The Grim Reaper struck Star Trek often and hard in 2015. StarTrek.com and Trek fans across the globe spent far too much time this past year mourning the losses of beloved actors and behind-the-scenes figures who contributed mightily to the franchise over the past 50 years, including one of its most-legendary, iconic pillars, Leonard Nimoy. Today, we take an additional moment to remember those we’ve lost.
Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek’s Spock, died on February 27. Nimoy -- an actor, writer, producer, director, poet, host, voiceover artist, photographer, patron of the arts, philanthropist, husband, father and grandfather -- succumbed to the end stages of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), an illness that resulted from years of smoking and which afflicted him despite having quit smoking more than three decades ago. In 2014, he announced via Twitter that he was battling COPD and frequently implored fans to stop smoking before it was too late. Nimoy, of course, played the half-human/half-Vulcan Spock in The Original Series, The Animated Series, The Next Generation, the six TOS feature films, Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness. He also directed The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home and produced and developed the story for The Undiscovered Country.
Beyond Trek, Nimoy's many film, TV and stage credits included Mission: Impossible, A Woman Called Golda, In Search Of..., Equus, Never Forget, Vincent, Standby: Lights! Camera! Action!, The Simpsons, Transformers: Dark of the Moon and a juicy, late-career recurring role on the J.J. Abrams-produced series Fringe. He also directed such features as Three Men and a Baby, which was a huge hit, and The Good Mother, a drama that he always spoke of with tremendous pride. With his friend and TNG's Q, John de Lancie, he created Alien Voices, which staged and recorded radio play-style productions of classic and original sci-fi/fantasy stories. And yes, who could forget Nimoy's music pursuits, which included several albums and such tunes as "Proud Mary" and "The Legend of Bilbo Baggins"? Nimoy joined Twitter in 2010 and gave William Shatner a run for his money, tweeting more than 1,700 times and amassing more than one million followers.
Back in May 2012, StarTrek.com teased Nimoy about being the busiest retired man in history. Asked if he truly considered himself retired, Nimoy replied, "Yeah, I do. I am. Look, I liken myself to a steamship that's been going full-blast and the captain pulls that handle back and then says, 'Full stop,' but the ship doesn't stop. It keeps moving from inertia. It keeps moving. It keeps moving. It'll start slowing down, but it doesn't stop. It doesn't come to a dead stop. That's the way I am. I still have a few odds and ends things that I enjoy doing. I don't want to get up in the morning and have nothing to do that day. That would be boring." Perfectly logical, right? And in a touching final tweet, which he posted on Feb. 23 and with which he was likely bidding farewell, Nimoy wrote, "A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP.”
Harve Bennett, a veteran Star Trek writer and producer, passed away on February 25 at the age of 84, two days before the death of Leonard Nimoy, with whom his career intersected -- to the everlasting benefit of both men and fans everywhere. He’d retired to Oregon years ago and died there following a long illness. Bennett produced and co-wrote the story for The Wrath of Khan, which was a success financially, critically and with Trek fans and is widely credited with saving the franchise, as Paramount Pictures had serious doubts about Trek's future following the costly The Motion Picture. Bennett subsequently produced and co-wrote the stories for The Search for Spock, The Voyage Home and The Final Frontier. Bennett also made a memorable cameo appearance in The Final Frontier, playing Starfleet Chief of Staff Admiral Robert Bennett.
The Chicago-born Bennett was already a successful writer-producer by the time he beamed into the Trek universe. Among his credits were Mod Squad, The Invisible Man (1975 version), Rich Man, Poor Man, The Gemini Man, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman and Salvage 1. During and after his run with Trek, Bennett wrote and/or produced A Woman Called Golda (with Leonard Nimoy co-starring opposite Ingrid Berman), The Jesse Owens Story, Time Trax and Invasion America.
StarTrek.com, in a 2010 interview, asked Bennett what he thought his most significant contributions to Trek were. He replied candidly, saying. "I resurrected the franchise (at the time). That would be my contribution. There might not have been another Star Trek and certainly there would not have been spinoffs had not Star Trek II been such a very viable hit.”
