2022 has claimed another performer known well by Star Trek fans and beyond. Kirstie Alley, the actress who played Saavik in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, passed away at 71.
Kirstie Alley’s passing was first reported on Monday night by a number of media outlets. The actress’ children confirmed the news with People. According to the family, Alley died “after a battle with cancer, only recently discovered.” The family thanked the doctors and nurses at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa Florida where she passed away “surrounded by her closest family.”
Star Trek fans will remember Alley for her role as Lt. Saavik in the 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. This was her first big Hollywood role; when she appeared at her first Star Trek convention in 2016 , she talked about how the mentor-student relationship between Spock and Saavik carried over into real life:
I felt he tried to mentor me into being more responsible. He would sorta of look at me more in the viewpoint of Spock than Leonard Nimoy. You know, “What is wrong with you?” I felt like that worked because he was sort of looking at me like that in real life and it sort of worked for Saavik, because she was his protégé, she took whatever he thought or said very seriously. So, I was always a little nervous around Leonard.
Star Trek II was a breakout role for the actress. At that same event, she gave credit to director Nicholas Meyer for giving her a chance:
You’re very fortunate in your life if you have someone who champions you, and he is probably the most significant champion of my career. Before Star Trek II I had done nothing, I had faked my resume. He knew that I was brand new. He just kept auditioning me… and in the final hour he gave me the role.
However, Alley did not return for the 1984 sequel Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, leading to Saavik being recast with Robin Curtis. At the 2016 convention Alley, explained why she didn’t return:
I was offered the third one, but… it was a half-assed offer. It was ‘the character was going to be a lot bigger and she’s going to be a more important character in the movie and we’d like to pay her less than we did for the first one.’ It made me think they don’t want me in the third one. I have heard Leonard Nimoy say ‘No we wanted her in it,’ but that sorta didn’t make sense, so it’s still a mystery to me.
After Star Trek II, Alley’s career took off in film and television, primarily in comedy roles, including three Look Who’s Talking movies in the ’80s and ‘90s. Of course, she’s probably best known for her 1987-1993 run on the hit sitcom Cheers, which earned her an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe. She went on to star in her own sitcom Veronica’s Closet and later as a fictionalized version of herself in Fat Actress. In recent years she has appeared in a number of reality/competition shows including Dancing with the Stars and this year in The Masked Singer. For more about Alley’s Hollywood career, see her obituary in Variety.
Condolences are starting to come in for Kirstie Alley on social media. This includes Nicholas Meyer on Facebook.
And on Twitter, Alley’s Wrath of Khan co-star William Shatner offered his condolences.
Saddened to hear of the passing of @kirstiealley. Condolences to her family & friends.
— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) December 6, 2022
Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Jonathan Frakes shared the announcement message from Alley’s family with a RIP.
RIP Mambo Queen https://t.co/NHshkhlflL
— Jonathan Frakes (@jonathansfrakes) December 6, 2022
Star Trek: Voyager writer and Discovery co-creator Bryan Fuller.
SHE WAS A HELLUVA VULCAN. REST IN PEACE. pic.twitter.com/6WfDGBfzet
— Bryan Fuller (@BryanFuller) December 6, 2022
Picard showrunner Terry Matalas.
Same. (And Rebecca Howe) https://t.co/TV1btKeKnV
— Terry Matalas (@TerryMatalas) December 6, 2022
TrekMovie offers our condolences to the friends and family of Kirstie Alley.