Stacy Fox asked:
We were told that Star Trek would let us “boldly go where no man has gone before.”
But there were women who went into the unknown, too.
These are the women who traipsed among the stars.
Nichelle Nichols was one of the first. Playing Communications Officer Lt. Uhura on the Original Series, she showed women and racial minorities that there was a future for us. Nichols thought about leaving the show after the first series because her role wasn’t very substantial but after talking to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., she changed her mind. He told her that people needed to see a Black Woman when they envisioned the future.
Nichol’s role in space wasn’t over with the cancellation of the show. She has remained active with NASA, helping to recruit women and minorities to the space agency.
On the original pilot for Star Trek, Majel Barrett played Captain Pike’s Executive Officer, a position NBC executives in 1966 vetoed. Barrett was recast as Nurse Chapel in the original series and went on to become the only actor to have a role of some kind in every single Star Trek series.
On The Next Generation, there were two strong women who came to embody the series. While they were still in support roles, Gates McFadden as Doctor Beverly Crusher and Marina Siritis as Counselor Deanna Troi were active participants in the series. Dr. Crusher was gentle. Counselor Troi was insightful.
By the time Deep Space Nine rolled around, it was time to give women a leadership role. Nana Visitor played the prickly Kira Nerys. No longer were women always sweet, all the time, Visitor had a more complex personality.
And then came Voyager. Women made up a large portion of the cast starting with Captain Kathryn Janeway played by Katherine Mulgrew, was a take charge, no nonsense leader who had to guide her motley crew of Starfleet officers and Maquis rebels through the Delta Quadrant back home.
She was assisted by several other strong women. One was B’Elanna Torres played by Roxanne Dawson. Torres was a Maquis rebel who was half Klingon and half human. She was forever battling the two sides of herself.
Jeri Ryan came on mid show playing the famous Borg defectee Seven of Nine. Ryan continues to be among the most popular Trek personalities.
Enterprise had some notable female characters. Jolene Blalock served as T’Pol, the Vulcan science advisor who was onboard to guide the humans. While just an advisor, she was supposed to be the wise advisor. The humans on the crew often chafed under her direction, though. And the Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) often disregarded her advice.
Star Trek women faced the challenges of being women in the 20th century as well as in the 23rd century. That they did it with as much compassion and humanity as they did is a credit to both the actresses who played the role and the men who created them.
On Tuesday, November 14, Majel Barrett Roddenberry joins son Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry and writer/director Nicholas Meyer for a special 40th Anniversary “Star Trek” Celebration at the world famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatres Complex in Hollywood, California following a screening of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” as part of the “Story Makers Studio” series at the Chinese. Tickets are available at the Chinese Theatre’s box office and online at www.stiylagency.com/startrek