Seth MacFarlane and his show “The Orville” paid tribute in the latest episode to the late actress Lisa Banes, who recurred on the sci-fi/comedy-drama as the character Speria Balask and, like many “Orville” regulars, recurring actors, and guest stars, had also made a mark on the “Star Trek” franchise. Banes, according to the New York Times, died on June 14, 2021, 10 days after she was struck and critically injured by a scooter in New York City. She was 65 years old.
Due to the move from FOX to Hulu, as well as delays caused by the pandemic, the third season of “The Orville” had been completed for some time. Banes was not only honored in the June 23, 2022, episode of the show, which was titled “Gently Falling Rain” and was the fourth installment of the season, but she also made her debut as Balask in it. In an unusual move, the title card bearing the dedication to the actress ran at the beginning of the episode. Most shows and movies feature such tributes after a final scene and before the credits roll. The title card read, “In Memory of Lisa Banes, 1955-2021,” and was written in white against a dark, star-speckled background. “The Orville” had honored Norm Macdonald in a similar fashion in the third-season premiere, “Electric Sheep.” Macdonald, who voiced the character Yaphit, died on September 14, 2021.
Banes Made Two Guest Appearances on ‘The Orville’
Years before her appearance on “The Orville,” in 1994, according to Memory Alpha, Banes guest-starred in the third-season “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” episode, “Equilibrium.” She played a character named Dr. Renhol. Memory Alpha describes Dr. Renhol as “Trill and a member of the Symbiosis Commission in the 24th century. In the 2360s, when Jadzia Dax was a Trill initiate for three years, Renhol was involved in her evaluation on the Commission’s campus. In 2371 Renhol welcomed Dax back. Unfortunately, Jadzia’s homecoming was due to an undiagnosed medical condition that threatened the Dax symbiont. Renhol initially prescribed injections meant to increase Jadzia’s isoboramine levels. When this approach failed to halt the threat to the symbiont, Renhol wanted to remove Dax and join it with another host, knowing that this procedure would kill Jadzia. Renhol’s decision was not based on the medical needs of the case, however, but on her willingness to keep secret the fact that symbionts could be joined to a much wider segment of the population than was generally known.
“The symbiont was experiencing flashbacks as the result of the failure of a memory block, a block which the Commission had created in order to cover up the fact that the symbiont had at one time been joined with an unsuitable host, Joran Belar,” the Memory Alpha character biography continued. “Benjamin Sisko and Julian Bashir discovered Renhol’s motives and threatened to expose the Commission’s secret if everything possible was not done to save Jadzia. Renhol relented and Jadzia ultimately recovered after allowing the memory block to fail and Joran’s memories of the joining to become part of her joined personality.”
The Internet Movie Database lists 85 film and television credits for Banes, dating back to 1984, beginning with the film “The Hotel New Hampshire.” Other appearances include “Cocktail” (as the girlfriend of Tom Cruise’s character), “The Trials of Rosie O’Neill,” “Frasier,” “Boston Legal,” “The Good Wife,” “Gone Girl,” “Nashville,” and “Them.” The New York Times described her as “a versatile actress who came to prominence on the New York stage in the 1980s,” and the newspaper referenced such stage credits as “Look Back in Anger” (in which she played the wife of fellow future “Star Trek” guest-star Malcolm McDowell), “Isn’t It Romantic,” “Rumors” (her Broadway debut), “Arcadia,” “Present Laughter,” and “The Niceties.”
MacFarlane Paid Tribute to Banes on Twitter
Seth MacFarlane, following Banes’ death, offered praise and condolences in a Twitter post: “I am deeply saddened at the news of Lisa Banes’ passing. We had the good fortune to work with her on ‘The Orville’ this past year. Her stage presence, magnetism, skill and talent were matched only by her unwavering kindness and graciousness toward all of us. A tremendous loss…”
According to the Internet Movie Database, viewers have not seen the last of Banes as Speria Balask on “The Orville.” The actress will appear in one more episode, titled “Future Unknown,” airing later this season. According to the New York Times, Banes is survived by her wife, Kathryn Kranhold, a brother, Evan Sinclair, and her stepmother, Joan Banes.