Yvonne Craig is forever Batgirl. There’s no denying the actress, who died of cancer at her Southern California home on Monday at 78, was best known as the crime-fighting sidekick of Adam West’s Caped Crusader in the campy 1960s Batman series. But her résumé stretched beyond Gotham City: She twice played Elvis Presley’s girlfriend on the big screen; she appeared on the original Man From U.N.C.L.E. TV series; and, in later years, she made the requisite trip to Fantasy Island.
But Craig will always be held in high regard by fans of the original Star Trek for her memorable guest role as an alluring green alien who tries alternately to seduce and eviscerate Captain Kirk.
In the 1969 episode “Whom Gods Destroy,” Craig makes a memorable entrance as Marta, a slave from the planet Orion versed in Shakespeare.
A ballerina by training, Craig then performs an entrancing, athletic dance that catches the eye of William Shatner’s Kirk.
Marta later retires to Kirk’s bedroom where her initial advances turn homicidal, as she has a dagger stashed under the pillow. Fortunately for Kirk, Spock (Leonard Nimoy) arrives just in time and Marta winds up on the business end of a Vulcan nerve pinch.
By episode’s end, Marta is caught in an explosion and killed.
While Craig didn’t survive a single episode of TOS, her character cast a long pop-culture shadow. Females from the planet Orion have made multiple appearances in Star Trek shows since Craig’s exotic dance put the planet on the map. There was a notable sequence in Star Trek Enterprise.
And J.J. Abrams paid homage to Craig’s character in his 2009 movie reboot, having Rachel Nichols play the green-hued Orion cadet named Gaila, who has a thing for Kirk.
Rachel Nichols in 2009’s ‘Star Trek’ (Paramount)
(According to StarTrek.com, which posted a tribute to Craig on Wednesday, her connection to Trek goes back even farther. She was considered for a role in the series’ unaired pilot, “The Cage,” but eventually lost out to Susan Oliver. Oliver’s shape-shifting character appeared briefly as an illusory Orion slave, but Craig was technically the first of the species Kirk’s crew encountered.)
Up until her cancer diagnosis, the actress appeared at Star Trek and sci-fi conventions to recount her Trek experience.
Craig, sporting green toenail polish, at the 2011 Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas (Getty)
Among the first to pay final respects to Craig via Twitter: William Shatner.
Sad to learn of Yvonne’s passing. As Batgirl she was one of America’s sweethearts.
— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner)