Star Trek: Celebrating the Memory of Arlene Martel
The striking, irrepressible Arlene Martel would have turned 82 years old today, and StarTrek.com thought we’d take a beat to celebrate the occasion. Martel, who died of a heart attack on August 12, 2014, was a veteran television and film actress whose career spanned parts of seven decades, dating back to the golden age of television. To Star Trek fans, she’ll be forever remembered for her spot-on portrayal of T’Pring in the “Amok Time” episode of Star Trek: The Original Series.
The character — betrothed to Spock, whom she spurns — was a sexy, exotic presence in the episode, the first and only TOS episode set on Vulcan. Martel had previously auditioned for roles in the episodes “Where No Man Has Gone Before” and “Catspaw.”
Martel’s other credits included the popular The Outer Limits episode “Demon with a Glass Hand” (written by Harlan Ellison), the “Twenty-Two” episode of The Twilight Zone, Hogan’s Heroes, My Favorite Martian, Bewitched, Columbo, Battlestar Galactica, Knot’s Landing, A Walk to Remember, Brothers & Sisters, and Star Trek: Of Gods and Men.
StarTrek.com chatted with Martel in 2010, and she spoke fondly of her brief but important visit to the Star Trek universe. Noting the enduring popularity of “Amok Time,” she said, “It does hold up. If it didn’t, they wouldn’t re-run it as much as they do. I just saw it a couple of weeks ago. It’s re-run almost more than any other episode, and it seems to be so popular because of the mating issue. To see a Vulcan in the heat of his sexuality is a very interesting thing. It’s interesting to see anyone in that situation, if the story is good, but to see someone who’s usually so repressed going through it, I think that captured people’s imaginations. I think that’s the fascination about it. And then to see how this woman deals with that, and the decisions and choices she makes…”
“My performance, I think, holds up quite well, especially visually,” she continued. “I didn’t have that much to say, but I think you see me and my reactions, and my presence is felt. Looking at it, I can see why they cast me in that role.”
Martel was a fan favorite at conventions around the world, vibrant and engaging as she interacted with visitors who stopped at her table during her annual appearances at Star Trek Las Vegas and so many other events. She actually passed away soon after a convention appearance in 2014.
What was your fondest memory of Martel’s performance as T’Pring, or of meeting the actress at a convention?
Arlene Martel: Born: 4/14/1936 Died: 8/12/2014 at the age of 78. She was the actress from New York City, known to Star Trek fans for playing Spock’s bride-to-be, T’Pring, in the Star Trek: The Original Series second season episode “Amok Time“. She filmed her scenes between Wednesday 14 June 1967 and Monday 19 June 1967 at Desilu Stage 10
In 1965, Martel was among the candidates for the role of Doctor Elizabeth Dehner for the second Star Trek pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before“. However, the role would’ve required her to wear silver contact lenses, which might’ve damaged her sensitive eyes. Nearly two years later, she auditioned for Star Trek again, this time for the role of Sylvia in “Catspaw“. Again, she didn’t get cast, because the production staff (probably director Joseph Pevney or casting director Joseph D’Agosta) had seen her as the ideal actress for T’Pring in “Amok Time”.
Forty years after her role on Star Trek, Martel appeared as a Vulcan Priestess in the fan film Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, directed by and co-starring Tim Russ. Other canon Star Trek performers who participated in this production include Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Alan Ruck, Gary Graham, Chase Masterson, J.G. Hertzler, Garrett Wang, Crystal Allen, Cirroc Lofton, Ethan Phillips, Grace Lee Whitney, and Martel’s “Amok Time” co-star Lawrence Montaigne.