The year 2015 was a tough one for the crew of the Starship Enterprise.
Four actors from the original crew of the beloved science fiction series Star Trek have died over the past 12 months.
Here’s an update on the original crew of the Enterprise, the 23rd century spacecraft whose mission was “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations,” and “to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
Shatner, 84, is very much alive on the airwaves, Internet and in the real world.
He’s appeared this Christmas season in Michael Bublé’s Christmas in Hollywood, along with Celine Dion, Jay Leno, Eva Longoria and Blake Shelton.
He remains a lively presence on Twitter, where he introduces himself as “Philanthropist, Actor, Producer, Father, Husband, and Grandfather & MBB=‘My best, Bill’”
Also in his bio: #SaveSciFi.
He’s also not hurting for money although he’s not likely nearly as rich as some people think.
The former actor at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival (1954) makes a tidy sum as a pitchman for the Internet travel startup Priceline.com, but reports that he made some $600 million that way have been dismissed as an urban legend.
Grace Lee Whitney
The actress who played Yeoman Janice Rand died peacefully last May at the age of 85 after a life of highs and lows.
She was featured in Star Trek: The Original Series but was dropped after the eighth episode.
A descent into substance abuse and life on Hollywood’s Skid Row followed, until she reclaimed her life with the help of religion and fellow actor Leonard Nimoy.
In her comeback she appeared in several movies, including The Search for Spock. She also wrote an autobiography, titled The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy.
Her son, Jonathan Dweck, said she would have liked to be remembered more for surviving her addictions than for her Star Trek appearances.
He appeared in two episodes of the original Star Trek series and then (belated spoiler alert) his character, Lt. Kevin Riley, met an untimely end.
His television credits include Dr. Kildare,The Beverly Hillbillies and That Girl but most of the remainder of his acting career was spent in theatre, where he appeared in Canterbury Tales and Hair on Broadway.
For more than 20 years, he was chair of the department of theatre, film studies and dance at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota.
He died last October at age 74 after a battle with throat cancer.
In 2014, he told a reporter about what his brief time on the Star Trek meant to him:
“I’m honoured to have my little toe in pop culture history,” he said. “I only made a living as an actor for six or seven years, and Star Trek, these two episodes, were about three weeks of work. So I’m dumbfounded. I think it’s a good thing. Star Trek is certainly a good thing.”
The unforgettable Spock died February of end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which he blamed on years of smoking.
In the series, he was the human-alien cross first officer of the Enterprise. That made him the lone crew member with alien blood.
In real life, Nimoy was a poet, photographer and musician as well as an actor.
His feelings about the Spock role were as mixed as the blood of the character he played.
That’s reflected in the titles of his two autobiographies: I Am Not Spock and I Am Spock.
That said, he seemed more in the I Am Spock camp.
Years after the series ended, he wrote: “To this day, I sense Vulcan speech patterns, Vulcan social attitudes and even Vulcan patterns of logic and emotional suppression in my behaviour.”
“Given the choice, if I had to be someone else, I would be Spock.”
He was active on Twitter, ending his messages with “LLAP” for “live long and prosper.”
He sent out his last message at 2:36 a.m. on Feb. 23, four days before he died: “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP”
He first appeared in Season 2 of the original Star Trek as Ensign Pavel Chekov, a role he continued in a half dozen of the Star Trek movies.
Aside from the Chekov role, he appeared in 40 movies and TV series, and also branched off into directing, screenwriting and writing novels and comics.
Outside of Star Trek, he’s perhaps best known as Bester on the series Babylon 5.
The actor who played Montgomery “Scotty” Scott was one of the Canadian troops who stormed Juno Beach in Normandy to liberate Europe in 1944.
“The sea was rough,” Doohan later said. “We were more afraid of drowning than (we were of) the Germans.”
Doohan, who died in June 2005, was a pilot and captain in the Royal Canadian Artillery.
One of his fingers was blown off in combat. He was also hit four times by bullets in the leg and stopped another one with a metal cigarette case in a chest pocket.
Watch carefully in the original Star Trek series and you’ll see the gap where the missing finger was.
The actor who played crusty, wise Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy died in 1999 at 79 after a lingering illness.
“He was one of a kind, a great friend and a very important part of a collection of personalities,” Nimoy said of him. “He had the humanist point of view in the show. It fit him very well. He brought a decency and sensibility that made you want to have him around.”
The son of a Baptist minister, Kelley sang in the church choir growing up.
He was a working acting whose credits before Star Trek includes playing a minor bad gun in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in 1956.
He wasn’t a science fiction fan, but was intrigued by the Star Trek premise.
After he saw the original pilot for Star Trek, told creator Gene Roddenberry, “Gene, that will be the biggest hit or the biggest miss ever.”
The actress who played Lt. Uhura is still alive and vital.
She’s also clearly happy with her Star Trek legacy, as shown by her webpage address of www.uhura.com.
She was already well-established in show business when the Star Trek job came along.
She began her career as a vocalist and dancer for jazz orchestras and sang with the Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton Orchestras.
Her film debut was as a dancer in Porgy and Bess, which starred Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge and Sammy Davis Jr.
She seriously considered quitting Star Trek after its first season, but was talked out of it in a chance meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
King convinced her that she was an important role model for African-American women, she later said.
She maintained an interest in space travel, flying aboard NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infared Astronomy last fall.
She also worked to recruit minorities to work for NASA.
The actor who played Lt. Hikaru Sulu was one of the first Asians in American television and later became an early pioneer of gay rights as well.
He remains active on Twitter where he writes this in his description: “Some know me as Mr. Sulu from ‘Star Trek’ but I hope all know me as a believer in, and a fighter for, the equality and dignity of all human beings.”
He was confined to an internment camp during the Second World War and drew on that experience when he appeared in 2015 on Broadway in Allegiance as a bitter war veteran.
Salon magazine wrote that Allegiance resonates in today’s climate, with its current backlash against minorities and paranoia in the face of the Islamic State threat.
Takei tweeted on Dec. 10: “I’m both grateful and worried that @allegiancebway remains so terribly relevant and important today.”
The creator of the series died in October 1991 at 70 after suffering a massive blood clot.
That was 25 years after Star Trek debuted on network television.
Before Star Trek, Roddenberry worked as a Los Angeles police officer and commercial airline pilot.
He also penned more than 80 television scripts and was head writer for Have Gun, Will Travel.
His multi-ethnic cast for Star Trek was considered progressive in how it dealt with visible minorities and women, as the crew often advocated racial tolerance.
He told an interviewer in 1985 that he got the idea for the series from Anglo-Irish satirist Jonathan Swift.
“When Swift wanted to comment on his time, crooked prime ministers and insane kings and queens . . . he would have gotten his head chopped off for it if he’d written it straight,” Roddenberry said. “So in Star Trek I did much the same thing. I talked about the things you couldn’t talk about . . . sex, religion, union management, labour.”