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Merritt Butrick
Merritt R. Butrick

(1959-09-03)September 3, 1959
DiedMarch 17, 1989(1989-03-17) (aged 29)
Years active1981–1989

Merritt R. Butrick (September 3, 1959 – March 17, 1989) was an American actor, known for his roles on the teen sitcom Square Pegs (1982), in two Star Trek feature films, and a variety of other acting roles in the 1980s.

Early life and career

Butrick was born in Gainesville, Florida, and was an only child. He graduated in 1977 from Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, California.[1] He attended the California Institute of the Arts for acting, but did not complete his degree.

His first screen role was as a rapist in two 1981 episodes of the police drama Hill Street Blues.

He was cast as John "Johnny Slash" Ulasewicz, a major supporting character in the teen sitcom Square Pegs (1982), which received critical praise but was cancelled after 19 episodes (one season).[2] The character was described by one critic as an "apparent (but never declared) gay student."[3]

While Square Pegs was in pre-broadcast production, Butrick was cast to play David Marcus, the physicist son of James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and his former lover Carol Marcus (Bibi Besch), in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). He continued the role in the follow-up film Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), in which the character was killed. He later appeared as T'Jon, the captain of a cargo vessel rescued by the crew of the Enterprise in "Symbiosis" (1988), an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Meanwhile, he appeared in the comedy film Zapped! (1982), the horror film Fright Night Part 2 (1988), and as Barbara Hershey's hillbilly son in the drama film Shy People (1987). He had a variety of guest roles on television series and television movies.

He received critical praise from Time magazine for his performance at the Los Angeles Theatre Center in the play Kingfish, in which he played a ditzy, petulant muscle-boy prostitute. It was his last acting role.

Death and legacy

Butrick died of toxoplasmosis, complicated by AIDS, on March 17, 1989, at the age of 29.[4][5] He has at least two panels dedicated to him as part of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, both referencing his role as David Marcus.[6][7]

The 2008 release of Square Pegs on DVD included a featurette dedicated to Butrick in which his co-stars Jami Gertz and Sarah Jessica Parker, and series creator Anne Beatts, paid tributes to and recounted anecdotes about Butrick.

Butrick's Star Trek III co-star Robin Curtis offered similar praise on the DVD commentary for that film. Director Nicholas Meyer, who had directed him in Star Trek II, included a scene in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (filmed after Butrick's death), in which Captain Kirk puts a photograph of his murdered son on his desk.

Some sources state that Butrick was gay.[8] Kirstie Alley, his co-star in Star Trek II, identified Butrick as being bisexual.[9] According to George Takei, his co-star in Star Trek II and III, he used to meet Butrick in gay bars.


Year Title Role Notes
1982 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Dr. David Marcus
Zapped! Gary Cooter
1984 Star Trek III: The Search for Spock Dr. David Marcus
1985 Head Office John Hudson
1986 Wired to Kill Reegus (The Gang Leader) Alternative title: Booby Trap
1987 Shy People Mike
1988 Fright Night Part 2 Richie
1989 Death Spa David Avery (final film role)
Year Title Role Notes
1981 Hill Street Blues Rapist 2 episodes
Splendor in the Grass Glenn TV movie
CHiPs Kevin Whalen 1 episode
1982–1983 Square Pegs Johnny Slash 20 episodes
1983 When Your Lover Leaves Aaron Scott TV movie
1984 Fame Billy Christiansen 1 episode
Sweet Revenge Captain Paul Dennison TV movie
1985 Promises to Keep Reg TV movie
1986 Blood & Orchids Duane York TV movie
Stagecoach Lieutenant Blanchard TV movie
When the Bough Breaks Tim Kruger TV movie
1987 Vietnam War Story Siska 1 episode
Beauty and the Beast Shake 1 episode
The Law & Harry McGraw 1 episode
1988 Why on Earth? Oscar TV movie
Jake and the Fatman Taylor Fleming 1 episode
Star Trek: The Next Generation T'Jon Episode: "Symbiosis"
Hooperman 1 episode
1989 From the Dead of Night Rick TV movie


  1. ^ Tamalpais High School Alumni Directory 2002. Purchase, New York: Bernard C. Harris Publishing Company. 2002.
  2. ^ Wolcott, James (November 8, 1982). "Slow Times at Weemawee High". New York Magazine. Retrieved 2015-03-13.
  3. ^ Werts, Diane (2006). Christmas on Television. Westport CT: Praeger Publishers/Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 66. ISBN 978-0-275-98331-4.
  4. ^ Donnelley, Paul (2005-11-01). Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries (3 ed.). Omnibus Press. p. 225. ISBN 978-1-84449-430-9.
  5. ^ Moore, Patrick (2004). Beyond Shame: Reclaiming the Abandoned History of Radical Gay Sexuality. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. p. 199. ISBN 978-0-8070-7956-0.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-04-25. Retrieved 2011-10-17.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-04-25. Retrieved 2011-10-17.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ Greven, David (2009). Gender and Sexuality in Star Trek: Allegories of Desire in the Television Series and Films. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. p. 147. ISBN 978-0-7864-4413-7.
  9. ^ Alley, Kirstie (2012). Art of Men (I Prefer Mine Al Dente). Simon & Schuster.