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.
RIP Kirstie Alley
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.
Star Trek remembers
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.
Sad news indeed! Kirstie Alley has always been a fire cracker in terms of her personality and always kept her youthful in that sense. Obviously loved her as Saavik but it was really Cheers that I fell in love with her as an actress and watched her in other projects since! But it is a shame we never saw her play Saavik again.
Definitely will be missed!
I recall her making a strong impression on me in North and South, as well as TWOK.
She had a unique beauty and presence, an uncompromising or defiant attitude that came through in her roles. In a time where stronger women were just beginning to be profiles in American entertainment, she stood out.
She will be missed.
Wasn’t Jonathan Frakes a cast member in NORTH & SOUTH as well?
Yes he was, their characters were siblings.
Yep! That miniseries was the first time I saw Frakes in something.
Her passing is a complete shock. She was my favorite Saavik and will be missed. RIP
A very sad loss.
I hope coverage focuses on her career and not on her pro-Trump tweeting of the past bit.
I suspect TWOK wouldn’t have worked as well if she hadn’t been in it.
Correction: That 50th anniversary convention in Las Vegas wasn’t her first Star Trek convention, unless you’re not counting the infamous so-called “Con of Wrath” from 1982 at the Houston Astrodome. Larry Nemecek’s slideshow for that documentary he’s doing about that convention includes photos of Kirstie there and even Merrit Butrick.
So glad I got meet Kirstie in Vegas in 2016. During the photo op, she had me — and probably as she did with a lot of other people who went through that line — pose with me from behind, with her right arm curved over and around my shoulder. I like that special setup she did in that photo.
(And I see that one of the online convention autograph stores has already jacked up its prices of autographed pictures of her to $425….)
What a loss! Kristie Alley and Saavik was one of the most interesting of the Star Trek characters with easily the most potential being half Vulcan, half Romulan. Of all the characters that need to show up again, it’s Saavik. Godspeed Kristie Alley!
Being a Trek fan in the 80s, always see her as one of the core TOS characters despite never having been in TOS!
And of course, she was great in Cheers.
Even Meyer didn’t know what to do with her. He wanted her to betray Spock and the Enterprise family. Its Saavik in the script Valeris is completely made up nonsense. She is Saavik, Spock’s protege they share an intimacy closer than teacher and student. Her background is Saavik, but she is played as a cold calculating psycho by Kim Cattrall. Honestly i liked the first Saavik, not the other 2 versions.
Agreed. I vaguely remember reading somewhere that there was talk of setting her up as a love interest for Shatner at some point (I don’t know of it was before the final script for TWOK or after the film was successful, or how far it went — anyone else recall anything about that?) — which would have been absurd.
I remember the character being even more interesting in TWOK novelization (a lot of background and then friendships with Peter Preston etc.) — but yeah, I don’t think TWOK would have worked without her.
Then, as written (and as performed) in TSFS, Saavik was a completely different character with almost nothing important to do (other than possibly mate with young Spock).
Cattrall plays the heck out if it, but her Valeris(/Saavik) didn’t really make a whole lot of sense as a character — at least in what ended up on screen.
Odd to me that Meyer mentions playing a role in Alley’s career — as opposed to her helping to make his movie a classic.
There’s quite a nice obituary in The Washington Post this morning.
TSFS saavik was there to bond with david and then challenge him on using proto matter to finish the genesis wave.
and he died for her, knowing the klingon was going to kill either her or even spock.
kind of redeeming himself for his mistake
To be fair, Kirstie Alley had said that she owed her career to Nick Meyer as he gave her, her big break, by hiring her to be Saavik in “Star Trek II”.
Was Saavik’s half-Romularity ever made canon?
Remember kivaas and trillium from “Errand of Mercy”? If “kivaas” is actually spelled that way, it’s “Saavik” backward.
As far as I know it was never mentioned on screen.
R.I.P. Saavikam 1.0
Star Trek II is her legacy. She will be missed by all. RIP
Within the world of “Star Trek” yes. To the general public, her run on “Cheers” will be better known.
Really sad to hear this. She lit up the screen in TWOK and I always had a soft spot for her since. RIP Kirstie.
