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Majel Barrett-Roddenberry

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(written from a Production point of view)
Majel Barrett-Roddenberry
File:Majel Barrett-Roddenberry in 2002.jpg
Birth name: Majel Lee Hudec
Date of birth: 23 February 1932
Place of birth: Columbus, Ohio
Date of death: 18 December 2008
Place of death: Bel Air, California
Character(s): Number One, Christine Chapel, M'Ress, Computer Voice, Lwaxana Troi

Majel and Gene in 1991

Majel and Gene in 1991

Majel Barrett-Roddenberry (23 February 193218 December 2008; age 76) was a recurring actress in the Star Trek franchise and was the wife of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry from 1969 until his death in 1991. This association with Roddenberry and his most famous creation has earned Barrett the title "The First Lady of Star Trek."

Barrett was the only performer to have had a role on all of the Star Trek series – usually not as a character but as the voice of the various computers used throughout the series. She also supplied the voice of the Enterprise computer in five of the Star Trek films.

Her most frequent portrayal in Star Trek, besides the computer, was that of Nurse (later Doctor) Christine Chapel on Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Animated Series, and in two of the films. She also voiced M'Ress and several other characters on The Animated Series and later played Betazoid Ambassador Lwaxana Troi on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Early life and career

Barrett was born Majel Lee Hudec in Columbus, Ohio. She enrolled in an acting workshop when she was ten years old but later attended the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida with the intention of becoming a legal clerk. She attended law school for a year, but, after failing a class in contract law, opted to move to New York to try her luck in acting. She landed parts in several stage plays, including Models by Season and The Solid Gold Cadillac, the latter of which toured across the country for nine months. During this time, her father, a police officer in Cleveland, was killed while out on patrol. [1]

Believing the competition in New York to be too stiff, Barrett moved to California in the 1950s where she won parts in stage plays as well as films. She had a bit part in the 1957 film Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, after which she made an uncredited appearance in the 1958 Paramount Pictures release The Black Orchid. She then landed a supporting role in the 1958 Paramount film As Young As We Were, along with TOS guest actor Barry Atwater. She also had a brief role in Paramount's The Buccaneer that same year.

One of Barrett's earliest television appearances came in 1959 in an episode of the syndicated adventure/drama series Whirlybirds, which starred Kenneth Tobey. She then made an uncredited appearance as a waitress in a 1960 episode of Desilu's The Untouchables, which aired on NBC. That same year, she guest-starred on the ABC family comedy series Leave It to Beaver, which starred Tony Dow.

In 1961, Barrett was seen in a supporting role in the musical comedy Love in a Goldfish Bowl, another film from Paramount Pictures. This was followed by a supporting role in the 1963 war drama The Quick and the Dead. She also continued making appearances on television shows, including Cain's Hundred (with Anthony Caruso) and a 1962 episode of Bonanza with her future TOS co-star James Doohan, entitled "Gift of Water."

In 1962, Barrett met actress Lucille Ball at an acting class and was signed to a contract with Desilu. Soon thereafter, she appeared with Lucy in an episode of Desilu's The Lucy Show.

History with Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek

The 1960s

Barrett first met Gene Roddenberry in 1961. (Star Trek Memories, p. 14) In late 1963, she was cast in an episode of his Marine Corps drama, The Lieutenant, which starred Gary Lockwood. Incidentally, the episode in which Barrett appeared – titled "In the Highest Tradition" – also featured future TOS regular Leonard Nimoy. In addition, the episode was directed by Marc Daniels, who later directed 15 episodes of TOS.

Barrett's relationship with Roddenberry, who was married and had two children, developed into her becoming his mistress. She later remembered, "We weren't lovers at the very beginning, that sort of developed after we'd become friends." Barrett had doubts that Roddenberry was ready to end his marriage. "Up until Gene actually left his wife, I really couldn't anticipate spending my life with him," she explained. "I felt I would spend the rest of my life loving him, but not necessarily with him." (Star Trek Memories, p. 14)

In 1964, Roddenberry began developing "The Cage", which became the first of two pilots for Star Trek. Roddenberry selected Barrett to portray Number One, the first officer and helm officer of the Enterprise under Captain Christopher Pike (played by Jeffrey Hunter). NBC ultimately rejected "The Cage," but they gave Roddenberry the chance to produce a second pilot. However, the network asked that he drop both the devilish-looking Spock (played by Leonard Nimoy) and Barrett's Number One character, asserting that audiences would never accept a woman being second-in-command of a ship. Roddenberry insisted on keeping Spock but agreed to drop Number One. Barrett jokingly stated that Roddenberry "kept the Vulcan and married the woman, 'cause he didn't think Leonard [Nimoy] would have it the other way around." [2]

In their book Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, Herb Solow and Robert Justman claimed that the account of NBC rejecting the female first officer was a myth created by Roddenberry. In their version, NBC was proud of gender and race diversity in its shows, and even insisted on having a strong female leading character, but they felt that Barrett was a bad actress and not suitable for playing such a role. Apparently not wanting to hurt his mistress' pride, Roddenberry purportedly came up with this story.

