Catching Up With Diana Muldaur, Part 2
Diana Muldaur is a most-formidable woman, and many of her best characters over the years have shared that same trait. Two, of course, immediately spring to mind: Dr. Katherine Pulaski on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Rosalind Shays on L.A. Law. Crafting those ladies, Muldaur brilliantly meshed an icy-cool demeanor, smarts, a certain sense of style and – more with Dr. Pulaski than Shays – a touch of warmth. Fans haven’t seen much of the actress lately, as she spent several years back in her family home on Martha’s Vineyard tending to her husband, film and television writer Robert Dozier, who passed away on January 6, 2012, following a long illness. Now, however, Muldaur – who also portrayed Dr. Ann Mulhall in the TOS hour “Return to Tomorrow” and Dr. Miranda Jones in another TOS episodes, “Is There In Truth No Beauty?” -- is slowly stepping back into spotlight.
She attended Creation Entertainment’s Official Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas this past August, sat for an interview included among the extras on the recently released Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Two Blu-ray set, and told StarTrek.com during a recent conversation that she’s eager to get back into the game, perhaps as a producer. Yesterday, in part one of an extensive interview with Muldaur, she discussed her life today and reminisced about her TOS appearances. Today, in the second half of our conversation, she recounts her memories of working on TNG.
You mentioned a couple of times in the first part of our conversation that it was your agent and not Gene Roddenberry who phoned you to be on TOS. But, when Roddenberry did his pilot for Planet Earth after Trek ended, was that a direct call from him to you to ask you to be involved?
Muldaur: No. Really, they never are. They always go through the agent. I didn’t really know Gene. I only got to know Gene through the Star Trek Christmas parties. I got to know him and Majel, a little bit, too. I remember that they brought their son to lunch on the set of Planet Earth. He was a little baby. Out came Majel with the baby, and we all went, “Oh, isn’t he handsome and marvelous and wonderful,” and so he was. So that was Planet Earth. Also, as we’re talking, I looked up “Return to Tomorrow” and “Is There in Truth No Beauty?,” and they had the same director, Ralph Senensky. Often directors that enjoy working with you – or the producer, or the main actors – sometimes they throw the name out. You never know where your name came from. So maybe Gene did ask for me on Planet Earth, but remember, it wasn’t a running part. It was a guest star.
Years pass and TNG rolls around. How surprised were you to receive a call from… your agent about joining the cast for season two?
Muldaur: Very surprised. Gene had a sidekick, a very good producer, who came to see me. Who was that…?
Probably… Robert Justman.
Muldaur: Yes, Bob Justman always liked my work and he, in fact, came to see me on the set of Star Trek: The Next Generation and said to me how lovely I still was. “Thank you, very much,” said I. No, it’s always if you’re a good actor, everybody wants you. That it worked out that I could do those Star Trek things when I did those Star Trek things, that’s something else. It’s all timing. I missed out on one of the Pink Panther movies because I chose to do Born Free. I was going to be in Africa for a year. I got the offer for the Pink Panther when I was in London on my way to Africa for Born Free. It’s just all a matter of timing.
Going into TNG, what were your hopes for Dr. Pulaski? On paper, what did you like about her?
Muldaur: First of all, I didn’t like her name. So I said, “I might do it if you can change her first name.” Gene stared at me very strangely and said, “Let me think about it.” Then he said, “OK, you pick your own first name.” I thought Kate would work just fine. And I loved the name Pulaski. What did I think about her? I was always asked to play doctors or lawyers. It’s what I’d done for years and years and years. Then this was fascinating because I was using all these marvelous devices that were invented in the future, and I had to learn how to pretend to use them. So that’s how I spent a lot of my time, learning how to do that. And I think they wanted a fine actress to work with their fine actor from England. That’s what I think they wanted, but I don’t really know for sure.
Back to the question of hopes and expectations, though. How close did the reality of playing Pulaski come to what you had in mind for this woman?
Muldaur: I think it was just starting, but I never really planned to be there very long. As it turns out, I used the show where I aged to show to the L.A. Law people, to get L.A. Law. That’s the film they looked at.
So you knew going in that TNG would only be a one-season gig for you?
Muldaur: Yes, as far as I was concerned.
Were you relieved, then, when they brought back Gates McFadden for season three?
Muldaur: It didn’t matter. There’s no bringing people back. People have tried to create some kind of something out of it, but she played one part and I played a totally different part. I played a totally different person. I was much closer to the original doctor, which is what I wanted to do, which I thought was more fun for me to do. So, no, it would not have been good to have continued very much longer, even though everyone was really lovely.
Have you ever met McFadden? Even at a convention?
Muldaur: No, I haven’t. And somehow I never see the people that I do know, that I worked with, that I’d love to give hugs to. I don’t know how that happens. We all go shooting off in our own way. I’ve only been to a few conventions through all these years and never really have run into anyone.
Looking back at TNG, which episode from season two did you think worked best?
Muldaur: I loved the episode where we were in England.
“Elementary Dear Data,” we think you mean.
Muldaur: Yes, the holodeck episode where we were all dressed in character. I loved Daniel Davis, who played Moriarty. He was a sweet man, too. The guest stars were always more fun than not. He was really, really wonderful. In fact, Daniel was on a Star Trek cruise I took, where we went down to Jamaica and ended up rescuing some people from Cuba who had strung some damned tires together and were floating on that, not too successfully. We made the captain turn around and pick them up.
Not that this has a whole lot to do with anything, but what are the odds of you, Gene Roddenberry and Jonathan Frakes all sharing the same birthday: August 19.
Muldaur: I think that’s extraordinary. I’m not sure what that means, but we’ll know after we’re all gone. You let me know on my epitaph. Just say, “A-ha, now we’ve figured out why they all have the same birthday.” Because it is amazing.
If you had it all to do again, would you still have done the one season of TNG?
Muldaur: Of course. Oh, absolutely. Everything is important in your life. The other marvelous thing that happened during that was we had Colin Powell, who was then the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visit the set. He came onto the set just so he could sit in the chair. The red phone was there, in some other guy’s hands, so he could get on the phone instantly if he had to. It was the most marvelous bit of Hollywood; couldn’t believe it.
Click HERE to read part one of our interview with Diana Muldaur. And click HERE to learn more about the Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard.