- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine featured notable guest stars including Breaking Bad actor Jonathan Banks, who portrayed Golin Shel-la in a powerful episode about the futility of war.
- Banks, known for his role in the crime procedural Wiseguy, brought gritty depth to the character and added to the overall allegorical message of the episode.
- There are several connections between Breaking Bad and the Star Trek universe, including shared actors and the involvement of creator Vince Gilligan, who had previous ties to The X-Files.
Years before Breaking Bad became a TV sensation, the actor behind one of its best-loved characters faced off against Commander Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) in a forgotten episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Having existed in one form or another since 1966, Star Trek has paid host to a wealth of acting talent over the decades, many of whom have taken a role purely because they love the franchise. For example, Whoopi Goldberg signed on to Star Trek: The Next Generation after her role in Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple was nominated for an Academy Award, out of sheer love for the original series.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was no exception, and its recurring guest stars included Oscar winning actress Louise Fletcher as Kai Winn, and The Princess Bride‘s Wallace Shawn as Grand Nagus Zek. They weren’t the only actors with impressive resumes cast in Star Trek: DS9 season 1, and the quality of guest stars would continue throughout its seven seasons. One actor who was cast in DS9 would go on to become a big star in Breaking Bad, a show that made a virtue of the very storytelling techniques that the forward-thinking DS9 introduced to Star Trek.
Breaking Bad’s Mike’s Forgotten Star Trek Role Explained
In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine season 1, episode 13, “Battle Lines”, Commander Sisko and an away team are thrown into a never-ending war on a nightmarish planet where it’s impossible to die. Introduced to the Ennis faction, Sisko meets their leader, Golin Shel-la, who was played by Breaking Bad‘s Jonathan Banks. Golin is convinced by Sisko to negotiate a ceasefire with their rival faction, the Nol-Ennis. Tragically, a peaceful accord could not be made, and the never-ending war continued, despite both parties recognizing how futile it was. “Battle Lines” is a classic Star Trek allegory for the futility and horror of war, lent some additional grit by Jonathan Banks’ performance.
This was far from being a “before they were famous” gig for Banks, who had been a professional actor since the 1970s. When his Star Trek: Deep Space Nine aired in 1993, Banks was best known as Frank McPike in 74 episodes of the crime procedural Wiseguy between 1987 and 1990. However, he also had roles in some of the 80’s most memorable cult movies like The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension, which also starred the future evil Star Trek admiral, and Robocop actor Peter Weller.
Jonathan Banks Isn’t The Only Link Between Breaking Bad And Star Trek
There’s a surprisingly large number of connections between Star Trek and Breaking Bad that go beyond Jonathan Banks’ guest role as Shel-la. In terms of actors, John de Lancie had a memorable role in Breaking Bad seasons 2 and 3 as the tragic Donald Margolis, a family man whose daughter Jane (Krysten Ritter) lost her life due to the scheming of Walter White. Other actors with roles in both Breaking Bad and the Star Trek universe include Hector Salamanca actor Mark Margolis, who played Dr. Nel Apgar in Star Trek: The Next Generation season 3, episode 14, “A Matter of Perspective”.
Given the links between Star Trek and The X-Files, it’s probably no coincidence that Breaking Bad creator and X-Files veteran Vince Gilligan cast so many Trek actors in the show. This connection continued into Better Call Saul with roles for Star Trek: Voyager guest stars Ed Begley Jr. and Michael McKean. Breaking Bad‘s most overt reference was the drug-fueled pitch for an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series involving a pie eating contest and a transporter malfunction, with horrific and hilarious consequences. All of which proves that Jonathan Banks’ appearance in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine wasn’t a simple one-off.
All episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine are available to stream on Paramount+.