Although her character was dropped from the second pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before", after Star Trek was picked up as a series, Barrett was given the role of Nurse Christine Chapel. Because the network did not like her role in "The Cage", Barrett donned a blond wig for her role and went by the name "Majel Barrett" rather than "M. Leigh Hudec," as she had done for "The Cage". In total, Barrett was featured as Nurse Chapel in twenty-five of the seventy-nine episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series, from the first season's "The Naked Time" to the last episode of the series, "Turnabout Intruder". She also supplied the voice of the USS Enterprise's computer in several episodes of the series.

Marriage and continued collaboration

Gene and Majel

Majel and Gene

Barrett and Gene Roddenberry married on 6 August 1969, two months after the final episode of Star Trek was aired. Since they were both in Japan at the time, and because Roddenberry did not adhere to any particular religion, they decided to have a Shinto-Buddhist wedding. Roddenberry's divorce from Eileen Anita Rexroat had not yet been finalized, requiring the pair to make the marriage legal with a civil ceremony held on 29 December 1969. Their son, Eugene "Rod" Roddenberry, Jr., was born on 5 February 1974.

Barrett and Roddenberry continued working together throughout the 1970s. They both ran the catalog company Lincoln Enterprises, which they founded in 1967. In addition, Barrett acted in many of the unsold TV pilots Roddenberry wrote and produced, the first of which was Genesis II in 1973. In addition to Barrett, this project also featured performances by Star Trek alumni Ted Cassidy, Mariette Hartley, Harvey Jason, and Percy Rodriguez.

The following year, Barrett acted in Roddenberry's The Questor Tapes, which was directed by Richard Colla and which starred Robert Foxworth. That same year, Barrett performed in Roddenberry's Planet Earth, along with Diana Muldaur and the aforementioned Ted Cassidy. This project was directed by the aforementioned Marc Daniels. In 1977, Barrett appeared in one more Roddenberry pilot, entitled Spectre.

Post-TOS Trek work

Barrett voiced Nurse Chapel, as well as M'Ress and numerous other characters, on Star Trek: The Animated Series from 1973 through 1975. Barrett reprised her role of Christine Chapel, now a doctor, in 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture. She again played Doctor Chapel in 1986. Barrett then recurred Lwaxana Troi on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, appearing in six episodes of the former and three episodes of the latter. Barrett also co-wrote the story for the DS9 episode "The Muse", along with René Echevarria. For the episode "Half a Life", Barrett filmed her scenes between Wednesday 27 February 1991 and Friday 8 March 1991 on Paramount Stage 8 and 9. For the episode "Cost of Living", she filmed her scenes between Tuesday 4 February 1992 and Monday 10 February 1992 and Wednesday 12 February 1992 and Thursday 13 February 1992 on Paramount Stage 8, 9, and 16. Her makeup in this episode was applied by Michael Westmore. Barrett cited the TNG episode "Half a Life" as one of her favorite Star Trek episodes. (TNG Season 7 DVD special feature "Special Profiles Year Seven" ("From Comedy To Drama"))

In addition, Barrett voiced Starfleet computers in many episodes of TNG, DS9, and Star Trek: Voyager. As a result of providing the USS Defiant's computer voice in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II", she became the only actress to work on all five Star Trek television series. Along with Joseph Ruskin, Clint Howard, Jack Donner and Vince Deadrick, she was one of only five actors to appear in both The Original Series and Enterprise.

She has also been heard as the Enterprise computer voice in five of the feature films: Star Trek Generations, Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Insurrection, Star Trek Nemesis and Star Trek. She also voiced the Federation computer in the video games Star Trek: Judgment Rites, A Final Unity, Star Trek: Borg and Generations, in Star Trek: The Next Generation Interactive Technical Manual, in the television documentary To Boldly Go, and in the DVD-Rom editions of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, and the Star Trek Encyclopedia. She even voiced the ship's computer for the "World Enough and Time" episode of the fan-made internet series Star Trek: New Voyages, produced by James Cawley. Her son, Rod Roddenberry, was a consulting producer on this series at the time.

