As the world turns the calendar page to 2017, it’s time for StarTrek.com to remember the members of the Star Trek universe – actors, special effects wizards, book editors and more – whom we lost in 2016, Trek’s landmark 50th anniversary year. Each and every one helped contribute to making Star Trek the pop-culture phenomenon it is, and to them we say “Thank you.”:
Anton Yelchin, who played Pavel Chekov in Star Trek (2009), Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond, died on June 19, at the age of 27. The actor was killed in a freak accident at home in Los Angeles by his own car. Yelchin was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, and moved with his figure-skater parents, Irina and Viktor Yelchin, to the United States when he was just six months old. He was already one of Hollywood’s most-exciting young talents -- a screen natural -- when he signed on to play Chekov in Star Trek (2009), having logged film and TV credits that included ER, Hearts in Atlantis, The Practice, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Alpha Dog, Huff and Charlie Bartlett. Since playing Chekov in the first J.J. Abrams blockbuster, he’d appeared in Terminator Salvation, The Beaver, Fright Night, Only Lovers Left Alive, Experimenter and Green Room, in which he co-starred with Patrick Stewart. In addition to Beyond, he'd completed several projects set for release in the near future, among them We Don't Belong Here, Porto, Rememory and Thoroughbred.
StarTrek.com spoke with Yelchin in 2011 about playing the young Chekov and the likelihood he'd be playing Chekov over the course of several films. Asked if he felt his version of Chekov served as a bridge to Walter Koenig's, Yelchin replied, "I don’t know if it builds to Walter’s Chekov, that if we make more films then suddenly it’ll totally become that guy. I just think that I tried to capture as close as possible all of the great qualities that Walter brought to his Chekov. So I hope there’s a continuity. I don’t know if it’s necessarily an evolution, but I hope there’s a continuity where you can say, 'Oh, yeah, I buy that person being that age.'”
Don Marshall, who played Lt. Boma -- the astrophysicist who clashed with his superior officer, Spock -- in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Galileo Seven," passed on October 30. The actor also made his mark in several other sci-fi projects; he was a regular on the series Land of the Giants, co-starred with Rosie Grier and Ray Milland in the cult classic film The Thing with Two Heads, and guest starred on The Bionic Woman, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and The Incredible Hulk.
StarTrek.com spoke to Marshall in 2012. During that conversation, Marshall addressed one of the most-impactful aspects of his TOS appearance, which was that Lt. Boma’s skin color meant nothing in the scheme of the episode. “That was beautiful,” he said. “That was Gene Roddenberry, and I’d worked for him once before. I did an episode of The Lieutenant for him," Marshall said, referring to "To Set It Right," a racially charged hour that also featured Gary Lockwood, Dennis Hopper and, in her TV acting debut, Nichelle Nichols as the fiancee of Marshall's character. "That’s the way the guy was. He didn’t see color. He saw situation and he had a vision, more so than most people. You could really see that with Star Trek. People learned from Star Trek. This guy created something special. A lot of people went into engineering because of Star Trek. I’ve been told that by many, many engineers. People became astronauts and went into the space program because of the show. You look back and you think, 'What a visionary Gene was,' or ‘What a beautiful person he was.' I wish everybody was that way, but of course we don’t have that."
Gary Hutzel, who passed away suddenly on March 1 at the age of 60, was the Emmy Award-winning visual effects artist who served as visual effects coordinator and supervisor on the first five seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation and the entire run of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. He introduced many technical innovations to Trek's visual effects, helped create the USS Defiant and supervised visual effects in the fan-favorite "Trials and Tribble-ations," blending the cast of DS9 into scenes from TOS. Hutzel was also widely recognized by Trek fans for his award-winning visual effects on numerous other series, including Battlestar Galactica, Caprica and Defiance. Additionally, he rendered covers for several non-fiction Trek books and, with Terry J. Erdmann and Paula M. Block, co-wrote The Magic of Tribbles: The Making of Star Trek Deep Space Nine -- "Trials and Tribbles-ations."
Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Hutzel originally began studying Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan. Hutzel decided to change his career to the motion picture industry and moved to Santa Barbara, California to study photography. His Hollywood career began with a job as a driver and video camera operator for a commercial production house. It was there, at Filmfair, that he became interested in visual effects. Hutzel went on to freelance for CBS on the new Twilight Zone series before he was approached in 1987 to work on TNG.
Fritz Weaver, who died on November 26 at the age of 90 at his home in Manhattan, portrayed Kovat, the Cardassian public conservator who represented O'Brien, in the DS9 episode "Tribunal." Born in Pittsburgh, the veteran character actor’s many film and TV credits included two episodes of The Twilight Zone, Fail Safe, Mission: Impossible, The Day of the Dolphin, Marathon Man, Demon Seed, The Legend of Lizzie Borden (earning Weaver an Emmy nomination), Holocaust (earning him another Emmy nomination), The Martian Chronicles, Creepshow, The X-Files, The Thomas Crown Affair, The Cobbler and The Congressman, the latter two released respectively in 2014 and 2016. He was also a respected stage actor, winning the Tony Award in 1970 as Best Actor in a Play for his performance in Child's Play, and narrated numerous History Channel productions.
Angela Paton, who died on May 26 at age 86, played Aunt Adah in "Caretaker," the Star Trek: Voyager pilot. However, she was best known for her role as the sweet, patient and accommodating Mrs. Lancaster, innkeeper at the Punxsutawney bed and breakfast where Phil Connors (Bill Murray) stayed in Groundhog Day. Paton passed away in Oakland, California, where she was in hospice care following a heart attack.
Paton’s career spanned 40-plus years. After starting out on the stage, she amassed film and TV credits that, in addition to Voyager and Groundhog Day, included Dirty Harry, Falcon Crest, Flatliners, Quantum Leap, ER, Lolita, The Wedding Singer, Boston Public, The X-Files, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Red Eye and Medium. One of her other best-known roles was that of Grandma to Jason Biggs' character in American Wedding. Her most recent stage appearance was in 2012, in the Broadway production of Harvey.
Ron Thornton, a groundbreaking veteran visual effects supervisor and cinematographer, who counted among his credits DS9, Voyager, Star Trek: Enterprise, Star Trek Nemesis and the director's edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, as well as, to a lesser degree, TNG, died on November 21, following a long illness. He received an Emmy Award nomination (shared with John Allardice, Eric Chauvin, Arthur J. Codron, Dan Curry, Don Greenberg, Sherry Hitch, Greg Rainoff, Mitch Suskin, John Teska and Robert Bonchune) in 1999 for the Voyager episode "Timeless," and also helped create Voyager's Species 8472 and the Voyager's spectacular crash landing.
Thornton, who was born in England, worked on such other TV shows and films as Doctor Who, Blake's 7, The Tripods, Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, Spaceballs, Babylon 5, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Crazies and the pilot of Nashville. According to his longtime friend and associate Michael Okuda, Thornton was at the forefront of digital visual effects and pioneered the use of "render farms" of inexpensive personal computers to deliver sophisticated CG effects for television in the 1990s through his company, Foundation Imaging, which he formed in 2002.
Brian Demonbreun, who served as a background actor in more than 50 episodes of DS9 during its seven-year run and also appeared in a few episodes of TNG, died on December 1 at the age of 57 following a long illness. Beyond his time in the Trek universe, the California native appeared, uncredited (as either a background extra or behind the scenes as a stand-in), in such other films and TV shows as The Hanoi Hilton, NCIS, Even Money, Balls of Fury and Year of the Dog. He most recently was David Hasselhoff's photo double in Ted 2. Also a videographer and graphic artist, he'd been doing architectural illustrations since 1980 and in 1989 formed his own company, Art Patrol, for which he specialized in black and white and color renderings of houses, existing and from plans.
Ron Glass, the Emmy-nominated actor whose credits included a long run as Det. Ron Harris on Barney Miller, as well as the series-regular role of Shepherd Derrial Book on Firefly (and in the film Serenity), and one trip to the Trek universe – playing Loken in the Voyager episode "Nightingale" -- was 71 at the time of his passing on November 25. In "Nightingale," Loken was a Kraylor who faked being a doctor, fooling Harry Kim. It turned out that Loken was actually a scientist who'd created a cloaking device that his people could use in their effort to overcome a blockade of their planet by the Annari.
