Although fans know her for playing the woman who rejected Spock, Arlene Martel was up for two other Star Trek roles before she landed the role of T’Pring.
Martel originally auditioned for Where No Man Has Gone Before, but she had to say “no” to the role due to her sensitive eyes. “I couldn’t do it because I would have had to have worn contact lenses,” she said. “My eyes are very sensitive and I said, ‘I can’t do it.’ They said, ‘Well, something else is coming up…'”
The “something else” turned out to be Catspaw. Although Martel didn’t get that part, she knew from comments that she would be up another part in another episode, which she did get. “I went up for Catspaw,” said Martel. “I heard the buzzing and whispering and someone saying, ‘Well, let’s save her for that.’ I didn’t know what they were talking about, and what I didn’t know was they were talking about Amok Time. So when that came up and I read for it, that was it. I think there were eight decision makers in the room; Gene Roddenberry and Herb Solow and Robert Justman and others. And I got the part.”
Playing a non-emotional female was a change for Martel. “One of the joys was that I knew I had an exotic in me, but I didn’t know I had a flawlessly logical exotic in me, because I’ve always run on my emotional center and have usually been cast as very emotional women,” said Martel. “I’d played women with different accents and of different ethnicities, and this was a very cultured, sophisticated woman who insisted on specificity and got what she wanted, not because she was calculating and manipulative, but because she was smart.”
Martel found working with William Shatner to be amusing, although his antics drove Joseph Pevney, the director of the episode, a bit crazy. “The shoot itself was a hoot and a howl,” said Martel. “Given William Shatner’s proclivity for colorizing phrases with his own inimitable, risqué humor, I was in hysterics most of the time, to the chagrin of the director. Joseph Pevney would say, ‘Do I really have to come and separate you two? Take a break. Come back and stop laughing.’ I have tremendous concentration, but in spite of that Bill Shatner just broke through my reserve and he just had me in hysterics. Especially when dear, dear T’Pau would try to say a Vulcan word, he would twist that word so that it was really very, very naughty. And that made it a lot of fun.”
Leonard Nimoy was more reserved according to Martel. “Leonard Nimoy, on the other hand, was very isolated and very to himself, probably keeping in character,” she said.
Martel is still acting. Recently, she completed work on a TV pilot, A Matter of Family, where she was “one of the leads.” “I play the mother of a Mafia family and it was an excellent part,” she said. “It had an excellent script and exciting new actors. I hope that gets picked up. I’d love to do a series and really develop a character.”