Lezlie Dalton – Drea in “Star Trek : By Any Other Name”

Here in Ontario the Pandemic is continuing to rage on.  At this point two of my extended family members have contracted the virus.  One of them never had more than a mild sniffle, but the other who has chronic health conditions has been suffering terribly.  A friend of mine in England evidently contracted the UK mutation from his wife and says he has never felt worse. 

At this point we are forbidden from leaving our houses for anything other than food, work, or medical appointments and anyone who can work from home must work from home.

So obviously I don’t leave the house much.  However, I do check the mailbox every day and today I got another response to my pandemic hobby of sending Star Trek fanmail.

Today the response was from Lezlie Dalton who played Drea in the season three episode “By Any Other Name”.  This was a strange episode about a group of shapeshifting and teleporting aliens who take over the Enterprise and turn most of the crew into Styrofoam cubes before Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy and Scotty teach them about emotions by giving them drugs, kissing them, and plying them with whisky. 

Like I said, it’s a weird episode. 

Lezlie was originally from Massachusetts and Star Trek appears to have been one of her first television acting jobs.  After Trek she appeared regularly with Dean Martin on a show called “Golddiggers” in the 1960s and early 70s.  During the mid-70s she did occasional guest work before landing a long term role as Elizabeth Grainville Spaulding on the soap opera “Guiding Light”, appearing between 1977 and 1981. 

I have casual familiarity with that show as a watched it intermittently before its cancellation.  From what I can see online her character was married to the villain Alan Spaulding and adopted his son Philip, and was evidently the namesake for his daughter Lizzie.  She did a guest spot on the long running soap “Search for Tomorrow” in 1983 and then appears to have retired from television acting.

While I am not certain what she has been up to over the past few decades it has evidently kept her busy. 

The letter I received from her explains that she has been travelling in and out of her home in New York and has recently returned to find an enormous pile of mail from Trekkies.  As you can see from the letter she was clearly aware that the pile has become jumbled.  The first photo I received is one that I sent her.  It is a behind the scene image rescued from a piece of discarded film by the archivist Gerald Gurian.  The second one, a smaller image, is not one that I sent her, so hopefully another Trekkie doesn’t end up disappointed.    

It’s nice that even after 50 years she is receptive to fan letters, especially when they pile up on her desk in her absence.  Whatever she is up to now, I hope she is happy and knows that her performance and career is still appreciated. 

Andrea Dromm – Yeoman Smith in “Star Trek : Where No Man Has Gone Before”

Very little is known about Andrea Dromm, and that seems to be how she likes it.  Originally from the eastern United States, Andrea was cast as “Yeoman Smith” in Star Trek’s second pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before”.  She worked for four days on the show an appeared in a handful of scenes, most notably a brief confrontation with William Shatner and leaning on Gary Lockwood for support while the Enterprise passes thru the galactic barrier.

Although Desilu had an option to retain her as a recurring character in the series, Andrea opted instead to appear in the Norman Jewison film “The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming”.  After a handful of acting and talk show appearances she became better known as a model for haircare products before abandoning her career in the early 1970s. 

She hasn’t given an interview since 1988.

She was kind enough to autograph these photos I sent her.  I asked her in my letter if she could be a guest on our Star Trek podcast.  She scribbled an answer that she was considering it, but left no e-mail or telephone number with which we can communicate.  Once the podcast is more established we will try sending another letter. 

Although her appearance is a footnote in Star Trek with a lot of questions about what might have been, the fact that 50 years later she is still willing to answer fan mail suggests she doesn’t regret being part of Star Trek, or even appreciates the continued attention.

Thanks Andrea

Garrison True – Security Guard in “Star Trek : The Man Trap”

When Star Trek was originally commissioned Gene Roddenberry created a pilot called “The Cage”.  When this wasn’t picked up Lucille Ball personally authorized the creation of a second pilot called “Where No Man Has Gone Before”.  The Pilot convinced NBC to commission a series from Desilu, but it was decided that the pilot didn’t have enough action of sci-fi elements to effectively open the series.  In the end NBC opted to use the fifth episode of the series “The Man Trap” as a vehicle to launch its new show.

This is the episode with the iconic “Salt Vampire” that sneaks aboard the Enterprise in the form of a crewman.  In this episode Garrison True played an unidentified security guard (also known as a “redshirt”) who interacts with the Salt Vampire in human form. 

Later when the Salt Vampire is being hunted on the ship he is seen again standing guard duty. 

Despite having lines he did not receive on screen credit for this role.

From the 1960s until the 1980s he was a working actor on various shows, including a notable stint on the soap opera General Hospital during its heyday in the early 1980s.  Most recently he was on an episode of “Criminal Minds” in 2013. 

Later in his career he became a casting director and acting teacher. 

As you can see from his correspondence now aged 86 he generally declines to sign autographs but says he made an exception for me, and even requested copies of the photos I sent.  They were dutifully printed and mailed this afternoon.   

To be honest, I have often wondered why any of the Star Trek actors continue to respond to fan mail, especially when the autograph requests are not accompanied by payment.  I get the impression that many of them are just happy that decades later their performances are still appreciated and remembered. 

Teri Garr – Roberta Lincoln in Star Trek : Assignment Earth

One of the most successful actresses to get her start on the original Star Trek series is Teri Garr, who played Roberta Lincoln in the second season finale “Assignment : Earth”. 

This is also one of the strangest episodes of Star Trek because in many ways its not really an episode of Star Trek.  Due to poor performance NBC cancelled Star Trek during its second season.  A legendary letter writing campaign convinced NBC to commission another year, with a worse time-slot, and a much lower budget. However, before that happened Gene Roddenberry started looking for another job. 

His plan was what is known as a “back-door pilot” – that is use an episode of his existing show to preview his proposed replacement show.  In other words, make a Star Trek spinoff.

In this episode (and proposed series) a human agent named Gary Seven (played by the late Robert Lansing) has been trained by altruistic aliens to be their agent on planet Earth to prevent its destruction by nuclear apocalypse.  He meets a woman named Roberta Lincoln (played by Garr) who he assumes is another agent, but is really just a young woman looking for a job as a secretary in the office that serves as a front for the room containing his alien technology, such as a typewriter that takes voice dictation. 

The Enterprise, having travelled back in time intercepts Seven and after hijinks ensue with a couple of police officers, they assist Mr. Seven in stopping the launch of a nuclear weapons satellite.  At the end of the episode Roberta takes the job of Seven’s secretary while Kirk and Spock wish them well in their future adventures, thus setting up the Assignment Earth television series.

Ultimately NBC passed on the concept and Star Trek chugged along for another year until it ran out of steam.  The characters occasionally show up in star trek licensed media such as the Assignment Earth comic book series and the Peter David novels detailing the rise of Khan Noonian Singh (which brilliantly weave together most of the 20th century characters from the varies series) 

Teri Garr’s relationship with Star Trek seems to have been like many connected to the show: at times it has been dismissive and resentful, and at other times warm and appreciative. 

During an infamous interview in 1990 with Starlog Magazine she said things like “I did that years ago and I mostly deny I did it” and expressed relief that Assignment Earth didn’t go to series so she could avoid a life-time of Star Trek conventions. In her 2006 autobiography “Speedbumps: Flooring It Through Hollywood” she describes Roberta Lincoln as an important break thru in her career and a steppingstone to some of the comedy parts she was later cast in.

During the early 1970s she was often typecast as what she describes as “ditsy blonds” in sitcoms, but these jobs led her to Mel Brooks who cast her as Inga, a blond bombshell with an absurd eastern European accent in the comedy “Young Frankenstein”. 

In the late 1970s her career progressed to more serious work, and she returned to science fiction in the landmark film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” directed by Steven Spielberg, although in that infamous Starlog interview she claimed she didn’t think of that film as being science fiction. 

