Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Actress Dies

By Michileen Martin | 2 weeks ago

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An actress known for her work on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has sadly passed away. Many fans will likely say of her that “she walks with the Prophets” now. Camille Saviola, known best for her role of Kai Opaka on Deep Space Nine has died at the age of 71.

The story broke today on the Twitter feed of the Star Trek fan website WarpFactorTrek.com. While the story was quickly picked up by bigger sites like Deadline, at the time of this writing there isn’t much information available on the cause of death or of Camille Saviola’s surviving family. However, at least one friend is letting the world know he’s in mourning. Actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein tweeted about Saviola, who he’d collaborated with on Broadway. Fierstein said he was friends with the late actress for 40 years, and lovingly called her the “Italian godmother of soul!” You can see his tweets below.

Fierstein isn’t the only celebrity to feel the loss of Camille Saviola. Other stars of stage and screen are coming forward to express their grief and their condolences. Among them are stage actor Lou Liberatore, The Baker & The Beauty star Dan Bucatinsky, and another Star Trek actor — Wilson Cruz who plays Dr. Culber on Star Trek: Discovery.

Along with fans of Deep Space Nine, Camille Saviola is well remembered by fans of HBO’s Entourage. Saviola had a recurring role on the series as the mother of Turtle (Jerry Ferrara). Known simply as “Turtle’s Mom,” Saviola’s character is a less than encouraging mother with a penchant for treating her son particularly poorly on his birthday. For example, we learn that for his 13th birthday, Turtle’s Mom gets her son a Weight Watchers membership. Later, she calls on his birthday to criticize his photo on the cover of People Magazine.

camille saviola deep space nine

Camille Saviola’s recurring character on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is singular in that she departs the series — for the most part — fairly early and yet leaves a weighty impression. She first appears in the two part series premiere Emissary as Kai Opaka, the religious leader of Bajor. It’s Opaka who first tells Ben Sisko (Avery Brooks) that he is the prophesied Emissary of the Prophets.

Later in Season 1’s Battle Lines, Camille Saviola’s Opaka convinces Sisko — against his better judgment — to take her on a trip through the wormhole to the distant Gamma Quadrant. With only Sisko, Opaka, the Bajoran Major Kira (Nana Visitor) and Doctor Bashir (Alexander Siddig) on board, the runabout crash lands on a planet and Opaka dies. Her death, however, proves temporary. It turns out the planet they’re on is a bizarre punishment world where two factions wage a never ending war while the nanite technology of the world constantly resurrects them. Like them, Opaka is revived, but leaving the planet would mean her death. She decides to remain behind to serve the world’s prisoners in the hopes that she can one day convince them to cease their futile conflict.

We never learn whether or not Opaka is successful in bringing peace to the world of Battle Lines. Camille Saviola would appear twice more later in the series, but chiefly through mysterious visions experienced by other characters. Her departure opens the door for Louise Fletcher’s Winn Adami to rise through the ranks of Bajor’s religious leadership and become — in her own unique way — one of the toughest antagonists the heroes of Deep Space Nine ever face.