Majel Barrett Roddenberry, the face behind roles from "Number One" to "Nurse Christine Chapel" to "Lwaxana Troi" and the voice of Starfleet computers past and present, was also creator Gene Roddenberry's wife from 1969—and thus often dubbed "The First Lady of Star Trek."
Born Majel Lee Hudec in 1932 in Cleveland, Ohio, she first enrolled in an acting workshop at age 10 and continued the interest at Shaker Heights High School, but went to college to become a legal clerk. Majel attended law school for a year, but after receiving an 'F' in contract law, she moved to New York and landed parts in "Models By Season," which was staged in Boston. Then she did a nine-month run in The Solid Gold Cadillac, which toured New Orleans, Texas, Oklahoma and San Francisco, Calif.
Deciding the competition was too stiff in New York, Majel moved to California and the Pasadena Playhouse, and was cast in All for Mary. By the late '50s, she worked in various Paramount films, including Black Orchid, As Young as We Are, and The Buccaneer. Then she decided that the real opportunity was happening in television, and that's where she wanted to be.
After appearing in several series like Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, Window on Main Street, Bonanza, and Pete and Gladys, she met Lucille Ball at an acting class and was signed to a contract with Desilu. Soon after she appeared in an episode of the Lucy Show called "Lucy is a Kangaroo for a Day."
In 1964, when she was no longer under exclusive contract, Majel accepted a guest role on the new MGM series The Lieutenant, produced by Gene Roddenberry. Majel became good friends with Gene and ultimately, years later, his wife.
Later in 1964, Roddenberry cast her in a co-starring role in "The Cage," the pilot for his science fiction series Star Trek. She played 'Number One,' second in command on the U.S.S. Enterprise, but the character's strength and authority in the Star Trek universe as a woman was unsettling to NBC. The network ordered a second pilot made, but it was made without Majel's female officer.
Still, once Roddenberry sold his second Star Trek pilot to the network, he eventually hired her in the later-evolving role of Nurse Christine Chapel. Instead of the dark-haired "M. Leigh Hudec" that they had disliked in the other pilot, she now used the name "Majel Barrett" and wore a blond wig as Chapel.
Meanwhile,more guest spots on television followed in series like Dr. Kildare, 77 Sunset Strip, The 11th Hour, Leave it to Beaver, Please Don't Eat the Daisies, and The Second Hundred Years. In 1967 Barrett made the big-screen in Guide for the Married Man with Walter Matthau and directed by Gene Kelly, and again in the sci-fi thriller Westworld. She was also cast in Planet Earth, Genesis II, The Quetor Tapes and Spectre, Roddenberry's unsold pilots produced in the 1970s.
But it was on Aug. 6, 1969, after Star Trek had finished, when she and Roddenberry were married in Japan in a traditional Buddhist-Shinto ceremony. On Feb. 5, 1974, Majel gave birth to a healthy boy, Eugene Wesley Roddenberry, Jr., known affectionately as "Rod."
When The Next Generation returned Star Trek to weekly TV in 1987, she created the role of Deanna Troi's mother, Lwaxana Troi: loud and bossy and as far away from Christine Chapel as anything could be—and a role also seen on the spinoff, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Majel can also be heard as the voice of Starfleet ship computers on Voyager and The Next Generation.
After Roddenberry died In 1991, she conitnued control of his legacy and running Lincoln Enterprises, the mail order business they'd started in the 1970s to deal with the mountain of requests for Star Trek-related materials. She also sold two of his concepts as 1990s syndicated series: Earth: Final Confllict, in which she played Dr. Julianne Belman, and Andromeda. She enjoyed golf, gold working, gourmet cooking, gem cutting and most of all meeting fans at conventions—right up until the summer before her death on Dec. 18, 2008, from complications of leukemia.
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