Kirsten Dunst may not be the first person you think of when it comes to science fiction, but early in her career, she played a pivotal role in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s final season. The year before appearing as Claudia in Interview with the Vampire, the young Dunst starred in “Dark Page.” Without her, the lives of Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) and her often overbearing mother Lwaxana (Majel Barrett) wouldn’t have been the same.
You don’t have to wait long for Kirsten Dunst to show up in “Dark Page.” She’s there in the cold open, talking to Geordi (LeVar Burton) and Data (Brent Spiner). Dunst plays Hedril, a member of a race called the Cairn who are considering joining the Federation. A telepathic race, the Cairn are not used to employing verbal communication. So, as a telepath, Lwaxana is recruited to teach the Cairn verbal communication and she calls Hedril her “star pupil.” You can see Dunst in the short clip below.
It’s fitting that it was Majel Barrett helping the Cairn find their voices, since Barrett’s voice was all over Star Trek. Along with playing both Number One and Nurse Chapel in Star Trek: The Original Series — as well as a cameo of the latter character in 1986’s Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home — Barrett was the voice for Federation computers in TNG, Voyager, Deep Space Nine, briefly in Enterprise, and in most of the TNG era movies. But probably her most beloved role amongst Trek fandom is that of Lwaxana. A pushy mother, a diplomat who could talk anyone’s ears off, and a hopeless romantic, Lwaxana would occasionally show up on TNG to drive everyone nuts. In “Dark Page,” though, it’s Lwaxana whose grip on her sanity slips, in part because of the girl played by Kirsten Dunst.
It turns out the young Hedril reminds Lwaxana of someone she’s tried hard to forget, and those memories affect her physically. Lwaxana falls into a coma and with the help of Maques (Norman Large) — the father of the girl played by Kirsten Dunst — Deanna learns that her mother has been rendered comatose because of traumatic memories awakened by Hedril. It turns out Deanna had an older sister named Kestra she never knew about, who died in an accident that Lwaxana still blames herself for.
“Dark Page” has so far been the only Star Trek appearance Kirsten Dunst has made. It would also prove to be Majel Barrett’s last appearance as Lwaxana on TNG, but not her last appearance as Lwaxana. She became a recurring character on Deep Space Nine, where she harbored an unrequited love for the station’s security chief Odo (René Auberjonois).
In spite of rumors to the contrary, Kirsten Dunst made no appearance in Spider-Man: No Way Home, but she made a big splash in Netflix’s The Power of the Dog. Dunst was nominated for her very fist Oscar for the role — for best supporting actress — though the trophy ultimately went to Ariana DeBose for West Side Story.