John Billingsley Reveals Why He Turned Down Returning In Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

By Nathan Kamal | 2 months ago

John Billingsley

Actor John Billingsley has revealed why he is not going to show up on the upcoming new show Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. Billingsley played chief medical officer Dr. Phlox on Star Trek: Enterprise for four seasons, as part of the main cast of the prequel show along with Scott Bakula, Jolene Blalock, and Connor Trinneer. However, he is firm that he is not returning to the world of Star Trek for at least this other prequel show, Strange New Worlds. In an interview with, Billingsley explained that it was pretty simple: he did not want to audition. He had a few other reasons, including the fact that getting into makeup for the alien Denobulan race took hours each time. Here’s what Billingsley said:

I was asked to audition for a small supporting part on Strange New Worlds. And I said to my agent, ‘could you just let them know that I was on Star Trek!?’ I turned it down.

Honestly, it is hard to fault John Billingsley on this one. He is a veteran actor that has appeared on dozens of shows, including The X-Files, True Blood and the currently streaming Hulu series Pam & Tommy, and is doubtlessly very used to the audition process in TV. However, when one has already played a specific character for four seasons and dozens of episodes, what is an audition going to serve? Billingsley went on to acknowledge the status of Star Trek: Enterprise as kind of an outlier of the franchise. It premiered in the early 2000s, after the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager had both finished, but well before the 2009 JJ Abrams revival of the movies with the “Kelvin timeline.” As such, it has always occupied an odd no man’s land in fandom, and it does not seem like Billingsley feels it gets much respect from the new showrunners. 

That said, John Billingsley is not slamming the door on playing Dr. Phlox ever again. He was specific in the interview that he would love to do voice acting for the character, which seems possible given the franchise’s recent pivot to animated shows like Star Trek: Lower Decks and Star Trek: Prodigy. It is also safe to assume that voice acting would not involve the tedious process of makeup and gluing a Trek-standard alien forehead to Billingsley unless they were going for some Daniel Day-Lewis verisimilitude. And given the Star Trek franchise’s ongoing mission to produce as many new shows as possible, it feels like we might still see Dr. Phlox return in some capacity. 

And we certainly are in a boom period of new Star Trek shows. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is set to premiere on May 5 as a direct prequel to the original series, with Anson Mount portraying original Enterprise captain Christopher Pike. There’s also the upcoming Star Trek 4 (Kelvin edition), which was announced so suddenly that apparently even Chris Pine was not aware it was happening. Then, of course, there is (deep breath!) Picard season 2 ,Lower Decks, Prodigy, and Discovery (which Strange New Worlds is technically spinning off from). Hopefully, by next year at minimum, we will have five or six new Star Trek shows for John Billingsley to show up on.