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There’s no going back for Worf

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Michael Dorn as Worf.

Michael Dorn as Worf.

After spending more time on "Star Trek" than any actor in its 40-year history, Michael Dorn figures he's finished. Well, maybe.

"I'm smart enough to never say never in this business," said Dorn, who played Lt. Commander Worf for seven seasons of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and four seasons of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," as well as five "Trek" movies. "But when 'Next Gen' was over I said I'd never put that makeup on again, and then I got a call the next year for 'Deep Space Nine.' "

He even pops up in "Star Trek Fan Collective: Klingon," a four-disc DVD set of choice Klingon episodes. As the saga's biggest Klingon ever, Dorn scowls from its cover.

Worf was like that: gruff, tough and taciturn. But just having him on board the Enterprise for "Next Gen's" debut voyage in 1987 was a huge leap. In the original '60s series, Klingons were bad guys defying the good-guy Federation.

The late Gene Roddenberry, "Trek's" creator, told Dorn to forget what he'd heard and make the character his own.

"So I took that and, because the Klingons had been mortal enemies, made him the opposite of everybody else on the ship.

"I really committed to that gruff surliness."

Yet through Worf, Klingons came to be respected for their warriors' courage and fierce sense of honor.

"It opened up a lot of people's attitudes," Dorn said. "Worf was a Star Fleet officer and obviously not a wild animal."

Dorn, 53, doesn't think Paramount will make another "Trek" series, now that five have come and gone.

"Once Gene died, the brakes were off," he said. "I don't think he'd have done any of those shows (after 'Next Generation')."

Having milked its cash cow almost dry, he thinks Paramount has had enough of "Star Trek."

"From what I hear, they're tired of it."

Even so, an 11th "Trek" film is in the works from "Lost" creator J.J. Abrams.

Rumors hint that Abrams will make a prequel to the original '60s "Trek," with the Kirk and Spock characters meeting at Starfleet Academy.

"I think that would be a mistake," Dorn said. "You don't go backward in 'Star Trek.' "

He's been going forward since landing the plum Worf role, after years of struggling as an actor and making ends meet by playing bass in various bands.

The syndicated "Next Gen" had two native Texans: Houstonian Brent Spiner, who played Data, and Dorn, who was born in Luling, though he grew up in Southern California.

"My grandparents lived on a farm in Texas and grew their own food, and we came back a lot," he said.

"I have relatives all over Houston, Tyler and Prairie View."

He and Spiner enjoyed hanging out on "Next Gen's" set, and they stay close to this day.

"I just had lunch with him," Dorn said.

In fact, the whole cast keeps in touch, although Jonathan Frakes (Ryker) lives on the East Coast, and Patrick Stewart (Picard) lives in London.

Dorn still attends about four Trek conventions each year, but only those "in cool places, like New York or Italy or Germany."

Most of his acting lately has been voices for animation, such as "Family Guy" and "Duck Dodgers." Having directed several "Trek" episodes, he's also branching out, recently helming an episode of "Hope & Faith."

Dorn still plays his bass guitar and has a passion for flying his Air Force T-33 trainer jet. But he's forgotten every guttural word of Klingon he ever spoke.

"I never really did speak Klingon," he said. "I knew a little of what I was saying. The first year I was very diligent about it. But as time went on and they did more and more Klingon, I just listened to the pronunciation guide, and that was it. I didn't retain anything."