What does God need with a starship? That’s what Capt. Kirk asked the creature living in the center of the universe in 1989’s “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” played by longtime character actor George Murdock.
Murdock, who also made appearances in “The X-Files” and the original “Battlestar Galactica,” died April 30 in Los Angeles. He was 81.
Murdock appeared in five episodes of “Battlestar Galactica” in the late 1970s as Dr. Salik in episodes that seemed to always have something to do with gods: “The War of the Gods, Part 1” and both parts of “Lost Planets of the Gods” among others. That’s probably why it was such an easy transition for Murdock to play the “God” in “Star Trek V,” trying to convince Kirk to bring the Enterprise closer to him so that he could use it to get off that planet.
Although that film, written and directed by William Shatner, has been the subject of derision among fans over the years, it was a moneymaker, bringing in $70 million worldwide in 1989, far exceeding its $27.8 million budget. That would equate to just under $130 million today, when adjusted for inflation.
Believe it or not, this was actually not the first confrontation Murdock would have with Shatner as characters in a film. The two appeared in “Crash,” a television movie based on the 1972 crash of Eastern Airlines flight 401 in Miami that was released in 1978. Shatner played Carl Tobias, an air crash investigator, while Murdock played his superior, with whom he would clash with on a regular basis.
Tobias didn’t end his Trek experience there. He would appear in two episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” in 1990 as Adm. J.P. Hanson in “The Best of Both Worlds,” considered one of the most powerful TNG two-parters that truly established the Borg as the big bad.
In all, Murdock would appear in nearly 200 productions. They include “Twilight Zone” in 1962, “The Wild Wild West” in 1967, “The Sixth Sense” in 1972, “The Six Million Dollar Man” in 1974, “Knight Rider” in 1983 and 1984, “Timescape” in 1992, “Team Knight Rider” in 1997, multiple appearances as Elder No. 2 in “The X-Files,” “Smallville” in 2001, “The Dead Zone” in 2002, and as a preacher in “Torchwood: Miracle Day” in 2011.
His last project was a fantasy short from writer and director Ian Samuels called “Caterwaul,” described as an “intimate relationship” between an aging fisherman recovering from the death of his wife and a lobster.
Murdock was born June 25, 1930 in Salina, a city of more than 47,000 people in central Kansas, which also was once the home of radio broadcaster Paul Harvey.
He is survived by his wife, Cathy Murdock, and a step-daughter.