Number One is the first officer of the USS Enterprise in the “Star Trek” first pilot episode “The Cage.”
This episode, completed in 1965 by Gene Roddenberry and Robert Butler, featured Captain Christopher Pike (Jeffrey Hunter) at the helm of the USS Enterprise, with none other than Roddenberry’s girlfriend, Majel Barrett, playing the first officer Number One.
To have a female front and center in a position of authority and power was not as common in the 1960s. On the screen, we were given a woman who was unemotional, highly intelligent and headstrong; many of the traits that people at the time associated with men. Barrett commands the screen, keeps a cool head, and does everything she can to save her captain.
Before Pike beams down to the planet Talos IV, he says, “Sorry Number One, with the little information on this planet, we’ll have to leave the ship’s most experienced officer here covering us.” Pike trusts Number One with the Enterprise, and she commands the ship in his absence. Number One does not play the role as a yeoman (basically a secretary) instead, we see her working with her crew mates to rescue Pike, going down to Talos IV, and using the cannon to attempt to blast through the metal door. She is nothing like the damsels we see in many Star Trek: The Original Series episodes.
Number One’s revolutionary role was reprised by Rebecca Romijn on Star Trek: Discovery – this time with a name.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Number One’s Character is Not Seen Until the Episode ‘The Menagerie,’ Since ‘The Cage’ Pilot Was Not Aired.
Number One wasn’t seen until the Star Trek episode “The Menagerie” was released in 1966, when fans were finally given the plot of the unaired pilot, “The Cage,” along with answers about Spock’s past with Captain Pike. In “The Menagerie,” the events of “The Cage” are pieced together through a series of videos watched by Captain Kirk and others during Spock’s trial. Imagining that this is the first time viewers are meeting Number One, it showcased Barrett’s role to hint to what Star Trek would have looked like if a woman were second in command.
“The Cage” was a rejected pilot by NBC, “calling [it] ‘too cerebral’, ‘too intellectual’, and ‘too slow’ with ‘not enough action.’” It was replaced with the pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” featuring the characters Kirk and Spock. Although “The Cage” was rejected, it still had a huge role in Star Trek history due to the later episode “The Menagerie” and the fact that Number One’s character reappeared in Discovery. There are often debates on which pilot to truly accept as the ‘official’ Star Trek pilot, but only for newer viewers who have access to streaming services like Netflix and Paramount Plus, does “The Cage” appear as the first episode. However, on Paramount Plus, “The Cage” is listed as season one, episode zero.
The actual episode “The Cage” wasn’t released to the public until October 15, 1988, where it was broadcast as part of a television special hosted by Patrick Stewart called “The Star Trek Saga: From One Generation to the Next.”
2. Majel Barrett Received Such a Large Role In Star Trek’s Unaired Pilot Because She Was Dating the Creator, Gene Roddenberry, During the Time He Was Creating Star Trek.
Number One’s role in “The Cage” is partly because Roddenberry stuck out his neck for her, despite 1960s sexist attitudes. Barrett said in Star Trek Monthly issue 27 that Number One “was the first character Gene wrote into the script. … The first character that was described was Number One.”
One of the primary reasons Barrett got the role was because she was dating the creator. This was a fact that outraged those working at CBS at the time and demanded they have a man as second in command. Number One’s character on screen was seen as emotionless, and logical– a trait they later gave to Spock when CBS decided he should be first officer instead of Number One.
Barrett was demoted to a nurse position for the rest of Star Trek while Leonard Nimoy was given a leading role as Spock. Nichelle Nichols also dealt with sexism, remarking in TV Guide in 1967, “My problem is being a black woman on top of being a woman.”
When Roddenberry married Barrett she was given many roles in the Star Trek franchise, including Lwaxana Troi, the voice of the computer for many series and movies, as well as voice acting roles in The Animated Series. Startrek.com remarks that she is lovingly referred to as “The First Lady of Star Trek.”
Particularly during “The Cage” we see a few instances where Number One has to deal with sexism. Firstly, when a yeoman walks onto the bridge and Pike remarks that he’s “not used to having a woman on the bridge.” Number One whips around in her chair to look at him and Pike adds, “no offense Lieutenant, you’re different of course.” What can be gleaned by his remark? Pike may be referring to the fact that she acts more like a stereotypical man than some of the other women on the ship.
Later in the episode, the Talosians beam down the yeoman and Number One to give Pike an option to mate with either of them because he won’t pursue Vina.
In “The Cage,” the Talosian who calls himself The Keeper remarks, “The female you call ‘Number One’ has the superior mind and would produce highly intelligent children. Although she seems to lack emotion, this is largely a pretense. She has often had fantasies involving you.”
Sexism was one of the biggest foes Number One had to battle in the 1960s.
