One actress who appeared on Star Trek says she slept with show creator Gene Roddenberry. However, she may not have been the only actress to be intimately connected to the show’s creator. In fact, a different actress who appeared on the series ultimately married Roddenberry.
The original series of Star Trek aired from 1966 to 1969. It is also known that Gene Roddenberry reached a divorce settlement with his first wife, Eileen, in 1969, and married a former Trek actress shortly after that divorce was finalized.
Here is what we know about the women Roddenberry was involved with over the years, and what life was like on set for Star Trek actresses of the time.
Nichelle Nichols Said She Slept With Roddenberry in Her Memoir
Nichelle Nichols played Lt. Nyota Uhura on the original series of Star Trek, which aired in the 1960s. She reprised her role in six Star Trek feature films, famously singing and performing a fan dance (without the benefit of a body double) in her penultimate film appearance for the franchise.
In her memoir Beyond Uhura, Nichelle Nichols revealed that she and Gene Roddenberry had an intimate relationship. However, it came to an end when Nichols broke things off, shortly after meeting another of Roddenberry’s lovers. The Baltimore Sun quoted Nichols on the matter, who stated: “I could not be the other woman to the other woman.”
However, that does not mean that things were easy between Nichols and Roddenberry on set. In the same memoir, on page 191, Nichols recounted around the time of Star Trek’s first season that “Gene still could act like a jilted lover whenever he felt me moving away.”
Roddenberry Ultimately Married a ‘Trek’ Actress
Gene Roddenberry was also romantically linked to Majel Barrett, the actress who played “Number One” in the original, unaired Star Trek pilot episode, and later played Nurse Christine Chapel. The couple later married, with Majel Barrett becoming involved in Roddenberry’s business life. In addition to providing the voice of Star Trek computer systems, and performing as Deanna Troi’s mother on TNG, Barrett was also involved in Lincoln Enterprises, the mail-order arm of Roddenberry’s Star Trek media empire. Prior to meeting Roddenberry, Barrett was on track to become a lawyer, but opted to pursue a career in acting after failing a key law school course she would have to repeat in order to graduate.
According to Variety, Roddenberry’s first wife, Eileen, divorced from Roddenberry in 1969. Later in 1969, he married actress Majel Barrett in a ceremony in Japan. According to CNET, filming for the original pilot episode of Star Trek occured in November 1964, at the Desilu Productions studios.
Majel Barrett is often referred to the “First Lady” of Star Trek, thanks to her long-standing relationship with Gene Roddenberry and her multiple roles on Star Trek shows over the years. According to ScreenRant, Roddenberry never had another actress in mind to play Nurse Chapel, the role Barrett made famous.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Nichols and actress Majel Barrett were both involved with Rodenberry while he was married to his first wife. And according to one Star Trek historian, the idea to hire Nichols (or other actors of color) for Star Trek may have come more from NBC than it did from Roddenberry himself.
In an interesting aside, the connection between Nichols and Roddenberry is so well-documented that Turner Classic Movies actually lists Nichols, alongside Majel Barrett and first wife Eileen Rexroat, under the “Family & Companions” section of Roddenberry’s biographical profile. Nichols is listed there as a “companion” of Roddenberry. Nichol’s own personal profile on StarTrek.com notes that Nichols and Roddenberry had worked together prior to Star Trek, on Roddenberry’s series The Lieutenant. That same profile notes that Nichols wrote a song in tribute to Roddenberry, and even performed at his memorial. The National Review noted the dalliance between Nichols and Roddenberry, while also noting the that Roddenberry was romantic rivals with Jack Webb, the star and producer of 1960s cop show Dragnet, at least when it came to the affections of Majel Barrett.
Another ‘Trek’ Actress Claims She Was Assaulted by an Executive During Filming
Tragically, not every personal encounter on the set of Star Trek was welcome or consensual. Grace Lee Whitney, who played Yeoman Rand and was also the original model for the Chicken of the Sea mermaid, wrote of a sexual assault she experienced during her time on Star Trek. Whitney never named the man who assaulted her, arguing two reasons for doing so in her memoir, The Longest Trek, which discusses the outcomes of the incident on page 14. The man who assaulted her was referred to only as “The Executive” in her memoir.
There were two stated reasons Whitney was reluctant to share details of her assault. The first was because she didn’t want to cause harm to the man or his professional reputation. Secondly, and most crucially, Whitney said she was “afraid of him”. Ultimately, she wrote, “This book is my story, not his.”
Whitney believed that when she was written out of Star Trek, it was because of this assault, and not due to concerns about the show having too many blonde actresses, as is the common belief among some Star Trek fans (Majel Barrett wore a blonde wig in her role as Nurse Chapel). In her memoir, Whitney noted: “I was always aware that one little word from Gene could have kept me on the show.” According to the Independent, Roddenberry maintained that writing Whitney out of the show was simply a matter of budget cuts. Grace Lee Whitney and Roddenberry did have a working relationship prior to Star Trek, as Whitney was in the pilot for another Roddenberry TV project, Police Story.
NBC notes that Whitney used the last decades of her life “helping recovering addicts”. Whitney was open about her struggle with alcohol throughout her life, particularly after Star Trek.
In an interview with StarTrek.com, Whitney stated one reason her character didn’t work on the series was because it limited Kirk’s romantic potential. Since Rand and Kirk appeared to have some kind of attraction to each other, but couldn’t act on it due to their difference in rank, this was an important consideration for writers and viewers alike. As Whitney put it to the Hollywood Reporter, “If she’s waiting for him on the ship and he’s out there cheating, Yeoman Rand would be the sympathetic part on the ship and [Kirk would] look like a cad.”