Another Beloved Star Trek Alumnus Passes Away

Star Trek: Kai Opaka (Camille Saviola)

Camille Saviola, who portrayed Kai Opaka in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, passed away on Thursday.

She was 71.

While Star Trek has, from time to time, cautiously approached religious subjects, it has largely avoided the subject, preferring to focus on speculative science. In Deep Space Nine, religion, and its impact on politics and culture played a central role throughout the series. Of course, being Star Trek, there is a more scientific explanation. But religious and spiritual beliefs are an important part of cultural identity, and Bajor had been occupied by the militaristic Cardassians for half of a century, and their beliefs were all that held them together as a people.

The leader of the Bajoran religion was known as the kai, chosen by Vedeks from among the Vedek Assembly. At the beginning of DS9, Kai Opaka was their leader — she is much loved by the people of Bajor, having led them through the end of the occupation.

She was wise and caring — her faith is strong and sincere. She represented everything that a spiritual leader should be. Early in the series, however, she was called to another purpose and taken from her people. With her absence, Deep Space Nine explored themes of corruption, political maneuvering, hypocrisy, and questions and crises of faith.

Kai Opaka only appeared in four episodes throughout the series, but she has a profound impact on the events of the series.

Here’s a clip from Deep Space Nine:

Outside of Star Trek, Saviola appeared in films like The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Shadows and Fog (1992), Addams Family Values (1993), and many others. Somewhat recently in television, she played “Turtle’s mom” in HBO’s Entourage.

Camille Saviola

No cause of death was publicly provided.