December 19, 2008

Majel Barrett Roddenberry, 1932-2008

"First Lady of Star Trek" Majel Barrett Roddenberry, widow of series creator Gene Roddenberry, has passed away at the age of 76, of complications due to leukemia.

In the original pilot of Star Trek, Barrett played "Number One," the emotionless second-in-command of the Enterprise. The network despised the character, and for the second pilot, much of her character was folded into that of Mr. Spock, who became the new first officer. Barrett herself was recast in a recurring role as Nurse Christine Chapel, who ironically harboured a secret crush on Spock. She was romantically involved with Gene Roddenberry at the time, and married him in 1969. In subsequent incarnations of Star Trek, she lent her voice to the shipboard computer, as well as a recurring role as Deanna Troi's mother on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. In one of Peter David's New Frontiers novels, he cracks a clever in-joke about the number of roles she played, which took me two reads before I caught it. I have heard that Barrett completed the voice work for the ship's computer for next year's new Star Trek movie, as well.

After Roddenberry's death, Barrett brought two of his further ideas to fruition as executive producer: Earth: Final Conflict (in which she also had a recurring role) and Andromeda, both of which, interestingly, were Canadian. Additionally, she made a significant guest appearance on "rival" series Babylon 5, as though to say it was all right for fans of Star Trek to like B5.

Science fiction has lost a treasure. Rest in peace, Mrs. Roddenberry.