Majel B. Roddenberry, wife of ‘Star Trek’ creator, dies
Majel Barrett Roddenberry, the widow of “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry and an actress whose longtime association with the “Star Trek” franchise included playing Nurse Christine Chapel in the original series, died early Thursday morning. She was 76.
Roddenberry died at her home in Bel-Air after a battle with leukemia, said family spokesman Sean Rossall.
“She was a valiant lady,” Leonard Nimoy, who played Mr. Spock on “Star Trek,” told The Times. “She worked hard, she was straightforward, she was dedicated to ‘Star Trek’ and Gene, and a lot of people thought very highly of her.”
Once dubbed “The First Lady of ‘Trek’ ” by the Chicago Tribune, Majel (sounds like Mabel) Barrett Roddenberry was associated with “Star Trek” from the beginning.
In the first TV pilot, she played a leading role as Number One, the first officer who was second in command.
But at the request of various executives, changes were made, and she did not reprise her role in the second TV pilot. Instead, she played the minor role of Nurse Chapel when the series began airing on NBC in September 1966. Roddenberry had another distinction: Beginning with the original series, she supplied the coolly detached voice of the USS Enterprise’s computer -- something she did on the various “Star Trek” series.
She also was the voice of the Starship Enterprise for six of the 10 “Star Trek” movies that have been released, as well as the 11th, which is due out next year.
Roddenberry also played Dr. Christina Chapel in two of the “Star Trek” movies, “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and “Star Trek: The Voyage Home.”
And she played the recurring role of the flamboyant Lwaxana Troi on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”
Roddenberry, whose pre-"Star Trek” acting career included guest appearances on series such as “The Untouchables” and “The Lucy Show,” had no idea she was establishing a career path in science fiction when she took her first “Star Trek” role.
“Not at all,” she said in a 2002 interview with the Tulsa World. “I certainly didn’t have any idea that I’d be doing it this long, for so many different shows and films -- especially as a product of a series that was a flop. The original was only on for three years. It wasn’t considered a success by anyone’s standards.”
The show took off as a pop-culture phenomenon after it went into syndication, however, and Roddenberry, who was married to Gene Roddenberry from 1969 until his death in 1991, attended her first “Star Trek” convention in 1972.
“You know, when the conventions started out, I’d attend four or five a month,” she said in the 2002 interview. “But after a while, it got where there was no time for anything else. You’d just travel from city to city, making the same speech, answering the same questions.”
Rossall said both Gene and Majel Roddenberry maintained warm relationships with “Star Trek” fans. And as late as August, he said, Majel Roddenberry attended a “Star Trek” convention in Las Vegas.
As she told the Buffalo City News in 1998, “It’s been a hell of a ride.”
Born Majel Hudec in Columbus, Ohio, on Feb. 23, 1932, she attended the University of Miami and acted in regional theater before heading to Hollywood in the late ‘50s.
Several years after her husband’s death, Roddenberry discovered a pilot script and notes he had written for a series in the ‘70s.
And in 1997, with Majel Barrett Roddenberry as an executive producer and playing a recurring role, “Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict” began airing in syndication. She later was an executive producer of the syndicated “Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda.”
She is survived by her son, Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry Jr.
Roddenberry had a love of animals and was dedicated to animal rescue. Instead of flowers, the family suggests donations in her name to Precious Paws, www.preciouspaws.org, or CARE (Cat & Canine Assistance, Referral and Education), www.care4pets.org.
Funeral and memorial service details are pending.
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