Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Space: 1970 Hall Of Fame: Mark Lenard

For some time, I've been toying with creating a new Space: 1970 "feature," the Hall Of Fame.

The idea is to spotlight figures of great influence over the science fiction films and television shows of the Space: 1970 era - writers, directors, artists, producers and actors. I thought I'd kick that feature off today with a remembrance of the great character actor Mark Lenard, born on this day in 1924.

Even if he had just portrayed the noble Romulan Commander in Star Trek's first season episode "Balance of Terror," he would have made an indelible mark on the memories of the generation's Star Kids, but he also unforgettably played Spock's father Sarek (despite only being about 5 years older than Leonard Nimoy) in "Journey to Babel" (and the Animated Series, two Trek feature films and a couple episodes of The Next Generation) giving us all greater insight into our favorite Vulcan First Officer's personal history and psyche.

And then, to make it a perfect Trek hat trick, he also portrayed a Klingon captain - the first Klingon we ever saw with the famous ridged forhead - in 1979's Star Trek - The Motion Picture!

So, just within the confines of a single franchise, Lenard was a notable presence in the Space: 1970 firmament. But, as they say in late night infomercials, "wait - there's more!"

When Planet Of The Apes came to television as a weekly series in 1974, Lenard was cast as General Urko, the gorilla officer tasked with hunting down the fugitive human astronauts Burke and Virdon.

In 1979, he was the evil Emperor Thorval of the Cliffhangers serial, The Secret Empire, where he ruled the aforementioned subterranean locale as absolute dictator with ambitions of ruling the surface world as well. He also had a memorable role as an alien ambassador - and former flame of Wilma Deering! - in the second season Buck Rogers episode, "Journey To Oasis."

Additionally, Lenard appeared in the third season episode of The Incredible Hulk, "Captive Night." Surprisingly, he never guested on either of the "bionic" shows...

With nearly 60 film and television credits (mostly TV, where he was a reliable episodic guest star on many shows), Lenard was a familiar face and voice to audiences of the 60s and 70s, and to science fiction fans in particular. I remember how the theater erupted in applause when he made his dramatic entrance in Star Trek III - The Search For Spock.

Mark Lenard passed away on November 22nd, 1996.
A Tip of The Space Helmet: While it is true that I had been thinking about this sort of feature for the last couple years, and even called it the "Hall of Fame" in conversations with my wife, the kick in the backside that finally started me putting it together came from friend of the blog Jason Shepherd. Earlier this year, he suggested the same "Hall of Fame" idea to me in an e-mail, and even suggested some people that would be worthy of honoring. So, thanks, Jason!


  1. I like the Hall of Fame idea, so many candidates to choose from. I very much enjoyed Leonard's portrayal of Sarek and the Romulan commander. I often forget he's the Klingon commander too, being under such heavy makeup and speaking Klingon. He's definitely earned a spot in the Hall of Fame.

  2. Agreed and I like the concept.

    I suspect I will see Michael Ansara here before too long ;)

  3. Kudos! An excellent actor and an excellent column for the website.

  4. In 1984, I went to a Star Trek convention in San Antonio, Texas, where he and Grace Lee Whitney were the two guests of honor. It was just before the release of "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock," and Lenard talked about how surprised and glad he was to be asked back into the Trek fold to play Sarek. He also talked at length about the "Planet of the Apes" TV series, and he brought along some of his Ape make-up prosthetics that were still intact. All in all, he came off as very cool and down to earth. I think he is a terrific choice to kick off your Hall of Fame!

  5. A good idea for a new feature, and a great way to start it.

  6. I went on CruiseTrek, a Star Trek themed cruise in 1995, on which he was the guest. I had breakfast with him.