Beyond Voyager, Barney Miller and Firefly/Serenity, Glass appeared in such other films and television shows as Sanford and Son, Hawaii Five-O, All in the Family, The Bob Newhart Show, The New Odd Couple, Amen, Family Matters, Houseguest, Friends, Lakeview Terrace, Shark, CSI: NY, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Major Crimes and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. He also lent his voice to the popular animated series Rugrats and All Grown Up!
David G. Hartwell, a respected science-fiction writer and editor who, among his many career highlights, was the former Pocket Books editor credited with creating the publisher's Star Trek line, died at age 74 on January 20. He’d suffered a massive brain bleed on January 19 following a fall and hospitalization, and succumbed to its effects the next day.
Beyond his Trek work at Pocket, he founded their Timescape imprint (of which Trek was a part). He also edited at Signet, Berkley and Tor/Forge, served on the board of directors at the World Fantasy Convention and administered the Philip K. Dick Awards (with Gordon Van Gelder). He earned a total of 41 Hugo Award nominations, winning Best Professional Editor in 2006 and Best Editor Long Form in 2008 and 2009, and taught at Harvard, Clarion West, Clarion South and New York University. Further, he published several dozen anthologies, including The Dark Descent and The Science Fiction Century, and the annuals Year's Best SF and Year's Best Fantasy, as well as attended countless conventions, sold rare books, wore blindingly loud ties and shepherded/encouraged the careers of many aspiring writers.
William Schallert -- veteran character actor, former president of the Screen Actors Guild and TOS and DS9 guest star -- passed away on May 8 at the age of 93. Schallert is best remembered by Trek fans for his role as Nilz Baris in the popular TOS episode “The Trouble with Tribbles.” Schallert later turned up, via archive footage, as Baris in the DS9 hour “Trials and Tribble-ations,” and then in another full-fledged guest star spot as Varani in the DS9 episode “Sanctuary.”
Beyond his Trek roles, he played Patty Duke's father on the classic sitcom The Patty Duke Show, appeared in many stage productions and was a familiar face in countless TV series and movies. A partial list of his credits includes the original Mighty Joe Young, Bonanza, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Father Knows Best, Get Smart, Pillow Talk, In the Heat of the Night, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Twilight Zone, The Partridge Family, The Strongest Man in the World, Twilight Zone: The Movie, Innerspace, Quantum Leap, Matinee, Melrose Place, Desperate Housewives, How I Met Your Mother and True Blood.
StarTrek.com spoke to Schallert in 2011. He was still acting and full of positive energy. And it was clear he appreciated his enduring Trek association. "People sure have known me from (the show) for a long time," he said. "They knew who I was on that show before I knew who I was on that show. I was invited to a very early Trek convention held at the Marriott at the airport (in L.A.). I arrived and went through the door into the main lobby, and it was loaded with aliens, with little antennae bouncing around on their heads. As I came through the door, they were saying, 'Nilz Baris!' I’m looking around and they said, 'No, that’s you!' So that’s how I learned my name from that show. There was no signing of autographs there. I was making a personal appearance. And there was a kid there who was, at the most, eight or nine. He had six months to live and was in a wheelchair, and this was the most important thing he could do in the last six months of his life, coming to this Trek convention. I thought, 'Wow, this is amazing. This show has a real hold on people.' He was thrilled to be there. He was being wheeled around and shaking hands with people. I was thinking, 'He’s going to die, and this is the thing he had to do before he died.' It tells you something about the show.”
Ronnie Claire Edwards, the actress who was best known for her role as Corabeth Walton Godsey on The Waltons and in several Waltons reunion telemovies, and who played Talur in the "Thine Own Self" episode of TNG, died on June 14 at the age of 83. Talur was the Barkonian teacher/scientist/healer who tried to help Data after the android completely lost his memory and wandered into a village carrying a container full of the radioactive metal.