On 10 December 2008, it was announced that Barrett had again recorded a voice-over as the Enterprise computer for 2009's Star Trek. She had completed her voice work on the film sometime the previous week. The announcement that she was reprising her role as the computer voice came just eight days before her death. [3] [4] [5][6]

Continuing the legacy

Barrett's association with the Star Trek franchise and her love affair with creator Gene Roddenberry has earned her the title "The First Lady of Star Trek." After Gene Roddenberry's death on 24 October 1991, Barrett became an integral part of Star Trek's continued legacy and that of Roddenberry himself. She continued to operate Lincoln Enterprises with their son, Rod, and attended at least one major Star Trek convention every year, in addition to making continued appearances and contributions to the Star Trek spin-offs.

Following Roddenberry's death, Barrett took material from his archives and used his ideas to develop two Canadian-produced science fiction television series. The first was Earth: Final Conflict, which ran from 1997 through 2002. The second was Andromeda, which aired from 2000 through 2005. Barrett served as executive producer on both of these shows until 2002 and had a recurring role as Julianne Belman on Earth: Final Conflict, but Gene Roddenberry was credited as the creator of both shows.

Other acting credits

In addition to her commitment to Gene Roddenberry and to Star Trek, Barrett continued acting in unrelated projects. She made an uncredited appearance in the 1965 Paramount film Sylvia, which was followed by a major role in a 1966 musical film called Country Boy. In 1967, she had supporting roles in two films: Gene Kelly's comedy A Guide for the Married Man and the action drama Track of Thunder.

Barrett also continued appearing on television. She made a return visit to Bonanza in 1966, after which she appeared in such shows as The Second Hundred Years (which starred Monte Markham) and Here Come the Brides. The latter series had three TOS guest stars as regulars: Robert Brown, Mark Lenard, and David Soul.

Barrett portrayed Miss Carrie in Michael Crichton's 1973 science fiction classic Westworld. Alan Oppenheimer also had a role in this film. Barrett then appeared in Stanley Kramer's 1977 film The Domino Principle, playing the wife of a character played by Ted Gehring.

"Errand of Mercy" director John Newland directed Barrett in the 1979 made-for-TV movie The Suicide's Wife, which also starred Don Marshall. That same year, veteran Trek director Corey Allen directed Barrett in another TV movie, The Man in the Santa Claus Suit. In 1983, Barrett was briefly on the soap opera General Hospital.

Barrett appeared in two 1995 independent films: Mommy and Teresa's Tattoo. The latter film also featured one-time TNG guest actor Diedrich Bader.

In 1996, Barrett guest-starred as the widow of the Centauri emperor in the episode of the cult science fiction series Babylon 5 entitled "Point of No Return". She took the role as a goodwill gesture in hopes of calming the rivalry between the Trek franchise and the burgeoning new competitor.[7] In addition to series regular Andreas Katsulas, the episode also featured Vaughn Armstrong and Marshall R. Teague. From 1996 through 1998, Barrett voiced Anna Watson, the aunt of Mary Jane Watson, in the animated Spider-Man series based on the Marvel Comics characters. In 1998, Barrett, along with her Star Trek co-stars Walter Koenig, George Takei, and Grace Lee Whitney and Trek alumni Bill Mumy and Wil Wheaton, made gag appearances in the episode of Diagnosis Murder called "Alienated."

As an in-joke, Barrett was brought in by Trekkie writer and producer Seth MacFarlane to participate on his animated series, Family Guy. In the episode called "Emission Impossible," Barrett supplies the voice of Stewie's "sperm" ship, a nod to her four-decade role as a computer voice on Star Trek. The episode also featured the voice of DS9 alum Wallace Shawn.

Death

Barrett died at her home in Bel Air, California, at 12:27AM on 18 December 2008 following a short battle with leukemia. She was surrounded by family, friends and her son, Eugene "Rod" Roddenberry, Jr. She was 76 years old. [8]

Trust

The trust documents obtained after Barrett's death disclosed that her pet dogs were left a $4 million trust and the rights to live in one of her mansions until they die. Barrett's employee, Reinelda Estupinian, was left $1 million and the right to live and care for the pets in the same house. Son Eugene was left the family's Bel Air mansion, $60 million and $10 million bonuses when he turns 35, 40 and 45. [9]

Star Trek appearances

Recurring appearances

Star Trek voice work

Federation computer voice

Currently incomplete...

Narrator

The Animated Series

Writing credit

  • DS9: "The Muse" (story, credited as "Majel Barrett Roddenberry")

Star Trek interviews

  • TNG Season 5 DVD special feature "A Tribute to Gene Roddenberry" ("Gene Roddenberry Building Dedicated to Star Trek's Creator", "Gene's Final Voyage"), interviewed on 4 February 2002
  • TNG Season 7 DVD special feature "Special Profiles Year Seven" ("Lwaxana Troi", "From Comedy To Drama"), interviewed on 4 February 2002

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