BOOTHBAY, Maine — Sept. 8 marked the 50th anniversary of the premiere of “Star Trek: The Original Series.” While fans celebrated the anniversary across the globe, Lincoln County has its own connection to the series.
Mary Linda Rapelye of Boothbay was a guest star on the series during its third and final season.
Rapelye’s acting career began when she was 5 years old when she played a prairie girl in a local production at the Starlight Theatre in Kansas City. As she got older, her love of performing grew. She was active in theater during her high school years and played Ado Annie in a production of “Oklahoma!”
Rapelye earned a bachelor of arts degree in theater arts from the University of Kansas. Following a theatrical tour through Europe, she returned to Kansas City. At the time, the movie “In Cold Blood” was being filmed in her hometown, and Rapelye was cast in the film in a minor role.
After her experience with “In Cold Blood,” Rapelye went to California, where she interviewed for a role in “Star Trek.”
“It used to be quite different back then,” Rapelye said. “Actors used to go meet with the casting directors and get to know them and have a conversation. Now, there are 5,000 digital submissions for a role.”
Rapelye was cast as Irina Galliulin in the episode “The Way to Eden.” Rapelye’s character was a member of a band of space hippies who take over the USS Enterprise in order to find the planet Eden.
While filming the episode, Rapelye acted alongside the series’ stars, William Shatner and the late Leonard Nimoy, who played Capt. James T. Kirk and Commander Spock, respectively.
“Leonard was such a gentleman and just darling,” Rapelye said. “And Bill has never met a stranger in his life. He’s extremely talented. I was especially impressed with his work on ‘Boston Legal.’”
The actor from the main cast Rapelye worked the most with was Walter Koenig, who portrayed Pavel Chekov, the navigator of the Enterprise. In the episode, Rapelye’s and Koenig’s characters had previously been in a romantic relationship.
“I cannot say enough good things about Walter,” Rapelye said. “He is just a fabulous, wonderful, kind man. He has really endeared himself to the fans. He always takes the time to speak with them.”
Rapelye was paid $800 for her week of work with the series.
Despite numerous Emmy nominations and two letter campaigns from fans, NBC canceled the series in February 1969, the same month “The Way to Eden” aired.
Following the cancellation, “Star Trek” found new life and a larger audience through syndication deals and reruns, making it a cult classic. The franchise grew to include five more television series and 13 feature films. The franchise also inspired collectibles, including action figures, games, and books.
In January 2017, CBS will debut a new series, “Star Trek: Discovery.” The series will premiere on the network before moving to its online streaming service.
“At the time we didn’t know how big it would be,” Rapelye said. “The series was canceled after three seasons, and now it’s 50 years later and there are still new movies and a new show being made.”
Rapelye returned to the Star Trek universe in 2004 when she was cast in “Star Trek: New Voyages,” a fan-created web series set in the Star Wars universe. Rapelye portrayed Ambassador Rayna Morgan in the episode “To Serve All of My Days.” She was reunited with Koenig, who portrayed an older version of Chekov in the same episode.
In addition to her Star Trek roles, Rapelye is known for her roles in the soap operas “One Life to Live” and “As the World Turns.” On the latter, she played lawyer Margaret Crawford Andropoulos for five years.
In 1999, Rapelye moved to Boothbay year-round after summering there for many years with her family. She owns and operates Lyric Meadow Farm at 107 Dover Road.
The organic farm is currently a one-woman operation, with Rapelye tending to the garden and taking care of the animals, including goats, alpacas, chickens, horses, dogs, rabbits, and pigs, as well as running the bed-and-breakfast suite inside the farmhouse. Rapelye said she is looking for an apprentice to help out on the farm.
Rapelye is still auditioning and acting, both on screen and in theater. She recently participated in a table read for “Silent Sky,” a play that details the life of American astronomer Henrietta Leavitt.
Over the years, Rapelye has had the chance to connect with fans of the original series during conventions. In 2004, Rapelye and the other actors who played space hippies reunited for a brief musical performance.
“It’s a lot of fun, and the fans are just terrific,” Rapelye said. “The fan base is so devoted. Even after all these years it’s still huge.”