Randy Pausch, the university professor who moved millions with his “The Last Lecture”, and who died on Thursday, was invited last fall by JJ Abrams to appear briefly on Abram’s “Star Trek”. This was shortly after Pausch’s Canegie-Mellon lecture, titled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”, moved millions on YouTube and before his inspirational lecture was turned into a best selling book.

Pausch got a bit part as a guy walking across the bridge on the Enterprise saying “Captain, we have visual!”. He even got to keep his Star Trek uniform, and got $217.06 for his effort (technically he was then eligible for a SAG card). By the time Abram’s “Star Trek” hits screens Pausch will have been dead for nearly a year.

Randy Pausch\'s check for his Star Trek cameo
Randy Pausch’s check for his Star Trek cameo

On November 29, 2007 Pausch wrote about this in his journal:

This is, by far, the coolest thing (okay, #2 behind the palliative chemo working). JJ Abrams (Hollywood producer/director who did the TV series “Lost,” the movie “Mission Impossible III” and a bunch of other stuff) emailed me, out of the blue:

JJ Abrams wrote:
> Dear Randy –
> Hi there — I’m JJ Abrams, director of the new Star Trek movie.
> I read about you and your condition, and ALSO your affinity for things
> Trek.
> So, I just wanted to put the invitation out there — that if you had
> any desire to be in the film (can’t promise you role as CAPTAIN,
> but… we could do SOMETHING!), it would be my honor and pleasure.
> The last thing I want to do is intrude, so feel free not to reply –
> but I wanted to make sure you knew that, if you are willing and able,
> the door is wide open.
> I hope that your treatments are going well and that we get to meet one
> day.
> Best,
> JJ

Naturally, I presumed this was one of my friends, playing a prank. But after a little sleuthing, it was clear it was for real. Jai & I hopped a plane to LA, where I got a custom-made Star Trek uniform and my own station on the bridge, where I had lots of buttons and controls. I even got a LINE!!!!

In addition to publicly thanking JJ Abrams, I just wanted to say what an incredibly egoless and cool guy he was. We chatted a little bit between takes, and he is so tech-savvy (and I’m not saying that *just* because he knew all about Alice!). Anyway, it was a truly magical experience.

the “Star Trek” movie will be in theaters December 2008 (It has since moved to May 2009 - YR). Don’t blink or you’ll miss me, but at some point a guy walked across the bridge and says “Captain, we have visual!”

I’d *love* to show you my costume (which they let me keep), but I promised JJ Abrams “no photos”. They’re trying to keep things a secret; in fact, even on the Paramount lot, you have to walk around in a trenchcoat if you’re in a Star Trek costume. It’s kind of like being at a flasher’s convention!

Oh, and if you think I’m making this up, here’s a copy of my check from Paramount (they had to pay me due to some union rules or some such… I’ll obviously be donating this to charity).

(Hat tip: miri)