Majel Barrett Roddenberry Has Died

on December 18, 2008 in Uncategorized is reporting that actress Majel Barrett Roddenberry has died.

Roddenberry is perhaps best recognized for her roles as Nurse Christine Chapel, assistant to the ship’s doctor Leonard McCoy on Star Trek, The Original Series and later for her portrayal of Deanna Troi’s irrepressible mother–Lwaxana on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

She also provided the voice of the ship’s computer for most, if not all, Starfleet ships, including the one in the forthcoming J.J. Abrams movie.

Prior to her role as Nurse Chapel, Roddenberry portrayed the more subversive character of Number One in the original pilot for Star Trek called, “The Cage.”

Number One was the cool-headed and intelligent Second in Command of the Enterprise–and her then-radical rank did not sit well with network executives. As Nichelle Nichols–who would play the character of Uhura in the reworked series–wrote in her autobiography:

“After viewing what was purported to have been the most original and expensive television pilot ever produced, NBC executives weighed in: ‘The Cage’ was too original, too cerebral, and decidedly lacking in ‘action’ (i.e. violence). What’s more, two characters in particular left them cold. It must have been difficult for them to determine which offended them most: the purely fictional pointy-eared, mixed-blood alien* (whose appearance, they said, audiences might find frightening) or the intellectually gifted woman in charge of the ship (whose existence they might find frightening). Either way, they were determined to eliminate both of them.”

Barrett’s brunette locks were replaced with a blonde bouffant, and she was recast in the more traditionally feminine role of caretaker–a nurse who pined for the new Second in Command–Mr. Spock.

Regardless, Majel Roddenberry made her characters a delight to watch. Whether she was taunting Captain Picard with her confident and playful sexuality as Lwaxana, or commanding a ship with authority in her too-brief role as Number One.

* Part of Gene Roddenberry’s humanist agenda included a commitment to presenting diversity and challenging societal conventions. Mr. Spock — the alien Nichols refers to here–is the product of miscegenation.

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