Today is a good day to remember one of the greatest Klingons in “Star Trek” history, or at least the actor who played him. The late Michael Ansara portrayed the formidable Klingon, Kang, in the “Star Trek: The Original Series” episode, “Day of the Dove,” and reprised the role decades later in the “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” episode, “Blood Oath,” and in the “Star Trek: Voyager” episode, “Flashback.” He also guest-starred as Jeyal, a Tavnian who was married to Lwaxana Troi (Majel Barrett), in the “Deep Space Nine” episode, “The Muse.” Ansara, who died in 2013, would have turned 100 years old on April 15.
In “Day of the Dove,” Kang, his wife, Mara (Susan Howard), and his crew wind up aboard the Enterprise. Tensions and distrust are already in the air between the Klingons and Kirk and his crew when an alien energy being that feeds on anger and violence further manipulates them all into fighting. Only by behaving like friends and quite literally laughing the alien off the ship is the situation resolved, with Kang and Kirk leading the way.
Kang Was Noble
“What a magnificent character to play!” Ansara enthused to Starlog Magazine for an interview that ran in January of 1989. He added, “Immediately, just from reading the script, I knew how special the role was and how rare it was to find a character like this in either television or film. Kang had nobility and that’s a quality that I have always been fascinated by.”
Ansara played Kang again on both “Deep Space Nine” and “Voyager,” but the character looked completely different. So too did Ansara’s fellow returning actors, John Colicos and William Campbell, who played Kor and Koloth, respectively. Colicos, who first portrayed Kor in “Errand of Mercy,” reprised the role in the “Deep Space Nine” episode, “Blood Oath,” “The Sword of Kahless” and “Once More Unto the Breach,” while Campbell originated Koloth in “The Trouble with Tribbles” after having guest-starred as Trelane in “The Squire of Gothos,” and he was back as Koloth in “Blood Oath.” The three actors looked humanoid in their initial appearances on “The Original Series,” but were made to look more like Worf and other “Star Trek: The Next Generation”-era Klingons when the trio of elder Klingons joined forces in “Blood Oath.”
“The Klingon makeup on the old ‘Star Trek’ was much simpler than it was on ‘Deep Space Nine,” Ansara said in a subsequent interview with Starlog in 1996. “For that, it took four hours to put the makeup on and two hours to take it off! You had to get into the studio at four or five a.m., and you don’t leave ’til late at night. That ‘new look’ they have for the Klingons, the putty on the head and all of that, was miserable to put on. So, I enjoyed the original more than I enjoyed this new one.”
Kang Returns for ‘Blood Oath’
When Ansara died in 2013 at the age of 91, many of the obituaries emphasized his “Star Trek” connection. The truth was that the actor — who, according to IMDb, was born in Syria and raised by his American parents first in New England and then in California — enjoyed a remarkably long and successful career. His first credits date back to 1944 and extended to 2001. He played the Native American character Cochise in “Broken Arrow ” from 1956 to 1958 and Marshal Sam Buckhart in the “Law of the Plainsman” from 1959 to 1960.
Ansara’s numerous other credits included “Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy,” “Julius Caesar,” “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” “Tarzan,” “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” (both the film and the spinoff series), “The Time Tunnel,” “The Outer Limits (the episode “Soldier,” scripted by “Star Trek” legend Harlan Ellison), “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” “The Fugitive,” “Gunsmoke,” “I Dream of Jeannie” (which starred his second wife, Barbara Eden), “It’s Alive,” “Barbary Coast” (which starred William Shatner), “Here Come the Brides” (which reunited him with Susan Howard), “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century,” “Fantasy Island,” “Murder, She Wrote,” and “Babylon 5.”
Near the end of his career, according to IMDB, he provided the voice of Dr. Victor Fries/Mr. Freeze for several animated “Batman” projects: “Batman: The Animated Series,” “The New Batman Adventures,” “Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero,” “Batman Beyond,” and his final credit, “Batman: Vengeance.” Ansara was also a fan favorite at “Star Trek” conventions and on “Star Trek” cruises, occasionally on stage alongside John Colicos and William Campbell.
Ansara died on July 31, 2013, at his home in Calabasas, California, following a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He was predeceased in 2001 by his only child, Matthew, with Barbara Eden. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Matthew died of an accidental drug overdose. Ansara was survived by his wife, Beverly Kushida.
In addition to the many films and shows he left behind, Ansara was honored with a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in a ceremony held on February 8, 1960. It can be found at 6666 Hollywood Boulevard.