Star Trek TNG Covers Up Doctor Who Crossover In Remastered Version

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

No matter how much fans have wanted it to happen, we have never been treated to an onscreen crossover between Star Trek and Doctor Who. However, we came closer than anyone imagined back in 1988. In The Next Generation episode “The Neutral Zone,” a desktop monitor hides the names of Doctor Who actors, and after the episode was remastered, these names had to be replaced.

Only Possible Because Of The LCAR Interface

To understand how this weird Star Trek/Doctor Who crossover happened, you need to understand a common practice on The Next Generation. Michael Okuda served as the show’s scenic artist, art department supervisor, and technical advisor, and he created the signature look for the LCARs interface and other things you were likely to see on a Star Trek computer monitor. These designs were referred to as okudagrams, and it was common practice to insert in-jokes into the designs that (at the time) only the people on set would be able to read.

Doctor Who Stars Listed On Screen

In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Neutral Zone,” one of these in-jokes takes the form of a very explicit reference to Doctor Who. On Deanna Troi’s desk, there is a computer that lists the names of all the actors who have played The Doctor on Doctor Who. Since this episode came out in 1988, there were only six names, with the seventh actor to play the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) being omitted, most likely because his premiere as the Doctor was only three weeks before the premiere of TNG.

While a Star Trek episode referencing Doctor Who actors is already notable enough, these weren’t the only names to appear on Troi’s monitor. Look closely and you can also see the names of Mary Richards and Louis Grant, both characters from The Mary Tyler Moore Show. To make things even more surreal, the rest of the names include Kermit T. Frog and Miss Piggy.

Easy To Hide In An SD Broadcast

One of the reasons that Star Trek had no problem slipping these references to Doctor Who into “The Neutral Zone” was that when the episode premiered, there was simply no way for audiences to read what was on that monitor. This was an SD broadcast that everyone was watching at home on tiny (by today’s standards) CRT monitors. If you’re too young to remember, trust me when I say that fans were lucky back then to have a clear view of how many pips a character had on their collar.

Updated And Changed For Re-Releases

All of this changed when the series was remastered for a Blu-ray release. Now, all you have to do is hit pause on any scene featuring a computer monitor to read exactly what is on it. This led to the Star Trek producers changing the names of the Doctor Who actors to names of the TNG cast and crew as well as the names of staff from CBS Digital and CBS Television Distribution.

No Onscreen Crossover Yet

Incidentally, while we never got a real Star Trek/Doctor Who onscreen crossover after this episode, we did get some surprisingly good comics. IDW (who still holds the license to make Trek comics) has released two different crossover adventures. In the first, Kirk’s crew runs into the Fourth Doctor, and in the second, Picard’s crew runs into the 11th Doctor.

These days, Paramount is in such a state of flux that we could be closer to a crossover between Star Trek and Doctor Who than ever before. If Disney ends up buying Paramount rather than Sony, we’ll probably get a crossover TV event quicker than you can say, “Allons-y!” Until that happens, though, we’ll have to enjoy rewatching “The Neutral Zone” and relishing in the fact that Trek hid an homage to Doctor Who right in front of our noses for decades before it was discovered.

Star Trek Newsletter

Subscribe For Bold

Star Trek News

Expect a confirmation email if you "Engage!"