception!

Shatner made his sole Gunsmoke appearance in the episode "Quaker Girl", which aired shortly after Trek's debut episode in 1966. He played a villain, but he did save Roger Torrey's character, so he wasn't all bad.

Nimoy did a few Gunsmokes, including the episode "Treasure of John Walking Fox", which aired a few months before Trek's debut.
RoyLeeSeay Mark 13 months ago
Roger Torrey in Quaker Girl? Were you thinking of Roger ( Thad) Ewing? Roger Torrey was in the Durham Bull, Mayblossom, He Who Steals, and The River episodes of Gunsmoke🤔
Mark RoyLeeSeay 8 months ago
Yes, Roger Ewing. I get him and Torrey confused. Thanks for clarifying!
Tommygunz 13 months ago
Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley were both in the Virginian episode, “Man of Violence” season 2 episode 15. Kelley played an army post doctor and Nimoy was an outlaw who was wounded. Deforest Kelley was also in the Bonanza episode, “The Honor of Cochise” he played an army soldier that was being chased by the Apaches and came across the Cartwrights. Kelley also was in the western movie, Apache Uprising (1965) he played a very mean outlaw called Tobey Jack who enjoyed stirring up trouble and killing for fun, you have to see it to believe it. I think this was one of his final tv appearances before Star Trek.
ndebrabant 13 months ago
James Doohan was in an episode of Gunsmoke. He "killed" Quint Asper's (Burt Reynolds) father. Quint then "killed" him.
JeffPaul76 13 months ago
Wow! I never knew that about some of the Star Trek actors. But I knew DeForest Kelley was in other Westerns besides Bonanza. Some Western Movies also. I can't think of any Titles right now, but I have seen those movies.
Cougar90 JeffPaul76 13 months ago
He said you could really be an actor when you did a western because there were so many different roles you be portray.
Adanor JeffPaul76 13 months ago
I wonder what DeForest Kelley actually thought when he saw the script for Spectre of the Gun? Was it something along the lines of the O.K. Corral AGAIN?
Spaceseed 13 months ago
Grace Whitney was a beautiful woman and her character, Rand, had huge story possibilities. Hated it when she left the show.
justjeff 13 months ago
DeForest Kelley was also in an episode of the first season of The Lone Ranger...
RoyLeeSeay justjeff 13 months ago
A young easterner whose foreman was framed as a thief and fired. The “heavy” then proceeds to beat up Kelley’s character to force him to sign over his ranch. Of course, Tonto and The Lone Ranger recruit the shamed former Foreman and other former range hands to save the day. Did you ever think it strange how The Lone Ranger seemed to know just when someone would say “He’s The Lone Ranger!” As he and Tonto were riding away, so he could exclaim, “
Hi Yo, Silver, away!” Just a thought🤔
justjeff RoyLeeSeay 13 months ago
...just like how Broderick Crawford (in Highway Patrol) could arrive at *any* crime scene in the state of California in just minutes...
CoreyC 13 months ago
DeForest Kelly was in Gunfight at the OK Corral. He played Wyatt Earp's brother.
RoyLeeSeay CoreyC 13 months ago
Didn’t he reprise that role on an episode of Star Trek? Season 3, Episode 6, Spectrum of the Gun. Although, I believe he and the crew were the Clantons 🙄
BuckeyeBeth7 13 months ago
I initially thought this was going to be six times that Star Trek entered the old west world. My first thought was I don’t remember the original Trek going there six times but maybe they meant all the franchises. The next thing that entered my brain was that nice Star Trek: Enterprise (S3E9 North Star) episode. I should’ve known better. I think I momentarily forgot I was on a classic tv website😂.

Nice to see Grace Lee Whitney included in an article. I wonder how many other of the minor/reoccurring background actors also did the rounds of westerns?
Andybandit 13 months ago
I saw the episode of Bonanza with Deforest Kelley in it yesterday. April 24th.
Runeshaper 13 months ago
Love Star Strek! Always GREAT to see these talented actors and actresses in other roles.
Bapa1 13 months ago
DeForest Kelly was also in an early episode of The Lone Ranger
Adanor Bapa1 13 months ago
Not only Westerns; both he and Leonard Nimoy were on Perry Mason. We even got to see Leonard really emote!
LoveMETV22 13 months ago
Thanks MeTV ! Excellent story. Interesting read.
RE # 1. " Well before Whoopi Goldberg tended bar on the USS Enterprise as Guinan" perked some curiosity.
Was surprised to see how many other ( not necessarily western based) actors have " guest starred" on the different versions of the " Star Trek Franchise". That would make for an interesting future story. (hint,hint). 🖖🖖
LoveMETV22 LoveMETV22 13 months ago

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