Science fiction may not be known for its comedy vehicles, but surely one of the most beloved “sitcoms” of tongue-in-cheekl science fiction was the 1960s’ My Favorite Martian, starring Bill Bixby and Ray Walston. Although his antenna-topped “Uncle Martin” with the power of telekinesis was an icon that forever stamped him with the character. Walston earlier had originated the Broadway roles of Luther Billis in South Pacific and Mr. Applegate in Damn Yankees. Post-Mars, he went on to a late-career makeover of sorts with two Emmy wins for Best Supporting Drama Actor as the stern Judge Henry Bone in the quirky one-hour drama Pickett Fences in the 1990s.
That set the stage for his appearance as the oft-discussed Starfleet Academy groundskeeper Boothby, one of Picard’s early informal mentors, in TNG’s “The First Duty.” Oddly enough, he turned up twice again as faux Boothbys on Voyager: in Chakotay’s memory in “The Fight” and as an alien imposter of Boothby in “In the Flesh.”
Born as Herman Walston in New Orleans in 1914, he began acting at an early age. Film goers will also recall him as conman JJ Singletary in The Sting, henchman Edgar Whiney of Silver Streak, and the infamous schoolteacher Mr. Hand in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, among many other film roles. Walston died after a six-year battle with lupus on New Year’s Day 2001.