Grace Lee Whitney, the actress and singer who played Yeoman Janice Rand on TOS, several of the TOS features and also on Voyager, died on May 1 at the age of 85, passing away peacefully in her home in Coarsegold, California. Whitney, a blue-eyed blond beauty, represented one of Trek’s greatest cautionary tales and also one of the franchise's most satisfying renaissance stories. She played the deeply professional Rand in eight first-season TOS episodes before being dropped from the series and slipping into an abyss of drugs and alcohol that left her, quite literally, on Hollywood’s Skid Row. She finally got help, found God, and reclaimed her life and career, with an assist from Leonard Nimoy, and spent decades helping others overcome their own addictions.
During an interview with StarTrek.com in 2011, Whitney spoke excitedly of living on a 30-acre property near Yosemite National Park, with a running creek, and helping to care for her grandchildren. "(My son) Jonathan built a home down at the end of my property, where he lives with his family, including my grandchildren," she enthused. "They’re going to take care of me as I move through life to my home in heaven. But right now I take my grandchildren to school and cart them around, and I’m of maximum service to them... I also line dance one night a week and I go to the gym three days a week. So, my life is happy, joyous, free, sober and saved, and a lot of fun, too. I have a lot of fun."
George Coe, a veteran actor, Screen Actors Guild activist and TNG guest star, passed away on July 18 at the age of 86. Coe, who died after a long illness, played Chancellor Avel Durken -- the Malcorian diplomat who shared a glass of Chateau Picard with Captain Picard -- in TNG episode "First Contact." Coe, who was born in Queens, New York, counted among his other film, TV and stage credits Saturday Night Live (he was an original Not Ready for Primetime Player), Mame, On the Twentieth Century, Kramer vs. Kramer, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, Head Office, Max Headroom, L.A. Law, Smallville, The West Wing, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Supernatural, Two and a Half Men, and Archer.
Penny Juday, longtime Star Trek art department coordinator who served the franchise as an archivist, passed away on December 19 at the age of 60. During her Trek days, which spanned from The Undiscovered Country to Nemesis and included all seven seasons of Deep Space Nine, Juday wore many hats. She worked directly for Herman Zimmerman on Generations, First Contact, Insurrection and Nemesis. As Trek archivist (on the Paramount Pictures backlot), she kept track of everything and anything Trek-related: sets, props, photos, blueprints, miniatures/models and more, and was the go-to person for production staffers when they required information or the actual items.
Olaf Pooley, who died in July at the age of 101, was a British stage, film and television actor -- not to mention a writer, director and painter -- who guest starred as the Cleric in the Voyager episode "Blink of an Eye," which was directed by his then-wife, Gabrielle Beaumont. At the time of his death, Pooley was both Trek and Doctor Who's oldest-living actor. StarTrek.com had conducted and run an extensive interview with Pooley just a few weeks before he passed away.
Karen Montgomery, an actress, producer and TNG guest star, passed away on December 4. Montgomery, who was 66 years old, succumbed to breast cancer in Los Angeles following a decade-long fight with the illness. Montgomery, in the TNG episode "Angel One," portrayed Beata, the Elected One mistress of Angel 1. Her other film and television acting credits included Kojak, Going in Style, Nero Wolfe, Amazon Women on the Moon and L.A. Law. As a producer, she helped bring Diary of Hitman, Til There Was You and the documentary Special Thanks to Roy London to the screen.
Howard A. Anderson Jr., the Oscar-nominated visual effects artist whose company -- The Howard Anderson Company -- worked on TOS, succumbed to cardiac dysrhythmia on September 27 in Ventura, California. Anderson teamed with Gene Roddenberry in 1964 to create the transporter beam effect and other VFX for the first Trek pilot, "The Cage" and also "Where No Man Has Gone Before." The company's additional contributions included shots of phasers firing and exterior shots of the Enterprise warping through the stars.
