William Schallert played Nilz Baris in the popular “Star Trek: The Original Series” episode “The Trouble with Tribbles,” only he didn’t know it. As he told the official “Star Trek” site in 2011, he remembered that he’d played the role of the no-nonsense Federation Undersecretary of Agricultural Affairs who clashed with Captain Kirk (William Shatner), but was unaware of the character’s name.
“I was invited to a very early ‘Star Trek’ convention that was held at the Marriott Hotel at the airport (in L.A.),” Schallert recalled in that 2011 interview. “I arrived there and went through the door into the main lobby, and it was loaded with aliens, with little antennae bouncing around on their heads. As I came through the door, they were saying, ‘Nilz Baris!’ I’m looking around and they said, ‘No, that’s you!’ So that’s how I learned my name from that show.”
Schallert Appeared in Two ‘Star Trek’ Episodes
The convention, he continued, soon took on a far deeper meaning, revealing to him the enduring power of “Star Trek” and its effect on fans. On hand to make a personal appearance rather than sign autographs, the actor encountered a boy whom he estimated was seven or eight years old.
“This kid had six months to live and he was in a wheelchair, and this was the most important thing he could do in the last six months of his life, coming to this ‘Star Trek’ convention,” Schallert said. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is amazing. This show has a real hold on people.’ He was thrilled to be there. He was being wheeled around and shaking hands with people. I was thinking, ‘He’s going to die, and this is the thing he had to do before he died.’ It tells you something about the show.”
Schallert guest-starred on ‘Star Trek’ in 1967, according to the Internet Movie Database, shortly after his three-year stint as Martin Lane on “The Patty Duke Show” ended. At the time, he told StarTrek.com, he earned most of his money doing voiceovers for commercials, but he continued to pursue acting opportunities. Never a “Star Trek” fan, he considered the “Tribbles” episode “just a job,” three days of work, and branded Baris a “rather stuffy bureaucrat, not the most appealing character.” Schallert didn’t even watch the episode when it initially aired, he noted, instead waiting decades to do so – and he quite enjoyed the experience.
Schallert Amassed More Than 375 Acting Credits & Worked Until His Early 90s
“It was fun to watch because I was laying into Shatner a lot,” Schallert said. “People confused our names; Schallert-Shatner, it’s pretty close for some people. So, people would call me Shatner and I guess once in a while somebody would call him Schallert. Probably not very often. But what happened was when I saw it, I just got a big kick out of the way I was chewing him out. Baris really laced into Kirk. I got to be very nasty with him, and it was really fun.”
The actor used that same word, “fun,” to describe shooting the episode, which, according to Memory Alpha, Joseph Pevney directed based on a teleplay by David Gerrold. Schallert was already familiar with Stanley Adams, who played Cyrano Jones. “We’d done a little comedy act together at one time, and he was a very funny guy,” he said. “So, I remember being on the set with him and, of course, I remember working briefly with Shatner and with Leonard Nimoy. It was interesting because when you saw the show, it all looked pretty solid, but the sets were just made out of something like pasteboard. I remember strange colors. It was really a make-believe situation that you were in when you were on the show, more so than you would be today.”
IMDB lists 388 credits for Schallert. Beyond “The Patty Duke Show” and “Star Trek,” notable appearances included “The Incredible Shrinking Man,” “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” “In the Heat of the Night,” “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes,” “Quantum Leap,” and “True Blood.” Peripheral neuropathy slowed him down late in his career, Schallert said, but he continued to work when he could. He also lent his voice to many commercials, most famously speaking for Milton the Toaster in ads for Pop-Parts, and he served as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1979-1981.
Schallert Met a Dying Young Fan at a Convention, which Illustrated to Him the Show’s Effect on People
According to Memory Alpha, Schallert returned to the “Star Trek” fold in 1993 for a guest shot in the “Deep Space Nine” episode, “Sanctuary.” He also sporadically attended “Star Trek” conventions and autograph shows. IMDB noted that his final acting appearance was an uncredited cameo in a 2014 episode of the sitcom, “2 Broke Girls.”
Schallert died on May 8, 2016, according to the Los Angeles Times, a few weeks shy of his 94th birthday.
Summing up his longevity as an actor, Schallert told the official “Star Trek” site, “It’s very nice to have been able to stay alive in the business. I’ve never done anything else.”