Majel Barrett

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Majel Barrett
Majel Barrett in 2006 cropped.png
Majel Barrett at Gen Con in Indianapolis, Indiana in August 2006
Born
Majel Leigh Hudec

(1932-02-23)February 23, 1932
DiedDecember 18, 2008(2008-12-18) (aged 76)
Bel Air, California, U.S.
Other namesM. Leigh Hudec
Alma materUniversity of Miami
OccupationActress, producer, voice actress
Years active1957–2008
Notable credit(s)
Christine Chapel, Lwaxana Troi, and voice of ship's computer in the Star Trek franchise
Spouse(s)
(m. 1969; died 1991)
ChildrenRod Roddenberry
Websitewww.roddenberry.com
Signature
Majel Barrett Signature.svg

Majel Barrett-Roddenberry (/ˈməl/; born Majel Leigh Hudec;[2] February 23, 1932 – December 18, 2008) was an American actress and producer. She was best known for her roles as various characters in the Star Trek franchise: Nurse Christine Chapel (in the original Star Trek series, Star Trek: The Animated Series, and two films of the franchise), Number One (also in the original series), Lwaxana Troi (on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), and the voice of most onboard computer interfaces throughout the series from 1966 to 2009. She married Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry in 1969. As his wife and given her relationship with Star Trek—participating in some way in every series during her lifetime—she was sometimes[2] referred to as "the First Lady of Star Trek".

Early life[edit]

Barrett was born in Cleveland, Ohio.[nb 1] She began taking acting classes as a child. She attended Shaker Heights High School, graduating in 1950[5][8] before going on to the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, then had some stage roles and came to Hollywood. Her father, William Hudec, was a Cleveland police officer. He was killed in the line of duty on August 30, 1955[9] while Barrett was touring with an off-Broadway road company.

Career[edit]

Barrett was briefly seen in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957) in an ad parody at the beginning of the film, and had roles in a few films, including Love in a Goldfish Bowl (1961), Sylvia (1965), A Guide for the Married Man (1967), and Track of Thunder (1967). She worked at the Desilu Studios on several TV shows, including Bonanza, The Untouchables, The Lucy Show, and The Lieutenant (produced by Gene Roddenberry). She received training in comedy from Lucille Ball. In 1960, she played Gwen Rutherford on Leave It to Beaver.

Star Trek[edit]

In various roles, Barrett participated in every incarnation of the popular science fiction Star Trek franchise produced during her lifetime, including live-action and animated versions, television and cinema, and all of the time periods in which the various series have been set.

She first appeared in Star Trek's initial pilot, "The Cage" (1964), as the USS Enterprise's unnamed first officer, "Number One". Barrett was romantically involved with Roddenberry, whose marriage was on the verge of failing at the time, and the idea of having an otherwise unknown woman in a leading role just because she was the producer's girlfriend is said to have infuriated NBC network executives who insisted that Roddenberry give the role to a man.[10] William Shatner corroborated this in Star Trek Memories, and added that female viewers at test screenings hated the character as well.[11] Shatner noted that female viewers felt she was "pushy" and "annoying" and also thought that "Number One shouldn't be trying so hard to fit in with the men."[12] Barrett often joked that Roddenberry, given the choice between keeping Mr. Spock (whom the network also hated) or the woman character, "kept the Vulcan and married the woman, 'cause he didn't think Leonard [Nimoy] would have it the other way around".[13]

When Roddenberry was casting for the second Star Trek pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before", she changed her last name from Hudec to Barrett and wore a blonde wig for the role of nurse Christine Chapel, a frequently recurring character,[2] who was introduced in "The Naked Time", the sixth new episode recorded, and was known for her unrequited affection for the dispassionate Spock. Her first appearance as Chapel in film dailies prompted NBC executive Jerry Stanley to yodel "Well, well—look who's back!".[10] In an early scene in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, viewers are informed that she has now become Doctor Chapel, a role which she reprised briefly in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, as Commander Chapel. Barrett provided several voices for Star Trek: The Animated Series, including those of Nurse Chapel and a communications officer named M'Ress, an ailuroid officer who served alongside Uhura.[14]

Barrett returned years later in Star Trek: The Next Generation, cast as the outrageously self-assertive, iconoclastic, Betazoid ambassador, Lwaxana Troi, who appeared as a recurring character in the series, often visiting her daughter Deanna, the ship's counselor. Her character often vexed the captain of the Enterprise, Jean-Luc Picard, who spurned her amorous advances. She later appeared as Ambassador Troi in several episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, where her character developed a strong relationship with Constable Odo.

