Sharon Acker, memorable Star Trek guest star, has died

Kino. Point Blank, (POINT BLANK) USA, 1967, Regie: John Boorman, LEE MARVIN, SHARON ACKER. (Photo by FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images)
Kino. Point Blank, (POINT BLANK) USA, 1967, Regie: John Boorman, LEE MARVIN, SHARON ACKER. (Photo by FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images) /

Sharon Acker, a classic Star Trek guest star, has passed away.

In 1969—the same year she was a guest star in the original Star Trek series’ third season—The Motion Picture Exhibitors of Canada named Sharon Acker their first “Film Star of Tomorrow.” As her IMDB biography notes, she never achieved that movie star status. But when Sharon Acker died at age 87 on March 16 in a Toronto retirement home, she still left behind an impressive body of work.

Born in Toronto in 1935, Sharon Acker began her theatrical career on the stage. Among other work, she performed with the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, including a 1956 production of The Merry Wives of Windsor that starred none other than William Shatner. She made her television debut in 1955, and continued making small screen appearances into the 1990s.

The many notable shows in which Acker appeared include Gunsmoke, Mission: Impossible, Marcus Welby, M.D., Barnaby Jones, The Rockford Files, and Murder, She Wrote. She played Della Street in The New Perry Mason (1973-74) and worked on at least two soap operas: Days of Our Lives in 1987 and The Young and the Restless in 1992.

Science fiction fans might have seen Sharon Acker in episodes of Galactica 1980, The Incredible Hulk, and Knight Rider. And while she didn’t become the cinema star the Motion Picture Exhibitors of Canada thought she would, she wasn’t entirely absent from the silver screen. Indeed, she is best known among the general public for her work in the crime drama Point Blank (1967) and the slasher pic Happy Birthday to Me (1981).

However, Star Trek fans know and will remember Sharon Acker best as Odona in “The Mark of Gideon.”

Sharon Acker played Odona in “The Mark of Gideon”

“The Mark of Gideon” isn’t one of my favorite Star Trek episodes. The plot’s central conceit strains credulity too much. Where on the catastrophically overcrowded planet Gideon did the planet’s leaders find enough space to build an exact replica of the Enterprise?

The script by George F. Slavin and Stanley Adams (the same Stanley Adams who played Cyrano Jones) was Star Trek’s attempt at a parable about the real-world problem of overpopulation. But the Gideonites’ scheme to introduce lethal illness into their world demands too much suspension of disbelief.

Sharon Acker, however, delivers a lovely performance as Odona, the young woman willing to die in order to carry disease back to her people. Acker effectively communicates, by turns, Odona’s youthful innocence, her wonder at the concept of spaceflight, her romantic attraction to Captain Kirk, and her moral determination (misguided though it is by the Federation’s standards).

Spoiler alert for a 54-year-old episode: Odona is cured of the Vegan choriomeningitis she contracts from Kirk (evidently during an off-screen intimate encounter aboard the duplicate Enterprise) and does not die. She will return to Gideon, apparently a carrier of the disease. In the end, then, the Gideonite leaders get what they want: someone to be the bringer of death.

The story has a somber conclusion, then, but Acker plays it beautifully. When she tells Kirk, “As crowded as my planet is, I could wish for it to hold one more person,” viewers have no trouble believing her. This young woman who, like all Gideonites, has dreamed of being alone, is now going to be alone, though still pressed in by people on every side.

We offer our condolences to the family and friends of Sharon Acker. Star Trek fans are fortunate The Original Series series was one of the many she graced with her talent and beauty as a guest star.

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