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Kirk's Khan nemesis beams up at 88

Fare thee well, Ricardo Montalban

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Ricardo Montalban, the actor who proved to be arguably the greatest nemesis of William Shatner's Captain - later Admiral - James T. Kirk, has died at the age of 88.

Montalban passed away in Los Angeles, California on Wednesday, following a long, successful, and hard-working career in US film, on TV, and on the stage. The cause of death was not given.

Montalban was born in Mexico City in 1920, the son of a store manager. In 1946, He was brought to the US with MGM Studios, where the distinctive-voiced actor built an impressive body of work.

Montalban appeared in such Saturday-afternoon WWII fare as Battleground, was not afraid to appear in sequels such as Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and Cannonball Run II, and proved a suave villain in the first Naked Gun film with Leslie Nielsen. He made appearances in TV shows including The Man From U.N.C.L.E and Dynasty in the 1960s and 1980s.

He was a regular for misty-eyed housewives and students bailing on class in the late 1970s and early 1980s as Mr. Roarke, the white-suited host of ABC's Fantasy Island. The TV show saw Mr. Roarke and his sidekick Tattoo - played by Hervé Villechaize - fulfill guests' life-long wishes after some hard-learned lessons.

The Mexican actor, as is Hollywood's cruel wont, was also sometimes typecast - in Montalban's case as an Asian character. He made it into that other long-running student classic Hawaii-Five-O as Leonard Tokura, and he was Nakamura in the Oscar-winning movie Sayonara.

Such casting, though, ensured Montalban immortality for Star Trek geeks and sci-fi film aficionados when it landed him the role of Khan Noonien Singh in the 1967 episode of Star Trek: Space Seed. That saw the superhuman Khan and his hard-bitten posse attempt to seize control of Kirk's USS Enterprise.

His penance? Banishment to Ceti Alpha V by a tough but fair-minded Kirk instead of a court-martial. It was a mistake for Kirk, but not for the Star Trek franchise, as it lead to one of the two best Star Trek movies of the series: Star Trek II: The Wrath of - yes - Khan.

Picking up 14 years later, the film saw a vengeful Khan engage in a galactic battle of cat-and-mouse with Kirk that led to Mr Spock uttering his immortal dying words "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" as he sacrificed himself to bring the Enterprise's warp drive back online, and Kirk shouting the equally immortal "Khaaaaaaaaan!" into his communicator. ®

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