Remembering Grace Lee Whitney, 1930-2015
StarTrek.com is deeply saddened to report the passing of Grace Lee Whitney, who played Yeoman Janice Rand on Star Trek: The Original Series, in several of the TOS features and also on Star Trek: Voyager. According to her family, the actress and singer died on May 1 at the age of 85, passing away peacefully in her home in Coarsegold, California.
Whitney, a blue-eyed blond beauty, represented one of Star Trek’s greatest cautionary tales and also one of the franchise's most satisfying renaissance stories. She played the deeply professional Rand in eight first-season TOS episodes before being dropped from the series and slipping into an abyss of drugs and alcohol that left her, quite literally, on Hollywood’s Skid Row. She finally got help, found God, and reclaimed her life and career, with an assist from Leonard Nimoy, and spent decades helping others overcome their own addictions.
Star Trek even came full circle for Whitney, as she was invited back into the fold and appeared in The Motion Picture, The Search for Spock, The Voyage Home, and The Undiscovered Country, as well as in the “Flashback” episode of Voyager and the fan films “World Enough and Time” and “Of Gods and Men.”
Her revealing autobiography, The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy, was published in 1998 and, to her death, she remained a beloved figure at Star Trek conventions around the world.
Beyond the realm of Star Trek, Whitney's credits included the Broadway show Top Banana, such films as Some Like It Hot and Irma la Douce and also many TV guest spots on shows including, The Outer Limits, Death Valley Days, Bonanza, The Rifleman, Bewitched and the pilot for Police Story, which also featured the talents of Gene Roddenberry and DeForest Kelley.
StarTrek.com interviewed the vivacious Whitney in 2011, and she had this to say about the early days of playing Rand. "I was supposed to be innocent, dedicated, excellent in my motives for wanting to be on the Enterprise, but very green, with no experience. Rand was willing to learn to be a secretary to the captain, whom, of course, I immediately had a crush on. But, it was unrequited love, like Kitty and Matt on Gunsmoke. It could not be consummated. It had to be love from afar, an unrequited love between the captain and me."
Back in 2011, when StarTrek.com interviewed Whitney, she spoke excitedly of living on a 30-acre property near Yosemite National Park, with a running creek, and helping to care for her grandchildren. "(My son) Jonathan built a home down at the end of my property, where he lives with his family, including my grandchildren," she enthused. "They’re going to take care of me as I move through life to my home in heaven. But right now I take my grandchildren to school and cart them around, and I’m of maximum service to them... I also line dance one night a week and I go to the gym three days a week. So, my life is happy, joyous, free, sober and saved, and a lot of fun, too. I have a lot of fun."
Please join StarTrek.com in offering our condolences to Whitney's family, friends, colleagues and fans. She will be missed.