The first lady of “Star Trek” leaves a legacy behind

The Federation flags are at half-mast today. The “First Lady” of Star Trek, Majel Barrett Roddenberry died yesterday morning, thereby ending an extraordinary run of Star Trek continuity.

Roddenberry was the only performer to appear in some form or another in all of the Star Trek franchises. Now, this may not mean much if you’re only casually aware of the ST universe, but Trekkies know how huge an accomplishment this is. There were five live-action television series, movies based on two of the series, cartoon and video games and there’s an upcoming J.J. Abrams’ remake. While she didn’t appear in all of the movies, she did participate in movies based on both the original series and Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Roddenberry was probably best known as the voice of the computer and as Nurse Christine Chapel (in the original series and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home).

But she played a larger, more ground-breaking role in the original pilot – as a brunette – playing the first officer, Number One, on the Enterprise. Apparently, the studio couldn’t handle a woman in the role, so she was recast as the nurse, and Mr. Spock became the new first officer.

She came back in Next Generation as Ambassador Lwaxana Troi, the manipulative, sexually-aggressive Betazoid mother of Counselor Deanna Troi — the therapist with ample cleavage.

And she kept returning as the computer in series after series and movie after movie. As the roles for women became successively more robust (e.g., Dr. Crusher, Jazdia Dax, Captain Janeway) she provided the continuous reassuring voice of the Enterprise computer. In fact, it was a big deal when it was announced that she would be the voice of the computer again in the upcoming remake. This casting put her in a league of her own as the most enduring voice of Star Trek.

A Trekkie by birth — I grew up watching the original series, played with the neighbors’ cool Star Trek action set with the twin spinning transporters, and used to fashion communicators from Tic Tac and Dynamint flip-tops &mdsah; I’m feeling nostalgic about my years with Star Trek today. And so I’m thinking about a Star Trek moment that admittedly has nothing to do with Majel Barrett Roddenberry’s tenure on the show or her passing. Rather, I’m thinking about the moment when reunited Trills, Dax (Terry Farrell) and Lenara (Susanna Thompson) illicitly kissed on Deep Space 9.

(For the record, the kiss was not illicit because they were both women, but because they were lovers when they were in previous hosts. It’s a whole complicated Trill thing. You can geek out about this here.)

I will always be grateful to the Star Trek universe for providing an image of Susanna Thompson in a quasi-lesbian scene. And I appreciate that the episode provided my favorite “I’m really straight even though I kissed a woman” dumb-ass quote:

[The kiss] was difficult because I do not find myself attracted to my own sex. I had to get past that, because the story was important enough… but it was uncomfortable.” — Terry Farrell

Kissing a woman was difficult because it’s unfamiliar to her. I guess she found the rest of her role manageable because she really is a Trill inhabiting a series of human hosts for seven-year stretches.

But back to the matter at hand: Are there any other Trekkies out there mourning the loss of our First Lady?