She provided the regular voice of the onboard computers of Federation starships for Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and most of the Star Trek movies. She reprised her role as a shipboard computer's voice in two episodes of the prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise, thus making her the only actor to have a role in all six televised Star Trek series produced up to that time. She also lent her voice to various computer games and software related to the franchise. The association of her voice with interactions with computers led to Google's Assistant project being initially codenamed Google Majel. Barrett had also made a point of attending a major Star Trek convention each year in an effort to inspire fans and keep the franchise alive.

On December 9, 2008, less than ten days before her death, Roddenberry Productions announced that she would be providing the voice of the ship's computer once again, this time for the 2009 motion picture reboot of Star Trek.[15] Sean Rossall, a Roddenberry family spokesman, stated that she had already completed the voiceover work, around December 4, 2008. The film is dedicated to Roddenberry and Barrett.

Other roles[edit]

My mother truly acknowledged and appreciated the fact that Star Trek fans played a vital role in keeping the Roddenberry dream alive for the past 42 years. It was her love for the fans, and their love in return, that kept her going for so long after my father passed away.

She appeared as Primus Dominic in Roddenberry's 1973 postapocalyptic TV drama pilot, Genesis II; as Dr. Bradley in his 1974 television film The Questor Tapes and as Lilith the housekeeper in his 1977 TV drama pilot, Spectre. She also appeared in Michael Crichton's 1973 sci-fi Western, Westworld as Miss Carrie, a robot brothel madam; the 1977 Stanley Kramer thriller The Domino Principle;[17] and the 1979 television film The Man in the Santa Claus Suit starring Fred Astaire. Her later film appearances included small roles in Teresa's Tattoo (1994) and Mommy (1995).

After Gene Roddenberry's death, Barrett took material from his archives to bring two of his ideas into production. She was executive producer of Earth: Final Conflict (in which she also played the character Dr. Julianne Belman), and Andromeda. She also served as creative director for Gene Roddenberry's Lost Universe, a comic book series based on another archival Roddenberry concept.[18]

In a gesture of goodwill between the creators of the Star Trek franchise and of Babylon 5,[19] she appeared in the Babylon 5 episode "Point of No Return", as Lady Morella, the psychic widow of the Centauri emperor, a role which foreshadowed major plot elements in the series.

Parodying her voice work as the computer for the Star Trek series, Barrett performed as a guest voice on Family Guy as the voice of Stewie Griffin's ship's computer in the episode "Emission Impossible".

Barrett's widely recognized voice performance as the Star Trek computer inspired the Amazon Alexa interactive virtual assistant, according to its developer Toni Reid, although Barrett had no direct role in it.[20]

Railroad voicework[edit]

The Southern Pacific Railroad used her voice talent[citation needed] contained inside Harmon Electronics (of Grain Valley, MO) track-side defect detector devices, used in various locations west of the Mississippi River. When a defect is identified on the passing train, the system responds with her[citation needed] recorded voice announcing the defect location information to the train crew over the radio. In railroad forums and railroad radio monitoring groups, she was and is still referred to as the "SP Lady". However, with the implementation of newer hotbox detector technology, finding her voice today on working detectors is very rare. The hotbox detectors that had her[citation needed] voice installed in them were not upgradeable to the newer digital signaling requirements, and finding parts for them was difficult. Today, her[citation needed] voice is found on smaller regional railroads, usually only at dragging equipment locations, such as in California at milepost 24.6 on the Metrolink Lancaster line (under the I-5 and I-210 interchange in Sylmar), and in Oregon on the Portland & Western at milepost 746.5, near Lake Oswego. These voiced detectors remain because the lines were once owned by Southern Pacific, and because only two unchanging recorded messages are used, compared to the dynamic changing library used in hotbox detectors. The only major railroad that still uses her[citation needed] voice today is Union Pacific.