By the early 1980s her career had progressed to the point where she was cast in the Dustin Hoffman film “Tootsie”.  It was for this film she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (she lost to Jessica Lange who also appeared in the film). 

It was during the making of Tootsie that her life started an enormous change.  While making the film in New York she went jogging in central park and started feeling tingling in her leg.  Over the next two decades she would have progressively worse symptoms until a doctor finally diagnosed her with Multiple Sclerosis in 1999.   In 2007 she suffered a brain aneurysm unrelated to MS and was in a coma.  For decades her witty banter made her a favourite guest of David Letterman who asked her on the show many times, and she triumphantly made a return appearance in 2008 making fun of her medical ailments, although noticeably walking with a limp.  Reportedly her symptoms have worsened in recent years to the point where she often uses a wheelchair and a personal support worker.

Evidently, she was feeling well enough to deal with fan mail as this week I received three autographed photos of her as Roberta Lincoln.  If there is any remaining resentment of Star Trek, she does not take it out on the fans who ask her to sign things.

As you can see from these images her signature has become a bit rough as her symptoms have worsened.  Under the circumstances I would not have blamed her for throwing my envelope in the garbage.  If I was in my mid 70s with major health setbacks, I do not imagine I would want to sign 50-year-old photographs.  Never-the-less I will put these on the wall and treasure them, just like I treasure this show.

Susan Howard – Kara the Klingon from Star Trek : Day of the Dove

Working from home during the pandemic I am unable to get out of the house very much.  Sometimes I have considered unplugging my computer and working on the patio but that does not seem conductive to focused digital labour.  Instead, one of the few times in the day where I get to see the sun is during my lunch break when I check the mail to see if any new Star Trek autograph requests have come back.

I got my first Return to Sender last week.  Four weeks before I had sent a request to Harry Basch who played a robot in the episode “What are Little Girls Made of”.  Sadly, it turns out Mr. Basch died five weeks ago.

Today I got one back from the actress Susan Howard. Susan played Mara, wife of Klingon Commander Kang in the episode “Day of the Dove”.  Susan is one of the few female Klingons portrayed on The Original Series, and the only one to perform any lines.

After Star Trek she continued to guest star until she replaced Diana Muldaur as one of the cast members of the lawyer show “Petrocelli” in 1974, continuing until it was cancelled two years later. During that time she was nominated for both a Golden Globe and a Primetime Emmy Award.

Her career defining role was as Donna Culver Krebbs on the primetime soap opera “Dallas” during the 1980s.

Since then she took a deep dive into republican politics.  She served in the leadership of the National Rifle Association and at one point was co-host of the televangelist “The 700 Club” and continues to speak at Republican events in favour of firearms and the Christian church.

Suffice to say my political leanings are very different from hers. I’m sure we would have a lot of fun arguing if we were ever to speak.  Never-the-less it was very kind of her to autograph these for me.

Barbara Baldavin – Angela Martine from Star Trek

As previously posted, lately I have been communicating with various cast members from Star Trek : The Original Series and asking for autographs.  Since I am not getting out much because of COVID there is not much to write about on this blog, and I thought I would occasionally provide an update as they come back to me.

This week I got a response from Barbara Baldavin.  Barbara may have had a foot in the door at the show as she was married to Joseph D’Agosta, the casting director at Desilu who therefore cast most of the actors on Star Trek, as well as the Lucy Show and Mission Impossible.  In occasions when the show needed a generic crew member D’Anosta turned to his circle of actors, and more than once asked his wife to play a part.

Baldavin first appeared in the season one episode “Balance of Terror” as Angela Martine, a female weapons officer whose wedding is interrupted by a Romulan attack.

That same season she was cast again in “Shore Leave” as a generic female crew member who beams down to a planet that can make your dreams come true.  Although scripted as a different character, when the production crew realized she had been in Balance of Terror they referred to the character as “Angela Martine”.

At the end of the first season she returned to play a character called “Baker” in “Space Seed” but her performance was removed in the final cut of the episode.

