Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Remembering Mark Lenard

Fifteen years ago today we lost Mark Lenard.  I thought it appropriate to remember him here by exploring his life and career.
Mark Lenard was born Leonard Rosenson in Chicago in 1924.  Having graduated high school in 1941, Lenard joined the army in 1943 and served as a paratrooper in Europe.  During his time in Europe, he starred in a Ben Johnson play called Volpone which toured for soldiers.  After being discharged in 1946, Lenard lived in New York where he studied to become a writer.  However, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Lenard began to take roles in various off Broadway plays.  He discovered a talent for acting and began to take acting classes.  In one of these classes, he met his future wife, Ann Amouri.  They were married in 1960 and later had two daughters.

Lenard had roles on television beginning in 1959 and he continued working until 1993.  His first feature film performance was as Balthazar in The Greatest Story Ever Told but the following year--1966--Lenard began the work for which he is best known on Star Trek.

Lenard was cast as the Romulan Commander in the first season Star Trek episode "Balance of Terror."  Along with Lawrence Montaigne (Decius) he has the honour of being the first Romulan to appear in Star Trek.  His performance and presence were so strong that when Roddenberry was casting the role of Spock's father Sarek for the second season episode "Journey to Babel" Lenard was at the top of the list.  "Journey to Babel" aired in November 1967 and for the next 30 years, Lenard would be best known as the Vulcan, Sarek.

In the 1970s, amongst many other roles, Lenard voiced Sarek in the Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "Yesteryear" and again leant his voice to the character in an LP release called Inside Star Trek in which Gene Roddenberry interviews Sarek about the origins of Spock.

In 1979, when Sarek did not fit into the plans for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Lenard was given the role of the Klingon commander.  In this role he had the honour (pun intended) of playing the first Klingon with forehead ridges and also the first Klingon to speak the Klingon language.  Now, Lenard had helped to create three of Star Trek's most important alien species.

Lenard reprised his role in three of the Star Trek feature films.  In Star Trek III we see a more tender side of Sarek as he mourns the death of his son and tries desperately to resurrect Spock.

In Star Trek IV and VI, we see Sarek in his role as Vulcan ambassador to the Federation.  He displays fierce loyalty to his son and the crew of the Enterprise but also unfailing logic in his diplomatic role.

Before appearing in The Undiscovered Country, Lenard made two appearances as Sarek on Star Trek: The Next Generation.  He appeared in the third season episode appropriately titled "Sarek" and then in the fifth season episode "Unification, Part 1."  These appearances showed Sarek 80 years older in the 24th century, still a celebrated ambassador, but unfortunately ailing from a condition called Bendii Syndrome.  This condition affects the minds of older Vulcans, making it extremely difficult for them to continue to repress their emotions.

I found it very difficult to see Sarek in this frail and declining form and when the character finally dies of Bendii the repercussions are felt not only throughout the Star Trek universe but also throughout Trek fandom.

Sarek was a man of strong beliefs.  On the surface, his logic was the most important thing to him, yet this was a man who had twice married human women.  He lived his life with emotional humans and went to great lengths to have a son with Amanda Grayson.  Lenard's performance brought a sense of gravitas to the role of Sarek that made the character, and even the Star Trek universe itself, deeper and more believable.  It should therefore not surprise us that Lenard was a successful acting teacher throughout the 1980s and 90s.

In 1994, Mark Lenard was the first actor I ever met at a Star Trek convention (Odyssey Trek in Niagara Falls).  This ended up being one of his final appearances.  In October 1995, Lenard began to experience fatigue and pain in his ribs and back.  He was diagnosed with Multiple myeloma which is cancer of the plasma cells.  His illness continued to worsen until he died at the age of 72 on November 22, 1996 (the same day Star Trek: First Contact was released). He was survived by his wife and daughters.  Though he left this world at too young an age, Mark Lenard will be "immortal" through his many memorable roles in film and television and especially as Sarek.

I hope all Vulcanologists will take time today to reflect and remember Mark Lenard and the father of Spock.


  1. He is, by far, my favourite character of all Star Trek and the quintessential Vulcan.

  2. Mark was a great actor, I enjoyed his other roles as well. He was part Sarek and Aaron Semple which were very different characters.

  3. I am fanatical about Star Trek and have the highest adoration for Mark Lenard, he is & was a great actor, I just love him in a great man.

  4. I am fanatical about Star Trek and have the highest adoration for Mark Lenard, he is & was a great actor, I just love him in a great man.