The American sketch comedy show “Saturday Night Live” is considered an incubator for the next generation of talent for film and television. The stars who can trace part of the rise to stardom through SNL are Will Ferrell, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Eddie Murphy, and the victim of “the slap heard round the world” — Chris Rock.
Through the show’s 40-plus year run, there have been quite a few references to “Star Trek.” These include one-off jokes and parodies to appearances of Trek’s biggest stars, including William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and Chris Pine. Shatner and Pine even made fun of the franchise while on the show, spoofing their time in the center seat aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise.
Shatner’s appearance on the show in December of 1986 included one of the most famous Trek parodies ever made, known as “Trekkies.” This would become known to fans of the franchise as the “Get A Life” sketch and would spawn a Shatner-helmed documentary.
Star Trek V: The Restaurant Enterprise
But one appearance by a Trek star seems to be often overlooked. That star was Patrick Stewart, and he hosted “Saturday Night Live” in 1994, along with musical guests Salt-N-Pepa. Stewart hosted SNL on February 5, 1994, just a few months before the series finale of “The Next Generation.”
Stewart appeared along with SNL cast members Tim Meadows, David Spade, Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, and the late Chris Farley and Phil Hartman. His opening monologue was all about his knowledge of Trek, which was incorrect. Another memorable sketch was when Stewart appeared as the owner of an erotic bakery. Another sketch featured Stewart with Tim Meadows as Michael Jackson.
Love Boat: The Next Generation
The sketch that fans of “Star Trek” tuned in to see starred Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Instead of searching for “new life and new civilizations,” this Picard ordered Mr. Data (Rob Schneider) to set “a course for love.”
The sketch combined the premise of “The Next Generation” with the ABC comedy show “The Love Boat.” Other than the fact that both shows featured a bald white male as the captain, there was very little in common between “The Love Boat” and TNG.
SNL cast filled the roles of the TNG crew — Phil Hartman as Worf, Chris Farley as Riker, Tim Meadows as Geordi, Julia Sweeney as Troi, and Ellen Cleghorne as Guinan. Former Senator Al Franken played a Ferengi tourist, while Melanie Hutsell portrayed “Love Boat” regular Charo.
The sketch poked fun at both shows and ran for about eight minutes. Many of the jokes fell flat as the SNL cast struggled with the Trek technobabble. Writer Jonathan Lane said that the sketch was “absolutely awful” but pointed out that actor Akira Yoshimura returned to play Mr. Sulu. According to Lane, Yoshimura has been playing Sulu on SNL since 1976.
Remembering Stewart’s Appearance
Even though Stewart’s time as host is not remembered as the best episode — most of the cast and writers, except for head writer James Downey, would leave after that season — there were a few memorable things to this day.
One of those was Stewart’s introduction of the musicians, Salt-N-Pepa (as seen above). Trek fans still chuckle over Sir Patrick’s enthusiasm.
Part of what made “Love Boat: The Next Generation” so fun was the uniforms, which combined the casual look of the cruise ship with the official TNG uniforms. Gone were black trousers; replaced with white uniforms and shorts. A group of fans keeps that unique look alive today, as they are known to cosplay in the classic TNG-SNL look at conventions.