Ellen Albertini Dow, veteran actress and TNG guest star, died on May 4 at the age of 101. Albertini Dow— who was most famous for playing the rapping granny who sang "Rapper's Delight" in the Adam Sandler comedy The Wedding Singer—guest starred as Felisa Howard, Dr. Crusher's grandmother, in the TNG episode "Sub Rosa." The role was just one in a long career that didn't even start until Albertini Dow was in her 70s; she taught acting for many years before actually stepping in front of a camera herself. Albertini Dow counted among her other television and film credits The Twlight Zone reboot, Munchies, Newhart, Sister Act, Quantum Leap, Seinfeld, Carnival of Souls, Six Feet Under, Wedding Crashers, Hannah Montana and Family Guy. Her final two appearances, both from 2013, were an episode of New Girl and the film East of Arcadia.
Maurice Hurley, a TNG writer and producer, died on February 24 at the age of 75. Former Trek executive producer Rick Berman tweeted that day, "We lost one of Star Trek's most talented minds yesterday. Maurice Hurley produced seasons 1 and 2 of TNG. He was one of a kind. So very sad." During his time with TNG, Hurley wrote (or co-wrote) such early episodes as "Hide and Q," "Datalore," "11001001," "Heart of Glory," "The Arsenal of Freedom," "The Neutral Zone," "The Child," "Time Squared," "Q Who" and "Shades of Gray." He rose to co-executive producer status by the conclusion of season one. Hurley – who played a major role in the Borg's creation -- left the show after season two, but returned to write "Galaxy's Child" in year four and "Power Play" in year five. Beyond Trek, Hurley's film and television credits included Firebird 2015 AD, The Equalizer, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, La Femme Nikita, Baywatch, Baywatch Nights, Groom Lake (directed by William Shatner, whose story Hurley adapted into a script) and 24.
Tom Towles, a character actor who specialized in portraying burly, creepy bad guys and was a favorite to horror-film fans worldwide, passed away on April 5. He'd ventured into the Trek universe with guest appearances as the Klingon warrior Hon-Tihl in the DS9 episode "Dramatis Personae" and as Doctor Vatm, a Nezu astrophysicist, in the Voyager hour "Rise." In addition to his Trek work, Towles' credits included Dog Day Afternoon, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, the 1990 version of Night of the Living Dead, Seinfeld, NYPD Blue, Profiler, Firefly, Groom Lake, House of 1000 Corpses and the 2007 remake of Halloween.
Yvonne Craig, who died on August 19 at the age of 78, was a ballerina-turned-actress best remembered by Trek fans for her performance in the TOS episode "Whom Gods Destroy, in which she played Marta, the Orion Slave Girl determined to kill Captain Kirk. Craig, however, was far more known for role as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl during the third and final season of Batman. Her other credits included the Elvis Presley films It Happened at the World's Fair and Kissin' Cousins, and episodes of such television series as Kojak, The Six Million Dollar Man and Fantasy Island.
Barrie Ingham, a British actor whose credits included a TNG guest role, passed away on January 23. His turn in the Trek universe came with the episode "Up the Long Ladder," which cast him as Danilo Odell, leader of the Bringloidi, who didn't care for the sythenol whiskey aboard the Enterprise, but was quite pleased to mate with three women to create a new genetic pool. Well before "Up the Long Ladder," Ingham was among those considered for the role of Jean-Luc Picard. Ingham spent decades working on the stage, on television and in films, with his credits spanning from the 1950s to 2014. He acted alongside Dame Judi Dench in 16 plays, taught acting, and as recently as last year starred in a one-man show, Keep Calm and Sing On. Other film and television projects included The Victorians, Doctor Who, The Avengers, The Day of the Jackal, The Great Mouse Detective (for which he voiced Basil of Baker Street/Bartholomew) and The Triangle.
Eddie Hice, a stuntman and stunt coordinator whose credits included two TOS episodes and The Voyage Home, died on March 12 at the age of 85. Hice appeared in the TOS hours "Day of the Dove" and "Wink of an Eye," playing security officers in both. He portrayed one of the patients at Mercy Hospital in The Voyage Home. Freddie Hice, his son, performed stunts in The Final Frontier. Over the course of his career, which spanned six decades, Hice worked on such films and television shows as Bonanza, Bonnie and Clyde, Get Smart, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, S.W.A.T., Escape from New York, The Beastmaster, Repo Man, A View to a Kill, They Live, Glory, Out to Sea, Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous and Georgia Rule.
