It’s been a rough week for Star Trek fans. First, D.C. Fontana, a story editor on The Original Series and the franchise’s trailblazing first female writer, died at age 80. A few days later, the community also lost Robert Walker Jr., who starred in one of the very episodes Fontana had written, “Charlie X.” Then, over the weekend, The Next Generation actress Marina Sirtis revealed that her husband, musician Michael Lamper, had died in his sleep, and, in the most high-profile loss of all, the family of René Auberjonois, who played Odo for seven seasons on Deep Space Nine, announced that he had died from metastatic lung cancer. Auberjonois was 79.
Auberjonois won a Tony Award for starring opposite Katharine Hepburn in Coco and was a frequent collaborator of Robert Altman, including a role in the movie M*A*S*H as Father Mulcahy. He was a regular TV presence, playing stuffy Clayton Endicott III on Benson and by-the-book Paul Lewiston on Boston Legal (alongside another Trek alum, William Shatner). He was also a prolific voice actor, perhaps most memorably as the chef from The Little Mermaid who sings “Les Poissons.”
But to Star Trek fans, Auberjonois was Odo, the no-nonsense head of security on Deep Space Nine, a shapeshifter whose natural state is an amorphous goo but who takes on humanoid features to fit in. As is typical for Star Trek actors, Auberjonois was active in the convention circuit long after the show ended, and he had one of the most entertaining autographs in Hollywood—involving a drawing of a bucket, where his character rested in his liquid state—which he sold to fans to benefit Doctors Without Borders. More recently, Auberjonois had reprised his role as Odo by voicing the character for Star Trek Online. “It’s not quite as strange as one might imagine it, because, you know, Deep Space Nine—and all of the Star Trek franchises—have lived on,” he told io9 last year. “The joke in our community is, ‘when you get the Star Trek universe, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.’ ”
Armin Shimerman, who often sparred with Auberjonois onscreen on Deep Space Nine, wrote on Twitter that “the world seems noticeably emptier now. I loved him.” Nana Visitor, who played Auberjonois’ love interest on the show, recalled what it was like to work with him in a piece for Variety: “Even though his face was completely hidden by a latex mask on Star Trek, you could see his soul. And with the speed of the animated Genie in the Aladdin movies, he could go from fury to complete self deprecation to kitten sweetness to clown.”
This has been an especially difficult year for the Deep Space Nine cast, which suffered another major loss, that of Aron Eisenberg, just months ago. We’ve rounded up their tributes to Auberjonois, as well as those from other generations of Star Trek, below.