Actor James Cromwell already had a long and respectable Hollywood career when Star Trek: First Contact released in 1996, but that film assured him a place in the Geek Pantheon by casting him as Zefram Cochrane, the first human to invent warp drive. In First Contact, the Next Gen crew crosses paths with Cochrane after some shenanigans involving time travel and the Borg, and the film’s conclusion has Cochrane completing his first warp flight and in the process attracting the attention of the Vulcans, thus leading to the first contact of the title.
Cromwell is actually the second actor to play Cochrane within Trek’s long history. Glenn Corbett played the role in the 1967 Original Series episode “Metamorphosis.” Cromwell has him beat by one appearance, though, having also played Cochrane briefly in the Star Trek: Enterprise pilot “Broken Bow.” And with all due respect to Corbett, Cromwell will always be Zefram to me. (Or, alternately, the devious Dudley Smith from L.A. Confidential.)