Robin Williams

Was Robin Williams a Redshirt from Star Trek?

Robin Williams burst on screen as Mork on Happy Days, but keen eyed sci-fi fans wondered if he was actually visiting from Star Trek due to one detail.

His master plan was to kidnap a human — but he ended up stealing the show and the Hollywood spotlight for decades to come. When Robin Williams literally burst onto the screen in Happy Days as Mork from Ork, TV was about to go boldly where it had never gone before. But it wouldn’t have been possible without the crew from Star Trek and an assist from Star Wars.

The role of Mork was never supposed to be more than a one and done guest spot for a nameless, upstart actor grinding out part-time work. The character was an alien inspired by producer Garry Marshall’s son, who saw the original Star Wars and thought an alien would be a good fit for Happy Days. In early 1978, less than a year after Star Wars had its Battle of Yavin, Happy Days aired Season 5, Episode 22, “My Favorite Orkan.”

Happy Days’ Mork Made Robin Williams a Star

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Marshall’s gift for capturing comedy on camera, from The Odd Couple to Pretty Woman to adapting The Princess Diaries, was a mark of his genius. He could see the hilarity of Mork play out in his mind when everyone else just saw the words on paper. He stuck to his guns even when the original script was “horrible,” according to Happy Days star Anson Williams (via The Hollywood Reporter). But the first actor playing Mork, John Byner, quit after only a couple of days. Marshall asked the cast for replacement suggestions, and Al Molinaro came up with Robin Williams.

But the casting wasn’t the only last-minute change. Per Recycled Movie Costumes, the iconic red space suit Mork wears came as the result of a desperate costume grab from the Paramount wardrobe department. Fans of Star Trek noticed the space oddity. The uniform had been worn by Colonel Phillip Green in Star Trek Season 3, Episode 22, “The Savage Curtain” in 1969. In that episode — which Screen Rant also considered terrible in that show’s history — William Shatner’s Captain Kirk killed Green in battle.

It’s common even today for big studios to reuse costumes and even certain sets. So in 1978, the Happy Days wardrobe team grabbed the old uniform from the Paramount lot. Designers then accentuated it with an inverted pyramid on the front and sent Williams onto set and into TV history forever. But it wouldn’t be the first time Gene Roddenberry’s leftovers or another iconic sci-fi series would cross over into the Happy Days universe.

Happy Days Borrowed from Star Trek and The Outer Limits

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With Robin Williams on board, Anson Williams referred to the final taping of “My Favorite Orkan” as “one of the best shows in the history of television.” With such undeniable talent, the spinoff Mork and Mindy was put into production in late 1978. The Happy Days script called for Mork to kidnap a human to bring back to his home planet. For the spinoff, Mork had a new mission: to study Earth and humans.

During Mork and Mindy’s four-season run, the show dipped back into the Star Trek costume closet for a blended mix of an old helmet and a red spacesuit worn by Mr. Spock, according to The sitcom also took a helmet from the anthology series The Outer Limits, per Recycled Movie Costumes. It’s nice to know that some of the biggest sci-fi franchises in history had a hand in creating such a classic sitcom character. But from the moment he appeared on screen, it didn’t matter what anyone wrapped Robin Williams in — nothing could outshine his greatness.

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