Morgan Woodward was born September 16, 1925.
Woodward is notable for having starred in two different episodes of the original series of Star Trek as two different characters. In the first-season episode “Dagger of the Mind”, Woodward plays Dr. Simon Van Gelder, an attending physician at a hospital for the criminally insane. After discovering that the director of the facility is engaged in illegal brain experimentation, Van Gelder himself becomes a victim of these experiments and is confined as one of the patients. Escaping the facility to the orbiting USS Enterprise, the deranged and incoherent (due to his brain damage) Van Gelder eventually recovers enough to be able to divulge the nefarious goings-on at the hospital. (This is with the aid of Mr. Spock’s “mind meld”, which is revealed for the first time in this episode.)
In articles in the magazines Starlog and Entertainment Weekly, Woodward called the role of Dr. Simon Van Gelder the most physically and emotionally exhausting acting job of his career. Desperate to get out of Westerns and expand his range, he was cast against type for this episode and was so well regarded that he came on board next season to play the tragic Capt. Ronald Tracey in “The Omega Glory”. Playing Van Gelder did take its toll on his personal life, as he confesses that for three weeks afterwards he was anti-social towards friends and family. He is grateful that this episode opened up whole new opportunities for him.
In the second-season episode, “The Omega Glory”, Woodward portrays Captain Ron Tracey, the commander of the starship USS Exeter, a sister ship to the USS Enterprise. Convinced that he is permanently marooned on an unfamiliar planet, Tracey chooses to abandon his duty as a Starfleet officer, and in essence he “goes native”, allying himself with some of the planet’s natural inhabitants in their war against their competitors. Discovered by Captain Kirk, Tracey is eventually defeated and taken into custody for his violation of fundamental orders: “The Prime Directive”.
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