February 13, 2016 marks what would have been Susan Oliver’s 84th birthday. Sadly, she didn’t make it past her 58th, a fact driven home to me over and over again as I interviewed so many of her contemporaries for The Green Girl documentary (more than one of whom has already seen their own 84th).
As the entire Star Trek world celebrates the 50th anniversary of the original series premiere in September of 1966, we also see it as the 50th anniversary of Susan’s iconic guest starring role in the special 2-part “Menagerie” episode (first airing in November of the same year). It includes most of the original 1964 pilot, which NBC rejected, but with the unprecedented caveat of asking the show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, to try again from scratch. It is my personal belief that one reason the network rejected the original was simply because Susan Oliver, the one-time-only guest star, was actually better than the most of the proposed series regulars. (Not good if you want people to tune in every week!) It’s not hard to argue that Roddenberry’s second try, with a re-imagined Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and new cast members William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, and (eventually) Walter Koenig was a a vast improvement!
Thank you, Susan, for Star Trek’s Vina (including her Green Orion Slave Girl incarnation) and for all of the many, many other wonderful characters you portrayed so memorably (and for so many years) on most of our favorite television shows!