3. Number One Was Not Given a Name Until Star Trek: Discovery, 54 Years After Her First Appearance. Her Name Has Some Interesting Origins.
Many have wondered why Number One was never given a name in “The Cage.” It could be a type of female erasure seen in media and entertainment quite often. If she doesn’t have a name, then she won’t be as easily remembered. However, the fact that she only goes by her rank also gives her a sense of power, to show that she is the first officer, trusted with the ship.
That is… until Star Trek: Discovery warped into CBS All Access. With the reappearance of Christopher Pike’s character (played by Anson Mount) also came Number One (played by Rebecca Romijn), now with a name – Una.
The origin of Una’s name is a point of discussion among Trek fans.
Jamie Lovett, wrote on Comicbook, “As the Star Trek wiki Memory Alpha points out, Una is a Swedish name, but it is also the feminine form of the Spanish word ‘uno,’ meaning ‘one.’” As Lovett points out, Una has appeared in the Star Trek novelization “Captain to Captain,” where author Greg Cox coined the name Una. “On Twitter following the episode, fellow Star Trek author David Mack revealed that he suggested the name Una to Cox as a way to honor another Star Trek author, Una McCormack,” Lovett wrote.
Una McCormack has written Star Trek novelizations such as, a Star Trek: Discovery novel, “The Way to the Stars,” a Star Trek: Picard novel, “The Last Best Hope” as well as five other Star Trek novels. If this is the reason her name is Una, it’s an ode to a author who brings Star Trek characters to life on the page.
4. Rebecca Romijn Grew Up Watching Star Trek: The Original Series With Her Mother and Her Portrayal Is Influenced By Spock’s Character.
Una’s first appearance demonstrates what a difference 54 years can make in how female characters in power are treated. While the core of her character has remained intact; she is still strong-willed, intelligent and headstrong. However, now the attitudes have changed to how she receives respect from those around her, particularly Captain Pike. Mount’s Pike is not going to say he’s not used to having a woman on the bridge, but instead compliment her for her skills and treat her as he would any officer under his command. Una is devoted to her crew, she leaps into action to try and disarm the undetonated photon torpedo, she stands up for Spock, and she commands the ship in Pike’s absence.
Una is every part the woman that Barrett portrayed, but with the ability to expand on her character due to more liberties in the writing. Romijn grew up watching Star Trek: The Original Series with her mom. She said in an interview for Startrek.com that her “first introduction to the Star Trek universe is the relationship with Kirk and Spock and how hilarious and amazing that relationship was.” She added that her acting performance was influenced greatly by Spock’s character. This makes sense because she too is playing a devoted, competent, and logical first officer.
In another interview with Startrek.com, Romijn says,
“I got a call about playing an iconic role on Star Trek, no more details than that, and I jumped, because it’s a franchise I’ve always loved, that I’ve always been a viewer of and a fan of. With this, with the fandom, which spans decades and is so vast and so huge, you don’t want to let anybody down. There’s added pressure to not let anybody down, especially with a character that’s already so well known to people, though the interesting thing is that people don’t really know much about her.”
It is true that Romijn has large Starfleet-issued boots to fill, what with playing such an iconic and mysterious character.
5. Rebecca Romijn’s Number One Appeared In A Star Trek: Short Treks Episode, “Q&A”; and She Will Be Returning As Una in Paramount Plus’ Upcoming Series, Strange New Worlds.
“My name is Number One” is Una’s reply to Spock in the Star Trek: Short Treks episode, “Q&A.”
This episode was released on October 5, 2019, a few months after Star Trek: Discovery season 2 was released. In this episode, a newly transferred ensign Spock and Una are stuck on a turbo lift, where Spock can ask Una any question he wants.
Una and Spock verbally spar and quip back and forth in this episode. Number One is keeping up with Spock, she is confident in her role, knowledgeable in her field, and has a sense of humor. This is the type of three-dimensional character that Barrett paved the way for, but Romijn is also adding her own side to Number One, now that she is able to have more depth to her character, she can sing, laugh, and still portray feminine traits.
At one point in “Q&A”, Spock asks Una the “three most salient facts about Captain Pike” and Una describes Pike to him. These set of lines provides a depth and insight into the types of interactions that may be seen in the upcoming series, Strange New Worlds, which will be streaming on Paramount Plus but as remarked by Robin Zabiegalski, “the studio has been cautious about announcing the details about filming and release dates.” Strange New Worlds is said to feature the missions of Captain Pike and his crew, including Number One, and Spock. Fans are looking forward to seeing the three of them interact in the new show.
Since it was the choice between Number One’s character and Spock’s that put Roddenberry in such a difficult position 56 years ago, they now stand alongside one another in a new Star Trek show, on equal footing. This is all thanks to Barrett and Romijn, as well as the Star Trek writers, for keeping this character alive.