Bruce Hyde, who played Lt. Kevin Riley in the TOS hours “The Naked Time” and “The Conscience of the King,” died on October 13 at the age of 74, succumbing to throat cancer. Hyde earned the enduring adoration of Trek fans for his portrayal of Riley, especially his memorable crooning of the song "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen." Beyond his Trek appearances, he acted in the television shows Dr. Kildare and The Beverly Hillbillies, as well as in several plays, including Canterbury Tales (on Broadway) and Hair. Hyde later spent 25-plus years as a tenured professor at St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minnesota. He taught communication studies, small-group communication and interpersonal communication until earlier this year, when he retired due to the return of the throat cancer he'd been diagnosed with and beaten in 2010.
Catherine E. Coulson, who died of cancer on September 28 at the age of 71, was a camera assistant and actress whose credits (as a camera assistant) included The Wrath of Khan. Her other credits as a camera assistant included The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and Modern Romance, and she acted in such projects as Femme Fatale, Twin Peaks (as the quirky Log Lady), Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, Psych, Redwood Highway and Portlandia, as well as the plays August, Osage County, Hamlet and The Threepenny Opera.
William Newman, a character actor who played the diplomat Kalin Trose in the TNG episode "The Host," died on May 27 at the age of 80. Back in the 80s and 90s, Newman seemed to turn up in every other movie and show. His numerous credits included Brubaker, The Mosquito Coast, Leprechaun and Mrs. Doubtfire, as well as The Craft, For Love of the Game, Angel and The Tick. His last confirmed credit was a 2006 episode of My Name Is Earl.
Don Mankiewicz, an Oscar-nominated screenwriter, passed away on April 25 at the age of 93. Mankiewicz wrote the story for the TOS episode “Court Martial” and was credited as co-writer of the episode with Steven W. Carabatsos. Mankiewicz earned his Oscar nomination for I Want to Live!, which starred Susan Hayward, who won an Oscar for her performance in the drama, and he also counted among his many credits the pilots for Marcus Welby, M.D. and Ironside.
Theodore Bikel, a stage and screen actor, folk singer and guitarist, longtime union activist and TNG guest star, died of natural causes on July 21 at the age of 91, Bikel was best known for playing Tevye in thousands of performances of Fiddler on the Roof, on Broadway and on the road, and for his Oscar-nominated turn as Sheriff Muller in The Defiant Ones. Trek fans will remember that he played Sergey Rozhenko, the Russian adoptive father of Worf, in the TNG episode "Family." Bikel was still making public appearances as recently as a month before his death.
James Horner, the Oscar-winning composer, conductor and orchestrator whose credits included The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock, perished in a plane crash on June 22 at the age of 61. Horner counted among his many other projects Avatar, Titanic, 48 Hours, Cocoon, Aliens, The Rocketeer, Braveheart, Field of Dreams, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, The Amazing Spider-Man, Southpaw, Wolf Totem and The 33.
Alan Marcus, a stuntman and actor who appeared in The Undiscovered Country, died on January 9. Marcus played Yeoman Samno, who was part of the conspiracy to sabotage the Federation-Klingon peace talks. Samno and fellow conspirator Burke killed several Klingons, among them Chancellor Gorkon, before the duplicitous Lt. Valeris murdered both of them to keep the conspiracy under wraps. Marcus' other credits as an actor and/or stuntman included The Octagon, CHiPs, Lone Wolf McQuade, Rambo III and Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday. He was reportedly working on several projects at the time of his death, including Precious Cargo, a film he'd written and was set to produce.
George Clayton Johnson, respected author and writer of the TOS episode “The Man Trap,” died on December 25 at the age of 86. Johnson also wrote stories or scripts for dozens of movies and television shows, including the original Ocean's 11, The Twilight Zone (several seminal episodes, including "Kick the Can"), Kung Fu and Logan's Run (with both the movie and ensuing series based on the novel of the same name he'd co-written with William F. Nolan). Additionally, he wrote many essays, poems, short stories and more, was a welcome presence for decades at conventions, and was proud to be a hippie.