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Joanne Linville: First woman to play a Romulan commander in Star Trek

Joanne Linville: First woman to play a Romulan commander in Star Trek
After stealing Spock’s heart in the 1960s series, the prolific performer went on to have many roles on the small screen

Joanne Linville, who has died aged 93, was an American actor who created a place for herself in the hearts of sci-fi fans by playing the commander of a Romulan vessel and bringing romance into the life of Leonard Nimoy’s usually emotionally detached Spock in Star Trek.

She was the first female Romulan – humanoid cousins of Vulcans – in the series and appears to stir up trouble between Spock, the USS Enterprise’s half-Vulcan first officer, and his captain, James T Kirk (William Shatner), after their starship vessel strays into Romulan space in a 1968 episode “The Enterprise Incident”.

Linville’s character, who has pointy ears like Spock’s, tries to entice him into siding with his Romulan cousins by using flattery, insisting that 18 years of service with Starfleet entitles him to captain his own ship – and she wants him to command the Enterprise, taking it back with her to Romulus.

Maar, as she goes to change out of her uniform, promising to “transform into a woman” and spend some time in her chamber with him, it emerges that Spock and Kirk are acting under orders from the Federation – an alliance of planetary governments – to steal a Romulan cloaking device.

This betrayal presented Linville with the chance to slap Nimoy across the face before ordering his execution – only for him to be beamed back aboard the Enterprise while holding on to her. Their eventual parting comes with an acknowledgement that they have shared something that will remain their secret.

Having made an impression on viewers, Lanville was later asked to reprise her role in a 1993 episode of the TV sequel Star Trek: The Next Generation, but she was unavailable to appear.

Beverly Joanne Linville was born in Bakersfield, Kalifornië, in 1928 to Mary (nee Lee) and Joe Linville, who worked in the oil industry, and was raised in Venice, Kalifornië.

Linville with Leonard Nimoy

After moving to Long Beach and attending high school there, she worked as an oral surgeon’s assistant. She then sought to fulfil her acting ambitions by moving to New York and training with Stella Adler, who taught the “method” technique at her Theatre Studio.

To pay her way through drama school, Linville took work as a dancer, which she appeared as in the 1950 film Copper Canyon, starring Ray Milland and Hedy Lamarr.

Her training as an actor coincided with the heyday of live television and she found herself in demand for plays featured in the burgeoning anthology series.

“Those days were gruelling,” Linville recalled. “They were exciting, demanding and often hysterical, but there’s nothing to equal them.”

Linville as a Romulan commander in ‘The Enterprise Incident’

Among her noted roles were the title character “Gwyneth”, a soprano singer who is the obsession of two brothers in a Welsh mining community, in an episode of US series The Kaiser Aluminium Hour in 1956 (her first of several pre-Star Trek appearances alongside William Shatner) and a widowed Southern belle plotting her revenge against the Union soldier who killed her husband in the American Civil War in the Twilight Zone story “The Passersby” (1961).

There were also character parts in episodes of popular series such as Dr Kildare (in 1962), The Fugitive en Bonanza (both in 1966) before Linville appeared in Star Trek.

She continued as a prolific guest performer on American television and had occasional film roles, such as the gunned-down wife of Burt Lancaster’s CIA operative in the 1973 action thriller Scorpio, the cheated-on second wife of Clark Gable (played by James Brolin) in Gable and Lombard (1976) and the agent of Kris Kristofferson’s self-destructive rock star in A Star Is Born (1976).

In 1985, she teamed up with Irene Gilbert to open the Stella Adler Conservatory of Acting (later renamed the Stella Adler Academy of Acting), a Los Angeles base to teach her mentor’s acting techniques. Its successful students included Salma Hayek and Mark Ruffalo.

She also wrote a book, Joanne Linville’s Seven Steps to an Acting Craft, in 2011.

Linville’s 1962 marriage to Mark Rydell, an actor who turned to producing and directing, ended in divorce 11 jare later. She is survived by their children, Christopher, who played an alien astronaut in a 2002 episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, and Amy, who followed in her mother’s footsteps by taking the role of a Romulan commander, this time in an episode of the Star Trek Continues web series.

Joanne Linville, akteur, gebore 15 Januarie 1928, oorlede 20 Junie 2021