Arlene Martel's ethnic ambiguity earned her the nickname "The Chameleon"
"Star Trek" fans know her as T'Pring, the Vulcan priestess engaged to Spock
She played a Russian spy on "The Monkees" and "I Dream of Jeannie"
Male fans had crushes on her as "a sci-fi babe from the '60s," her son says
Actress Arlene Martel, who “Star Trek” fans know as Spock’s bride-to-be, died in a Los Angeles hospital Tuesday of complications from a heart attack, her son said. Martel was 78.
Martel’s ethnic ambiguity earned her the nickname “The Chameleon” among Hollywood casting directors in the 1960s, son Jod Kaftan told CNN.
It gained her diverse roles, including as a Russian spy on “The Monkees” and “I Dream of Jeannie,” a French Underground operative in “Hogan’s Heroes,” a Native American woman in a “Gunsmoke” episode and as a Vulcan on “Star Trek.”
Trekkies still lined up at sci-fi conventions to meet Martel and pay for autographs because of her role as T’Pring, the Vulcan priestess engaged to Spock in the first episode of the iconic show’s second season.
Leonard Nimoy, who was the original Spock, tweeted his tribute to her: “Saying goodbye to T’Pring, Arlene Martel. A lovely talent.”
Martel is also known for two former boyfriends. She was one of James Dean’s girlfriends in New York before he became a star, Kaftan said. She also dated actor Cary Grant for a time, he said.
Her acting career began on Broadway when she was a teenager. She was cast as Esther in the 1956 production of “Uncle Willie.” She was still using her birth name Arline Sax for her credits then.
Her television career started in 1959 with a move to Hollywood. She soon landed guest roles on hit shows, including “Twilight Zone,” “Death Valley Days,” and “Have Gun – Will Travel.”
Although the roles slowed down over the decades, Martel always considered herself a working actress.
“She was still getting out there, doing roles,” Kaftan said. “She had a lot of big dreams she was still pursuing.”
Although battling cancer over the past five years, she still traveled around the world to conventions where “Star Trek” fans gathered.
Her son said it was an odd experience for him to go with her because “guys would have a crush on your mom because she’s a sci-fi babe from the ‘60s.”