World Famous Physicist Stephen Hawking’s TNG Appearance Explained By Star Trek Producer

With his Star Trek: TNG cameo, brilliant physicist Stephen Hawking remains the only person to appear as himself in the Star Trek franchise.

Stephen Hawking's cameo in Star Trek: The Next Generation


  • Stephen Hawking, one of the greatest minds in history, appeared as himself in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • Hawking joined Lt. Commander Data in a game of poker with Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein in the holodeck.
  • Hawking’s cameo came about after he expressed interest in being on Star Trek and provided input on the script.

Celebrated physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking made a brief cameo as himself on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and executive producer Rick Berman explained how Hawking’s appearance came to be. One of the most brilliant minds to ever live, Stephen Hawking not only revolutionized the way scientists think about black holes and relativity, but also sought to make theoretical physics and cosmology more understandable to the average person. Considering Hawking’s legacy, it’s not surprising that Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) would place him alongside the likes of Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein.

In Star Trek: The Next Generation, season 6, episode 26, “Descent, Part 1,” Data visits the holodeck to play a game of poker with Hawking, Newton, and Einstein. Throughout TNG, Data seeks to better understand humanity and his poker game is a way for him to, in his words, “see how three of history’s greatest minds would interact in this setting.” In the Star Trek oral history, The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years by Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross, TNG executive producer Rick Berman reveals how Hawking’s cameo came about. Read his full quote below:

I got a phone call that Stephen Hawking was outside Stage 8 of Paramount and wanted to come in and see the Star Trek sets and was it okay? I immediately said it was okay and went down to the stage. I was introduced and asked him if he’d like to see some more of the sets and he, with that computerized voice synthesizer that he has, said he would. We took him around, and when we got to the bridge of the Enterprise, he started punching in something that he was going to say to us…

Out of the computer came a sentence that I will never forget, and it was, “Would you lift me out of my chair and put me into the captain’s seat?” The people who were there with him did it and he was lifted up and put into the captain’s seat. It was a pretty amazing sight to have perhaps the greatest mind of the latter half of the twentieth century in applied mathematics and theoretical physics, wanting more than anything else at that moment to sit in Picard’s chair.

The next morning I got a call from Leonard Nimoy, who said that Hawking had mentioned something about wanting to be on Star Trek. So I called his people, and it turned out that he was interested, and with the help of Ron Moore, we came up with an idea for a scene in which Data goes to the holodeck to play a little poker, and he conjures up images of Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and Stephen Hawking. We told Hawking that we wanted him to give us some notes on the script, and he loved it and agreed to do it.

Stephen Hawking looks on in Star Trek TNG
Stephen Hawking’s Star Trek Role, Explained

Noted scientist Stephen Hawking was something of a pop culture icon in his lifetime, and he even had a small role on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Several Other Real-Life Historical Figures Have Appeared In Star Trek

But Stephen Hawking was the only one to play himself.

Despite its setting in the far future, Star Trek has featured several appearances from famous historical figures. While Star Trek: The Next Generation and later Trek shows could use the holodeck to recreate historical figures, Star Trek: The Original Series didn’t have that luxury. Still, TOS managed to include appearances by the Earp Brothers and Doc Holiday, as well as Abraham Lincoln and Genghis Khan.

Star Trek: The Next Generation had the two-part episode, “Time’s Arrow,” which featured Mark Twain (Jerry Hardin). Star Trek: Voyager got in on the fun, too, with visits from Amelia Earhart (Sharon Lawrence) and Leonardo Da Vinci (John Rhys-Davies), among others. Still, Stephen Hawking’s appearance as himself in Star Trek: The Next Generation remains one of Star Trek’s best cameos.

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