Initially, Guilford commissioned Majel to say "Guilford Rail System", and the recording was programmed into detectors across the railroad. Train crews and local rail enthusiasts dubbed the MBTA Andover detector with the nickname "Andover Annie". Both the Andover and Shirley detectors with Majel's voice were replaced between 2015 and 2017 respectively with General Electric brand detectors, which use a male voice.

In 2006–2007, just before Majel Barrett-Roddenberry died on December 18, 2008, the recently re-branded Pan Am Railways (formerly Guilford) was able to commission Majel one last time to say "Pan Am Railways" for their defect detectors. As of October 2020, Pan Am Railways still uses Majel Barrett-Roddenberry's voice for defect detectors at eight different locations between Maine, Massachusetts, and Upstate New York.

Pan Am Railways defect detectors that still utilize Barrett's voice recordings include the following locations: In District 1, MP 134.1 in Readfield, Maine, just off of Plains Road crossing. Second is MP 157.2 in Lewiston, Maine, just off of Merrill Road crossing. Lastly, MP 176.7 in Gray, Maine, just off of Depot Road crossing. In District 2, only one detector with her voice is in service. MP 234.2 in North Berwick, Maine, just off of Elm Street/Route 4 crossing. In District 3, there are four locations that still utilize her voice. First, MP 346.6 in Gardner, Massachusetts, near Parkers Street underpass. Second is at MP 369.1 in Wendell, Massachusetts, just off of Wendell Depot Road crossing. Third is at MP 410.9 in Zoar, Massachusetts, paralleling Zoar Road. Finally, at MP 440.2 in Hoosick, New York. The future of these defect detectors remains uncertain with the current state of Pan Am Railways being for sale. If a new railroad takes over, these rare defect detectors will likely be replaced.

Final voiceover work[edit]

Some of Barrett's final voiceover work was still in post-production, to be released in 2009 after her death, as mentioned in the credits of the 2009 film Star Trek, again as the voice of the Enterprise computer. An animated production called Hamlet A.D.D. credited her as Majel Barrett Roddenberry, playing the voiceover role of Queen Robot.[21]

Personal life and death[edit]

Barrett and son Rod in 2008

In 1969, while scouting locations in Japan for MGM,[22] Roddenberry claimed that he realized that he missed Barrett and proposed to her by telephone.[23] In the version recited by Herbert F. Solow, Roddenberry traveled to Japan with the intention of marrying Barrett.[22] She subsequently joined Roddenberry in Tokyo, where they were married in a Shinto ceremony on August 6, 1969.[24] Roddenberry had considered it "sacrilegious" to use an American minister in Japan,[23] and the ceremony was attended by two Shinto priests as well as maids of honor. Roddenberry and Barrett both wore kimono, and spent their honeymoon touring Japan.[24] He continued to have liaisons with other women, telling his friends that while in Japan he had an encounter with a masseuse about a week after he was married.[25]

The new marriage was not legally binding, as his divorce from Eileen had not yet been finalized. This was resolved two days after his divorce was complete, and on December 29, a small ceremony was held at their home followed by a reception for family and friends. Despite this, the couple continued to celebrate August 6 as their wedding anniversary. Roddenberry's young daughter, Dawn, decided to live with Barrett and him,[26] and the family moved to a new house in Beverly Hills the following October.[27] In February 1974, Barrett and Roddenberry had a son, Eugene Jr., commonly referred to as Rod Roddenberry.[23] They remained married until Roddenberry's death at Barrett's side on October 24, 1991, in Santa Monica, California.[28]

After her husband's death, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry commissioned Celestis to launch her together with Gene on an infinite mission to deepest space.[29] After manifesting them on NASA's "Sunjammer" mission, the agency cancelled the mission in 2014.[30] Celestis rescheduled their launch for 2020, then later rescheduled for June 2022, the next available commercial mission to deep space.[31] A sample of the couple's cremated remains will be sealed into a specially made capsule designed to withstand space travel. A spacecraft will carry the capsule, along with digitized tributes from fans, on Celestis' "Enterprise Flight".[32]

Barrett-Roddenberry died on the morning of December 18, 2008, at her home in Bel Air, Los Angeles, California, as a result of leukemia. She was 76 years old.[33] A public funeral was held on January 4, 2009, in Los Angeles. More than 250 people attended, including Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner and Wil Wheaton.[34]

Honors[edit]

Barrett and her husband were honored in 2002 by the Space Foundation with the Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award[35] for their work creating awareness of and enthusiasm for space.