In addition to TNG and The Waltons, Edwards -- whose credits dated back to 1963 -- appeared in such other films and shows as Boone, Dallas, Sara, Dynasty, Nobody's Fool, Designing Women, The Dead Pool and Inherit the Wind (the TV version with George C. Scott and Jack Lemmon). She also wrote plays, including Idols of the King, and published a book entitled The Knife Thrower's Assistant: Memoirs of a Human Target.
Larry Drake, veteran actor and Voyager guest star, passed away on March 17 at the age of 66. The two-time Emmy Award winner was best known for his roles as the gentle, mentally challenged office worker Benny on L.A. Law; the mental patient/Santa in a memorable episode of Tales from the Crypt; the baddie, Robert G. Durant, in Darkman and Darkman II: The Return of Durant; and the creepy title character in Dr. Giggles, directed by Manny Coto. He guest starred as Chellick, the Jye administrator of Hospital 4-2 on Dinaal, in the "Critical Care" episode of Voyager.
David Huddleston, the character actor who was best known for his role as the Big Lebowksi in The Big Lebowski, and who made his mark in the Trek universe as The Conductor in the TNG episode "Emergence," died on Tuesday, August 2, at age 85, succumbing to advanced heart and kidney disease in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Huddleston's career spanned 50-plus years and his many stage, screen and TV credits included 1776, Bewitched, Rio Lobo, Brian's Song, Charlie's Angels, Blazing Saddles, Capricorn One, Santa Claus: The Movie, The Wonder Years (for which he earned an Emmy nomination), The West Wing, Gilmore Girls, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Locker 13.
Richard Libertini, veteran actor and DS9 guest star, passed away on January 7 at the age of 82, following a two-year battle with cancer. He made his sole journey to the Trek universe when he played the Bajoran poet Akorem Laan in the fourth-season DS9 episode, "Accession."
Beyond Trek, Libertini amassed more than 100 stage, TV and film credits, and he also performed stand-up comedy early in his career. His credits included Catch-22, Quincy, Soap, Days of Heaven, The In-Laws, Fletch, Fletch Lives, Awakenings, Monk, Supernatural, Dolphin Tale and Sonny with a Chance. His final on-screen appearances came in 2015, when he guest-starred in two episodes of Aquarius, with one of the episodes directed by Voyager's Roxann Dawson. As noted, Libertini performed stand-up comedy at the start of his career, and his partner for a time was recurring DS9 guest star Paul Dooley.
Anthony Fredrickson, whose work as a scenic and graphic artist -- with an occasional assist on props -- helped bring to life much of the modern era of Trek, died suddenly on February 15 of a heart attack. He had lent his talents to TNG, DS9, Voyager, Star Trek: Enterprise, Star Trek: The Experience, Star Trek World Tour, Star Trek Generations, Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek Insurrection and Nemesis, as well as the Star Fleet Medical Reference Guide.
"Our friend Anthony was an endlessly creative member of the Star Trek art department," Denise and Michael Okuda told StarTrek.com upon his passing. "We used to keep a box of random junk in the office. Anthony delighted in diving into that box to come up with something ingenious whenever we needed a last-minute prop or some unexpected bit of set dressing. We will miss him very much."
Fredrickson's death came less than two months after the passing of his wife, Penny Juday, the longtime Trek art department coordinator who served the franchise as an archivist. Juday died on December 19, 2015.
Barry Jenner, who played Admiral William Ross in a dozen DS9 episodes across the sixth and seventh seasons, including "A Time to Stand," "Tears of the Prophets," "The Changing Face of Evil" and "What You Leave Behind," died on August 9, succumbing to acute myeloid leukemia at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The actor, who was 75, also provided the voice of the character in the video game Star Trek: Deep Space Nine -- Dominion Wars, and was a familiar figure on the convention circuit.
Born in Philadelphia, Jenner counted among his other credits Another World, Knots Landing, Dallas, Highway to Heaven, Looker, Hart to Hart, V: The Series, Family Matters, Walker: Texas Ranger, JAG, Enough Said and, if IMDB is accurate, an upcoming film called The Caretaker. He also was a frequent celebrity guest on the game shows Super Password and The $10,000 Pyramid.