Beloved 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' Actor René Auberjonois Dies at 79

René Auberjonois, who starred in "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" as the shapeshifting Odo, died Sunday (Dec. 8, 2019) at age 79.
René Auberjonois, who starred in "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" as the shapeshifting Odo, died Sunday (Dec. 8, 2019) at age 79. (Image credit: Gabe Ginsberg/FilmMagic/Getty)

René Auberjonois, who starred in "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" as the shapeshifting Odo, died Sunday (Dec. 8) at age 79, a family member told The Guardian.

Auberjonois died in his Los Angeles home as a result of metastatic lung cancer, his son Rèmy-Luc Auberjonois told the publication. Auberjonois' death was confirmed by spokespeople on his official Twitter account.

Since the news broke, numerous "Star Trek" actors have paid tribute to Auberjonois on social media.

Related: What I Learned by Watching Every 'Star Trek' Show and Movie

The "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" space station.  (Image credit: IMDb Screenshot / Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)

"I have just heard about the death of my friend and fellow actor @reneauberjonois," William Shatner, who played Capt. James T. Kirk in "Star Trek: The Original Series" and numerous movies, wrote on Twitter. "To sum up his life in a tweet is nearly impossible. To Judith, Tessa & Remy I send you my love & strength. I will keep you in my thoughts and remember a wonderful friendship with René."

"This is a terrible loss," George Takei, who played Sulu on "The Original Series" and in various movies, wrote on Twitter. "Star Trek fans knew him as Odo from Deep Space Nine. We knew him as René. He was a wonderful, caring, and intelligent man. He shall be missed. When I look out to the stars, I shall think of you, friend."

Among "Star Trek" fans, Auberjonois is best remembered for playing the Changeling Odo, who served as chief of security aboard the Deep Space 9 space station. Odo's  naturally gelatinous state allowed him to assume multiple sorts of shapes. In the series, he appeared most often as a humanoid to better interact with the other crew members on the station. Odo rested, in natural form, inside a bucket. 

According to "Star Trek" fan site Memory Alpha, Odo was known as a tough yet fair lawmaker who was even able to settle intercultural disputes during a nasty and lengthy war between the Bajorans and the Cardassians. That war formed much of the backdrop for the drama of "Deep Space Nine," which explored issues including life for refugees and the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Deep Space Nine," or DS9, as fans call it, was the dark horse of the "Star Trek" franchise during the early years of its 1993 to 1999 run. The 176-episode series was mostly set on a space station, which didn't allow for the usual ship-to-ship fights and interplanetary visits that "Star Trek" fans had previously enjoyed. DS9 also showed a more pessimistic side to the Trek universe than previous series, which leaned heavily toward optimism in the spirit of "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry (who died in 1991). 

DS9, however, quickly picked up its own set of fans, who, online and through fan conventions and gatherings, have followed Auberjonois and other DS9 actors for decades. Auberjonois was humble about his contribution to the series. "When I go to conventions, I don't talk in my Odo voice. I don't have makeup on," Auberjonois told The Birmingham (Ala.) News in 1996, according to The New York Times. "I'm just a guy with a receding hairline."

René Marie Murat Auberjonois was born on June 1, 1940 in Manhattan to an artistic family. The Auberjonois family migrated to Paris after the end of World War II, and it was there, at the tender age of 6, that René decided to become an actor.

"When his school put on a musical performance for the parents, little René was given the honor of conducting his classmates in a rendition of 'Do You Know the Muffin Man?',"  Auberjonois' official website states. "When the performance was over, René took a bow, and, knowing that he was not the real conductor, imagined that he had been acting. He decided then and there that he wanted to be an actor."

The family soon moved to an artist's colony in upstate New York, where Auberjonois got his first theater job at age 16, apprenticing in a Connecticut theater, the website added. He later studied theater at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Mellon University), then acted with several theater companies. In 1969, he won a Tony for the role of assistant Sebastian Baye in the Broadway musical "Coco," which starred Katharine Hepburn.

Soon after, in 1970, Auberjonois played Father Mulcahy in the hit movie M*A*S*H*, which later became a popular television series about an unconventional medical unit during the Korean War. Auberjonois is best remembered in that movie for explaining why a deadbeat doctor, Hawkeye Pierce, made it to the senior levels of the U.S. Army. "He was drafted," Mulcahy says, a line that Auberjonois ad-libbed himself during rehearsal, The Guardian said.

Other prominent roles that Auberjonois is known for include the hypochondriac Endicott in the 1970s and 1980s  sitcom "Benson" and Chef Louis — who crooned about his love of killing fish in the song "Les Poissons" — in the 1989 Disney film "The Little Mermaid."

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon:

  • Michael
    Admin said:
    René Auberjonois, who starred in "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" as the shapeshifting Odo, died Sunday (Dec. 8) at age 79.

    Beloved 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' Actor René Auberjonois Dies at 79 : Read more
    I found this great tribute to Rene.