There have been a lot of future superstars who made cameos and guest appearances in Star Trek, but arguably none of them appeared in as interesting and jarring a moment as Kelsey Grammer. Known best for his role as Dr. Frasier Crane first on Cheers and later on his own spin-off Frasier, Grammer appeared at the tail end of a season 5 episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. And while this kind of thing is subjective, it was in an episode that is often counted among TNG‘s very best. Screen Rant, Syfy Wire, and Space.com all name it was one of TNG‘s top 10 episodes.
Who doesn’t love a good time loop episode? You know — episodes that are kind of like miniature versions of 1993’s Groundhog Day? The heroes are stuck repeating the same events over and over again, often to disastrous results, and sometimes not even being aware of their predicament? Supernatural did it along with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, Arrow, Community, The Magicians, and too many others to name. For Star Trek: The Next Generation, their time loop came with season 5’s “Cause and Effect,” and even though he doesn’t show up until the very end, Kelsey Grammer’s character is a big part of why everything goes wrong.
The cold open for “Cause and Effect” is one of TNG‘s most abrupt and shocking and Kelsey Grammer is nowhere in sight. Things are already going nuts, with all the officers calling out the kinds of things they always say when things are at their worst — casualty reports, systems failing, eject the warp core, etc. But rather than Geordi or Data coming up with a miracle plan at the last second, Captain Picard’s panicked calls to abandon ship are interrupted by the destruction of the Enterprise.
When we return from the opening credits, the ship is inexplicably intact and the senior crew are playing poker. Later, when the Enterprise encounters a spatial anomaly, another ship emerges from the anomaly and strikes the Enterprise’s warp nacelle, leading to its destruction. But, once the ship is destroyed, everything gets reset, and we find the senior crew once again playing poker. This happens again and again and again. Once the time loop is solved (we don’t want to spoil everything), the Enterprise crew is finally able to communicate with the other ship, which is where we find Kelsey Grammer.
Kelsey Grammer plays Morgan Bateson, captain of the USS Bozeman — a Starfleet vessel from 90 years in the past. The Bozeman entered the other side of the anomaly in the past, and when we first see her captain, he is unaware that he has traveled into the future. The episode ends with Picard asking Bateson if he knows what year it is. Grammer’s character answers it’s 2278 which, for those keeping score, would roughly be somewhere between the first two movies: 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture and 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Picard answers, “Perhaps you should beam aboard our ship. There’s something we need to discuss.”
According to StarTrek.com, producers tried to get Kirstie Alley to play another officer on the bridge. Not only was she a Cheers alum just like Kelsey Grammer, but she played the Vulcan Saavik in Star Trek II. Sadly, Alley couldn’t do it because of a scheduling conflict.