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Former 'Star Trek' cast member speaks at MU

Tuesday, September 1, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT
Sean Kenney, right, tells stories about his experiences on the set of "Star Trek: The Original Series" and answers questions posed by Randall Durk of the Central MIssouri Astronomical Association and others on Monday. Kenney began dabbling in photography in the 1960s while stationed in Japan with the Air Force and passed through Columbia with his wife on the way to shoot portraits in collaboration with the Association of Realtors.

COLUMBIA — When Randall Durk, treasurer of the Central Missouri Astronomical Association, started calling cast members of "Star Trek: The Original Series" to collect their autographed photos, he didn’t expect one of them to actually show up at MU.

Sean Kenney, the cast member who gave a talk Monday, was not easily recognizable.

Tall and well-built with brown hair and a beard, Kenney looked nothing like the character he is best known for portraying: the heavily disfigured and paralyzed Capt. Christopher Pike in the two "The Menagerie" episodes that aired in 1966.  

Kenney and his wife Taki now own a photography business. They travel the country performing photo-marketing services for real estate agents and other businesses. It was pure coincidence that they were headed to Columbia when Durk called requesting an autographed photo. Kenney quickly agreed to stop by, give a talk and sign autographs.  

“This is an accident; this is luck,” Durk said.  

Because only seven people showed up Monday, the talk was relaxed and informal. Kenney discussed a wide range of topics, including his screenwriting projects, the film industry, his photography business and, of course, his experience on the "Star Trek" set. 

Kenney said he wondered what he had gotten himself into as he sat for hours in a futuristic wheelchair in an 80-degree room. He was wearing heavy makeup, his hair was bleached until it started to fall out, and he had surgical tape on his eyes and mouth. He ate through a straw for eight days and lost almost 13 pounds.

“This is my first job, and I can’t blow this,” he thought. The hard work paid off as show creator Gene Roddenberry invited him back to act the role of Lt. DePaul in two more episodes.

Kenney went on to appear in several more films, and because of a renewed interest in "Star Trek" following the release of a new movie, he said he has once again been receiving attention as Capt. Christopher Pike. In July, he was invited to the London Film and Comic Con as his former character along with several other "Star Trek" actors. 

The small audience Wednesday in Columbia ranged from young to old and from die-hard "Star Trek" fans to the casually interested.

Duane Casady is an instructional technology specialist and traveled from Fayette to attend the talk.

“My career in science and technology was largely due to that show,” said Casady. “It piqued my interest.”

Durk was pleased just to have been able to add to his "Star Trek" autograph collection, especially from the actor in person. Durk said Kenney's is the seventh signed photograph he has obtained.


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