Star Trek is often recognized for its diverse, strong, and nuanced cast of female characters. Women like Nyota Uhura, Captain Janeway, and Nurse Chapel are certainly inspiring role models for both men and women. A Star Trek subject that sometimes gets less discussion is its cast of incredibly talented and dedicated non-fictional women who helped make the franchise what it is today. Even in the 1960s, when Star Trek was little more than a quirky space show for adults, women were working alongside men to make the show something more–a phenomenon, and a cultural icon.
Here are just a few of the women who boldly went–the girl geeks behind Star Trek: The Original Series :
As their iconic television show, I Love Lucy, ended, Lucille Ball, and her husband and co-star, Desi Arnaz purchased a Los Angeles studio, and started television production under the name Desilu Productions. After their divorce in 1960, Ball bought Arnaz’ share of the company and became the sole owner of Desilu.
A few years later, Gene Roddenberry pitched his bizarre idea for a “wagon train to the stars” science fiction show. While NBC rejected the first pilot, “The Cage,” they agreed to give the show another chance, due in part to pressure from Lucille Ball. She believed so strongly that Roddenberry’s idea would be a success that she helped fund production of the subsequent pilots, despite protests from the board. Television show rarely get a second chance after a rejected pilot, and much of Star Trek‘s good fortune can be attributed to the former star of I Love Lucy.
Already an accomplished scriptwriter on her own merit, Dorothy Fontana took up a position as Gene Roddenberry’s secretary during his time working on the show, The Lieutenant, and kept working for him until the third season of Star Trek. Initially, her writing for Star Trek consisted of converting Roddenberry’s story concepts into workable scripts, such as the script for “Charlie X,” or major edits on scripts, such as “This Side of Paradise.”
Roddenberry was so impressed with her work, that he eventually promoted her to story editor. Some of Fontana’s original Star Trek stories included “Journey to Babel,” and “That Which Survives.” She is credited with crafting much of the lore surrounding the Vulcans, such as the details about Spock’s parents in “Journey to Babel.” She was brought back on as story editor and associate producer for Star Trek: The Animated Series, and eventually became associate producer of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Often called “The First Lady of Star Trek,” Majel Barrett has the distinction of being involved in every incarnation of Star Trek other than the reboot series that was launched in 2009, the year after her death.
Barrett played the voice of the computer in every Star Trek television series, as well as Number One in the un-aired pilot “The Cage,” Nurse Chapel in Star Trek: The Original Series, Nurse Chapel and M’Ress in Star Trek: The Animated Series, and Diana Troi’s mother, Lwaxana, in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
She was married to Gene Roddenberry in 1969, and both were very involved in the Star Trek franchise and fandom until their deaths. Rumors state that previously-made recordings may be used in order to include Majel Barrett as the computer in the 2017 series, Star Trek: Discovery.
Perhaps the ultimate Trekkies, Bjo Trimble and her husband, John Griffin Trimble, are credited with saving Star Trek from early cancellation. The Trimbles, who were involved in the science fiction fan community, and had attended conventions since the early 1950s, organized the letter-writing campaign that convinced NBC to keep Star Trek on for a third season. They also campaigned for the first NASA space shuttle to be named Enterprise.
Both Bjo and John were featured as extras in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Bjo Trimble contributed to the first Star Trek encyclopedia, The Star Trek Concordance, which has been used by Paramount to determine official franchise canon.
From the very beginning, Star Trek has been an egalitarian project, with both men and women working together to make it a success. Perhaps this is a small reflection of Trek‘s utopian vision–diverse people working together for a common goal.
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