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Actress Arlene Martel, an exotic beauty who played the prospective bride of Leonard Nimoy’s Mr. Spock in the only episode of NBC’s Star Trek set on the planet Vulcan, has died. She was 78.
Martel died Tuesday from complications of a heart attack at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, her son, Jod Kaftan, told The Hollywood Reporter.
In the episode “Amok Time,” which opened Star Trek’s second season on Sept. 15, 1967, a feverish Spock is compelled to return to his home planet, where he must “mate or die.” Martel’s character, T’Pring, was betrothed to him as a child, and the outcome of a fight between Spock and Captain Kirk (William Shatner) will decide whether she marries the logical first officer on the Starship Enterprise.
“I was just so happy to be working and playing a part that was so challenging in terms of what I had done before,” Martel said in Tom Lisanti’s 2003 book Drive-in Dream Girls: A Galaxy of B-Movie Starlets of the Sixties. “I had no idea it would continue to this day. Fans purchase my Star Trek photos at conventions, where I sign autographs. I had no idea that T’Pring would be so memorable to people.”
Said Nimoy on Twitter: “Saying goodbye to T’Pring, Arlene Martel. A lovely talent.”
A native of the Bronx who was frequently billed as Arline Sax, her birth name, Martel also appeared on two episodes of The Twilight Zone, on five Hogan’s Heroes installments as French underground contact Tiger and two on Bewitched as the scary witch Malvina.
Playing women of various nationalities and ethnicities, she guest-starred on such shows as Death Valley Days, The Detectives, Route 66, The Untouchables, Cheyenne, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., My Favorite Martian, The Monkees, The Outer Limits, The Young and the Restless, Columbo, Battlestar Galactica and Brothers & Sisters.
In the 1957 Warner Bros. documentary The James Dean Story, directed by Robert Altman, Martel said she was romantically involved with the actor for years. “Once I told him I loved him, but he pretended he didn’t hear,” she says in the film. “Then he said, ‘You can’t love me. I don’t think anyone can yet.’ ”
As a teenager, Martel was accepted into the High School for the Performing Arts in New York City (where her classmates included future Bob Newhart Show actress Suzanne Pleshette) and appeared on Broadway in the 1956-57 comedy Uncle Willie opposite Norman Fell.
On the big screen, Martel appeared with Rod Taylor in Hong Kong (1961), had the lead in The Glass Cage (1964) and played a biker chick in Angels From Hell (1968). More recently, she had a small role in Adam Shankman’s A Walk to Remember (2002).
Martel was married three times, including to actors Boyd Holister and Jerry Douglas, a longtime player on the CBS soap opera The Young and the Restless.
In addition to Jod, survivors include daughter Avra Douglas, a former assistant of Marlon Brando’s and an executor of the actor’s estate; son Adam Palmer; and grandchildren Molly Rose and Dashiell.
Memorial services are pending. The family asks that donations be made to the organization Autism Speaks.
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