R.I.P. Eddie Paskey, Lt. Leslie and Star Trek regular
He defied the redshirt curse and appeared in more episodes than Sulu or Chekov.
When you think of a redshirt in Star Trek: The Original Series, the term "series regular" doesn't usually come to mind. Aside from Scotty and Uhura, redshirts are usually known as fodder for whatever extraterrestrial threat the crew is facing this week.
Eddie Paskey was the exception to that rule. The familiar face on Star Trek, who recently passed away at the age of 81, had even more appearances on the show than George Takei (Sulu) or Walter Koenig (Scotty). He appeared in 60 episodes, often uncredited.
Paskey was working at the gas station used by the Desilu Studio when he was plucked to appear on Star Trek. Previously he had appeared as a party guest in The Dick Van Dyke Show and an audience member in a night club in Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C, both uncredited.
He was with Star Trek from (almost) the very beginning, making his first appearance in the second pilot "Where No Man Has Gone Before". While his character, Lietuenant Leslie, appeared multiple times throughout the series' three-season run, he would also go on to appear as an alien, a security officer, a helmsman, and more. In fact, in "City on the Edge of Forever", considered by many to be the best episode of the series, he was the truck driver who gave Edith Keeler her fatal date with destiny.
The character had a special connection to William Shatner. Shatner specifically chose the name Leslie after his eldest daughter. Paskey would work as a body double for Shatner throughout the show, as well as a hand double for James Doohan, who had lost a finger in World War II.
His defiance of the "redshirt curse" was no accident. Since he was on set so much and knew the scripts well, Paskey would make sure he was somewhere else when the story called for some crew members to die. Lt. Leslie's onscreen death in "Obsession" he explained away by saying McCoy had revived him after the fact. And indeed, in the next episode Lt. Leslie is alive and well.
However, while filming the episode "Is There in Truth No Beauty?" in July of '68, Paskey suffered a bad back injury in a fight scene. To boot, the bright lights of the set gave him unbearable headaches. He retired from acting shortly after for the sake of his health.
He returned to the Star Trek universe in the fan-made series Star Trek New Voyages as Admiral Leslie, the father of his original character Lt. Leslie.