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To Boldly Go: Star Trek Stars Remembered

Published: 5/23/2013

In the decades since Star Trek first debuted in 1966, hundreds of actors have beamed in and out of Gene Roddenberry's sci-fi universe. From Starfleet captains to redshirts, Vulcans to villains, we've loved them all… and we've missed the Star Trek stars that have gone. As fans flock to theaters to watch the newest generation of stars trek Into Darkness, we pause for a moment to remember a few of the Trekkers we've lost.

Majel Barrett Roddenberry (Wikimedia Commons)Majel Barrett-Roddenberry was creator Gene Roddenberry's wife – and his favorite actress. Over the years she played several roles that took her from the original series all the way to the 2009 movie reboot. In the original pilot episode of Star Trek, Barrett-Roddenberry played first officer, Number One. When that character didn't play well with test audiences, she was tapped to play Nurse Christine Chapel (who became Doctor Chapel in the first and fourth Star Trek movies). Later, in The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, Barrett-Roddenberry played ambassador Lwaxana Troi, mother of Enterprise ship’s counselor Deanna. And then there was her most enduring role: for more than four decades, hers was the reassuring voice of the ship’s computer. Barrett-Roddenberry died of leukemia Dec. 18, 2008, just two weeks after completing work on the 2009 movie. Star Trek Into Darkness is the first film in the franchise not to feature Barrett-Roddenberry, though surely she's there in spirit.

James Doohan (AP Photo / Paramount Pictures)

James Doohan played one of the most beloved characters of the original series, Montgomery "Scotty" Scott. The native of Canada was quite convincing as a Scotsman, playing the chief engineer with a heavy brogue – and winning fans' hearts with his quotably exasperated lines, like "I can't change the laws of physics!" (His character was also the focus of one of Star Trek's most iconic catchphrases: "Beam me up, Scotty.") Doohan played Scotty in the original series and seven Star Trek films, and briefly reprised the role in an episode of The Next Generation. Doohan had few acting roles that weren't Star Trek-related, but he didn't seem to mind – the actor loved meeting Star Trek fans and telling stories of his time as Scotty. He died July 20, 2005, of pneumonia and Alzheimer's disease. Two years later, Doohan himself was "beamed up" one last time when a portion of his ashes was sent into space.

DeForest Kelley (Wikimedia Commons / NBC)DeForest Kelley was another original series favorite, playing ship's doctor Leonard "Bones" McCoy." As a child, Kelley had dreamed of becoming a doctor, and as he worked on the character, he drew on real-life experiences with doctors to make his portrayal as realistic as possible. His approach was a success, and he was proud to have inspired young viewers to pursue careers in medicine (he was such an iconic doc that it's hard to believe he was originally offered the role of Spock). Kelley appeared as Bones in the original series and the first six films, as well as the pilot of The Next Generation. Outside Star Trek, Kelley had a rich career, getting his feet wet in a number of Westerns, guest starring on TV shows like Perry Mason and The Donna Reed Show, and starring in the 1964 movie Where Love Has Gone. Later in life, Kelley began writing poetry, publishing two volumes of his work prior to his death of stomach cancer on June 11, 1999. Before he died, Kelley noted that he hoped his Star Trek catchphrase, "He's dead, Jim," would not appear on his gravestone. Thankfully, his final wish did come true. Kelley was cremated and his ashes scattered in the Pacific Ocean.

Ricardo Montalban (AP Photo / Tara Farrell)Ricardo Montalbán appeared in Star Trek only twice – once on TV and once on film – but he made it count. Reprising the role he first played in original series episode "Space Seed," Montalbán returned to the franchise in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. As the villainous Khan Noonien Singh, a superhuman determined to wreak havoc with the U.S.S. Enterprise, Montalbán stole the show, thrilling audiences and reviving the then-dwindling franchise. Montalbán remains one of the most beloved guest stars in Star Trek history – and Khan a beloved movie villain – thanks in large part to the enigmatic actor. Montalbán put his charisma to good use in other roles as well, from his Emmy-winning turn in the miniseries How the West Was Won, to the mysterious Mr. Rourke of Fantasy Island, to his epic Chrysler Cordoba TV commercial with its "soft Corinthian leather" catchphrase. Montalbán continued acting and charming audiences until his death of congestive heart failure Jan. 14, 2009. Now, in Star Trek Into Darkness, Benedict Cumberbatch (of Sherlock fame) brings Khan back to the big screen. Will this next generation Khan be as beloved as his predecessor? We can't wait to find out.

Brock Peters (Wikimedia Commons / Donald Young Associates)Brock Peters, like Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, played multiple roles for the Star Trek franchise. In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, he was Fleet Admiral Cartwright of Starfleet Command. And on TV's Deep Space Nine, he played recurring character Joseph Sisko, a Creole chef and father of commanding officer Benjamin Sisko. Brock also appeared in another sci-fi classic, co-starring with Charlton Heston in Soylent Green, and he voiced Darth Vader for a National Public Radio adaptation of Star Wars. But though he had a long association with science fiction, Peters is better known for a more down-to-earth role: Tom Robinson, the man falsely accused of rape in To Kill a Mockingbird. In the film, Peters' character is defended by attorney Atticus Finch, played by Gregory Peck. The two must have remained close over the years – when Peck died in 2003, Peters read the eulogy at his funeral. Peters himself died two years later, on Aug. 23, 2005, of pancreatic cancer.

Jane Wyatt (AP Photo)Jane Wyatt is perhaps best known for playing another mom – deeply devoted mother Margaret Anderson on 1950s TV classic Father Knows Best. But Star Trek fans adored her as Spock's human mother, Amanda Grayson, in the original series episode "Journey to Babel" and again in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Before her death in 2006, Wyatt had a long career in television and film, appearing in movies such as the Frank Capra classic Lost Horizon, None but the Lonely Heart with Cary Grant, and My Blue Heaven with Betty Grable. But her performance as Spock's mother brought her fame with a new set of fans: Trekkies. As Wyatt once noted, she received much more fan mail for her two brief Star Trek appearances than she ever did for her co-starring turn in Lost Horizon.

Written by Linnea Crowther

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