Very sad to hear. Had a little crush on her growing up. She was great on Cheers. Rest in peace.
Just found out about this, I’m shocked. I thought she was great and was excellent as Saavik, it’s so sad that we will not see her on-screen again. Life is so fleeting. Rest in peace.
So glad we got to see her in Las Vegas for the 50th. I was hoping she would always come back again, but alas, it was not to be. However, we did get a photo op & autograph from her back then. She was so funny on stage and in person. She is another actor that will be missed but never forgotten. “She’s not really dead, as long as we remember her” to paraphrase Dr McCoy.
I know this isn’t relevant to her passing but what the heck is Facebook putting a warning of sensitive content for a simple picture of Saavik?
That isn’t facebook, it’s twitter. Lots has changed there since Musk took over.
I’ve noticed the bots have been posting a lot of weepy obits for Bruce Willis…..who isn’t dead yet. AI’s got some splain to do.
Sad news. :( While I was never fond of her as a person, I loved her performance as Saavik.
Er, did you know her? But yeah, sad news.
What’s the matter with you?
This came as a bit of a shock. Unfortunate she never returned to Saavik. That’s Hollywood I guess. I recall Meyer really wanted her in TUC and refused to recast. So Valeris was created instead. Good for Nick Meyer.
Too soon. She was a “warmer” Saavik than Robin Curtis, who was also good. Sorry to hear this. But she did get Cheers, which made her very successful. RIP.
Robin Curtis just came out of retirement for an indie film – the first time in many years.
Not many smokey blue eyes that are truly beautiful. Kirstie NEVER lost that.
And I can hardly wait to see her in the hereafter, someday (long from now, hopefully)!
And she was a too bright of a shining star for lil’ ol’ Star Trek.
I still admire her gusto as an actor. But more, she had the lovliest blue eyes.
Someday… I promise. Someday.
Cheers, Kirstie and Warp speed!!
: (, : )
Lovely GREEN EYES!
I needs an edit button!
Saavik is Spock’s baby mama. She was totally sporting a baby bump at the beginning of Star Trek IV after the pon far on the Genesis planet.
That sucks. :/
She’s still one of the very best non-Nimoy Vulcans. I’ll always wish she had played Saavik several more times.
I agree. And this was her only major “serious” role. She was known primarily for comedy.
although Curtis was fine Trek III could’ve been so much more with Alley back as Saavik.
Sad to think how many of Trek II’s cast and crew are now no longer here :(
Yeah..I think there was a draft written where Saavik had a thing for Kirk. The elevator scene where she’s entering the turbo elevator after a jog or whatever it was she was doing, with her hair down was the start I suppose.
When seeing II for the first time in 70mm, she sure looked so gorgeous during that close up of her as they go to yellow alert. The next shot of her well manicured long fingernails made me think.. ok, glamor shots are one thing but she’s an officer so why the overly done nails???
I recall one of her parents or both of them had died as shooting began on II. She had to go home and they had to rearrange the shooting schedule instead of recasting her.
With regard to III, who wouldn’t be insulted to not return if they offered to pay her less than she got for II. Nimoy should’ve lobbied harder to pay her to come back as long as the $ she wanted wasn’t a ridculously high offer. I’m thinking higher than the supporting cast (Koenig, Nichols, Takei and Doohan).
I’ve also seen her on a Match Game rerun on the game show tv network.
Its depressing we lost so many good Trek actors recently.. Nichols, Louise Fletcher, now Kirstie. *sigh*
Second that on III. The absence of Kirstie in Trek III stopped that film from being GREAT. I can imagine how much better it would have been with her in that movie. I wonder who they also may have passed on for the role of David?
And another thing about Trek III, The costumes…
I read somewhere her agent wanted more than Deforest Kelly was getting for III, but yeah negotiations should’ve resolved it so she was getting more in line with Kelly. not just OK we’ll recast.. Saavik had a major role in III along with David (they are basically the leads of the movie on the Genesis planet/Grissom before the Enterprise gets there), plus shed been abit of a breakout star in II (certainly helped the movie be a success as the new hot sexy Vulcan).