At the end of the series she returned for the series finale “Turnabout Intruder”.  Nichelle Nichols who played communications officer Uhura was unavailable due to a singing engagement and they needed a generic female crew member to say her lines.  She is called “Lt. Lisa” in this episode, but most fans have retconned her as playing Angela again.

After Star Trek she was a recurring cast member in the 1970s TV series “Medical Center”, and made guest appearances on popular television in the 70s such as “Charlie’s Angels”, “Baretta”, “Fantasy Island” and “The Bionic Woman” however by the 1980s she made a career shift into the casting department, working as casting director or casting assistant on shows like “Trapper John M.D.”, and “Dynasty”.

I sent her three photos, one from each episode she appeared, in and she was kind enough to sign them all. I should note she herself seems to have retconned her appearances to be all the same character.

If she ever sees this, thank you very much for signing these, and thank you for being a part of Star Trek.

Star Trek

Growing up I always enjoyed the Star Trek television series.  The CBC used to play episodes of The Original Series on the weekends.  I distinctly remember seeing the episode “Arena” and thinking the Gorn Captain looked silly. I also remember enjoying the episode “Space Seed” with Ricardo Montalban where Captain Kirk wonders aloud what will become of Khan after he and his crew are marooned on a distant planet.  Thankfully I watched this episode before watching the second movie which answers this question.

My generation grew up with Star Trek The Next Generation in syndication on cable, and Star Trek Voyager regularly running on local TV stations.  In hindsight Voyager was a missed opportunity.  The show involves crews from two different factions thrown together on the opposite side of the galaxy forced to work together to get home.  The concept has a lot of potential, but in execution there is very little interpersonal conflict between any of the Voyager Crew.

Unlike Deep Space Nine which features a stable of recurring characters, Voyager is peppered with abandoned possibilities. By the late 90s and early 2000s the reruns of The Original Series had been replaced with reruns of The Next Generation, so there are numerous episodes I’ve never seen.

Lately with the addition of The Original Series on Netflix I have been working thru watching all 79 of them.  I’ve concluded that Star Trek episodes are a bit like musicals.  When done right they are very good and hold up in a timeless way.  When they are done badly, they are terrible.

The worst episode of them all was “Spock’s Brain”.  Marj Dusay plays an alien who beams aboard the Enterprise, and steals Spock’s brain out of his head.  Then the Enterprise crew has to find her and put Spock’s brain back into his head.

That’s it.  That’s the entire episode.

During the early 2000s Marj played the villain Vanessa Cortland on the soap opera All My Children which I used to watch during lunch in high school.  For some reason I decided I wanted to contact her and get her autograph.  Unfortunately, Marj died before she could respond.

Now am I attempting to contact as many actors from the Original Series and collect their autographs as I can before they are all lost to history.  It is surprisingly early to locate their addresses online and many have been kind enough to respond.

It has been an enjoyable hobby.  Occasionally I will open my mailbox and find one of my self-addressed stamped envelopes has boomeranged back.

My friends Mike, Josh and Tim perform the podcast Two and Change where they discuss politics and current events, while Mike and Tim throw in Star Trek references whenever possible.  Tim and his wife Laura even got married in a Klingon ceremony complete with battling using Klingon Bat’leths, suggesting a dedication to fandom that I don’t possess.

Josh, however, didn’t grow up with Star Trek and tells me that if you are not watching it with nostalgia goggles it looks very silly.

So, I have come up with a new project and a use for all these autographed photos.  Me, Mike, Josh and Tim are planning on watching episodes of the Original Series and discussing them with Josh to get a fresh perspective on an old subject matter.  The current plan is if we use a video component, we are going to decorate the “set” with these autographs.

Tentatively we are thinking of calling the show Nerding Out With My Friend, and I think we should start with some of the better episodes like “The City on the Edge of Forever” or “The Trouble with Tribbles” before we introduce Josh to episodes like Spock’s Brain.  If we don’t foster a love of Star Trek in our friend, at least we will have a great time and produce something creative.

In the meantime, here are some of the autographs the Star Trek actors have been kind enough to send me.