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1957 Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? Shampoo demonstrator Uncredited
1958 As Young as We Are Joyce Goodwin
1958 The Black Orchid Luisa Uncredited
1958 The Buccaneer Townswoman #1
1960 Leave it to Beaver Gwen Rutherford
1961 Love in a Goldfish Bowl Alice
1961 Back Street Woman at Table Uncredited
1963 The Quick and the Dead Teresa
1965 Sylvia Anne Uncredited
1966 Made in Paris Mrs. David Prentiss Uncredited
1967 A Guide for the Married Man Mrs. Fred V.
1967 Track of Thunder Georgia Clark
1968 Here Come the Brides Tessa
1973 Westworld Miss Carrie
1977 The Domino Principle Yuloff
1979 Star Trek: The Motion Picture Christine Chapel
1986 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home Christine Chapel
1994 Teresa's Tattoo Henrietta
1994 Star Trek Generations Ship Computer Voice role
1995 Mommy Mrs. Withers
1996 Star Trek: First Contact Ship Computer Voice role
1998 Star Trek: Insurrection Ship Computer Voice role
2002 Star Trek: Nemesis Ship Computer Voice role
2009 Star Trek Ship Computer Voice role;
Posthumous release
2014 Hamlet A.D.D. Queen Robot Voice role;
Posthumous release

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1959 Whirlybirds Nurse Episode: "The Black Maria"
1960 Johnny Midnight Rosemary McCoy Episode: "The Villain of the Piece"
1961–1962 Pete and Gladys Dental Assistant 2 episodes
1962
1966
Bonanza Belle Ganther
Annie Slocum
Episode: Gift of Water
Episode: Three Brides for Hoss
1964 The Lieutenant Ruth Donaldson Episode: "In the Highest Tradition"
1965 Star Trek "The Cage" Number One Original Star Trek-Pilot
1966–1969 Star Trek Christine Chapel 25 episodes
Ship Computer Voice role; 7 episodes, uncredited
1973 Genesis II Primus Dominique Television film
1973–1974 Star Trek: The Animated Series Christine Chapel (voice) 9 episodes
Various characters (voice) 22 episodes
1974 Planet Earth Yuloff Television film
1974 The F.B.I. Mrs. Derek Episode: "The Animal"
1974 The Questor Tapes Dr. Bradley Television film
1977 Spectre Mrs. Schnaible Television film
1979 The Suicide's Wife Clarissa Harmon Television film
1979 The Man in the Santa Claus Suit Miss Forsyth Television film
1987–1993 Star Trek: The Next Generation Lwaxana Troi 5 episodes
1987–1994 Ship Computer Voice role; 101 episodes, uncredited
1993–1999 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Ship/Federation Computer Voice role; 30 episodes, uncredited
Lwaxana Troi 3 episodes
1995–2001 Star Trek: Voyager Ship Computer Voice role; 115 episodes, uncredited
1996 Babylon 5 Lady Morella Episode: "Point of No Return"
1997–1999 Earth: Final Conflict Dr. Julianne Belman 11 episodes
2001 Family Guy Ship Computer (voice) Episode: "Emission Impossible"

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b While many sources state that Majel Barrett was born in Cleveland (e.g., Associated Press,[1] The Daily Telegraph,[2] Roddenberry Entertainment[3] and CBS Studios[4]), some sources say Columbus (e.g., Cleveland Plain Dealer,[5] Los Angeles Times[6] and, curiously, CBS Studios[7]).

