Star Trek and Twin Peaks have more in common than you probably realize. Along with both being multimedia franchises that span decades, they both benefited from the work of the late Catherine E. Coulson. The woman who played the mysterious Log Lady in multiple Peaks projects also worked behind the scenes to help create what’s widely considered the best film in the Trek franchise, 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
When Coulson began working as First Assistant Camera on Star Trek II, she was almost a decade away from her first appearance on Twin Peaks, but she was already making history. According to StarTrek.com, Coulson was quite possibly the first woman to ever work on “a major Hollywood studio production” in the role of First Assistant Camera.
Catherine E. Coulson, who played the Log Lady in Twin Peaks, was also an integral part of the crew for 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
The site points out that one of the biggest Star Trek II contributions the future Twin Peaks star made to the production was in the challenge of distinguishing the bridge of the USS Enterprise from that of the USS Reliant. The same single set doubled for both locations, but Coulson worked tirelessly with director Nicholas Meyer and the other creatives to make it appear they were two completely separate spaces.
About a decade before she worked on Star Trek II, Coulson met the future Twin Peaks co-creator David Lynch. She worked behind the scenes as Lynch’s assistant on 1977’s Eraserhead and played the titular character of his 1974 short film The Amputee.
When the detective dramedy Psych broadcast its Peaks tribute episode, “Dual Spires,” Coulson – along with a long list of Peaks alum – made an appearance as “Wood Woman.”
When Lynch’s mystery serial drama Twin Peaks premiered on ABC in 1990, it was Coulson’s ex-husband, Jack Nance, who famously announced as Pete Martell that he had found Laura Palmer, “dead, wrapped in plastic.” Coulson appears in the pilot episode as well, as Margaret Lanterman — much better known as the Log Lady.
The Star Trek alum’s Twin Peaks character is both comical and enigmatic. She earns her name from the log she carries everywhere she goes. While the townsfolk clearly see her as mentally ill, the audience eventually learns she truly does have a connection to the spiritual world through her log.
Twin Peaks deals with the supernatural elements of its story slowly, sometimes only in frustratingly tiny drops, and Coulson’s character is one of the first people we meet whose links to the supernatural world are more blatant.
Catherine E. Coulson After Twin Peaks
After the cancellation of Twin Peaks, Coulson reprised her role of the Log Lady in the 1992 film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. When the detective dramedy Psych broadcast its Peaks tribute episode, “Dual Spires,” Coulson — joined by a long list of Peaks alum — made an appearance as “Wood Woman.”
Coulson made her final appearance as the Log Lady in the 2017 Showtime revival of Twin Peaks, but sadly it was posthumous. The actress and Hollywood pioneer passed away in 2015 from complications from cancer.