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ "Majel Roddenberry, 'Star Trek' Actress, Dies at 76". The New York Times. December 19, 2008. Archived from the original on November 18, 2020. Retrieved December 28, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d Majel Barrett Roddenberry: Actress who found fame as the 'First Lady of Star Trek' Archived 2018-06-17 at the Wayback Machine, The Daily Telegraph, December 21, 2008
  3. ^ "Corporate Bios". Roddenberry Entertainment. Archived from the original on December 16, 2019. Retrieved December 28, 2019.
  4. ^ "Barrett". CBS Studios. Archived from the original on October 31, 2019. Retrieved December 28, 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Shaker Heights High School grad Majel Roddenberry, 'First Lady of Star Trek,' dies". Cleveland Plain Dealer. December 19, 2008. Archived from the original on December 28, 2019. Retrieved December 28, 2019.
  6. ^ "Majel B. Roddenberry, wife of 'Star Trek' creator, dies". Los Angeles Times. December 19, 2008. Archived from the original on November 18, 2020. Retrieved December 28, 2019.
  7. ^ "Remembering Majel Barrett-Roddenberry". CBS Studios. February 23, 2011. Archived from the original on December 28, 2019. Retrieved December 28, 2019.
  8. ^ "1950 Shaker Heights High School Yearbook". classmates.com. Archived from the original on 2014-07-26. Retrieved 2014-07-17.(registration required)
  9. ^ "ODMP: William Hudec. Viewed 2014-12-06". Archived from the original on 2014-12-10. Retrieved 2014-12-06.
  10. ^ a b Solow, Herbert F.; Justman, Robert H. (1996). Inside Star Trek: The Real Story. New York: Pocket Books. ISBN 0-671-89628-8.
  11. ^ Star Trek Memories, dictated by William Shatner and transcribed by Chris Kreski, which HarperCollins published, with the ISBN 0-06-017734-9, in 1993, made this claim in the chapter on "The Cage".
  12. ^ William Shatner, Star Trek Memories, Harper Collins, 1993. p.65
  13. ^ "Bio and interview of Majel Barrett". Creation presents Majel Barrett. August 25–26, 1990. Archived from the original on January 17, 2009. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
  14. ^ Mangels, Andy (Summer 2018). "Star Trek: The Animated Series". RetroFan. TwoMorrows Publishing (1): 25–37.
  15. ^ Roddenberry Productions press release, December 11, 2008. Retrieved December 18, 2008. Archived December 20, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "Trek creator's widow dies aged 76". BBC News. 2008-12-19. Archived from the original on 2021-12-18. Retrieved 2021-12-18.
  17. ^ Majel Roddenberry. "Majel Barrett Roddenberry – Biography". Roddenberry.com. Archived from the original on 2011-11-06. Retrieved 2011-12-10.
  18. ^ "Tekno-Comix Debuts First Titles". Electronic Gaming Monthly. Ziff Davis (63): 232. October 1994.
  19. ^ Ntua.gr Archived 2009-02-01 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ Green, Penelope (2017-07-11). "Alexa, Where Have You Been All My Life?". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2020-05-15. Retrieved 2017-07-12. When Toni Reid and her colleagues at Amazon set out to build the device that is now known as Alexa, they were inspired by the computer that drove the Enterprise on Star Trek (voiced by Majel Barrett Roddenberry, who played Nurse Chapel on the series and was married to the show's creator). Focusing on cadence and an accent that would suggest 'smart, humble, helpful,' the team tested voices that a diverse population would respond to. 'Our goal was to have Alexa be humanlike,' Ms. Reid said, but why end there?
  21. ^ "Voyages of Star Trek Computer Voice Majel Barrett Roddenberry". Voices.com. Archived from the original on 2011-07-17. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
  22. ^ a b Engel (1994): p. 139
  23. ^ a b c Van Hise (1992): p. 53
  24. ^ a b Alexander (1995): p. 370
  25. ^ Engel (1994): p. 140
  26. ^ Alexander (1995): p. 372
  27. ^ Alexander (1995): p. 377
  28. ^ Alexander (1995): p. 7
  29. ^ "Ashes of "Star Trek" creator and wife rocketing to deep space". Space Daily. January 26, 2009. Archived from the original on 2019-03-21. Retrieved 2019-03-21.
  30. ^ "Solar Sail Demonstrator ('Sunjammer')". NASA.gov. Archived from the original on 2012-04-05. Retrieved 2019-03-21.
  31. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2022-03-13. Retrieved 2022-03-11.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  32. ^ "Star Trek Community". Celestis.com. Archived from the original on 2019-03-21. Retrieved 2019-03-21.
  33. ^ Sci-fi icon Majel Barrett Roddenberry dies at 76 Archived 2016-08-17 at the Wayback Machine, Reuters, Thursday, December 18, 2008
  34. ^ "L.A. funeral held for actress Majel Roddenberry". CTV News. Archived from the original on 2012-10-21. Retrieved 2008-01-05.
  35. ^ – Space Foundation Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award Archived 2011-10-04 at the Wayback Machine

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]