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Majel Barrett Roddenberry
 
RODDENBERRY, MAJEL BARRETT
(Majel Lee Hudec 1932–2008). American actress and producer.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Acted in: Star Trek (tv series) (1966-1969); "Remember the Maine" (1967), episode of The Second Hundred Years; Genesis II (tv movie) (John Llewellyn Moxey 1973); Westworld (Michael CRICHTON 1973); The Questor Tapes (Richard A. Colla 1974); Planet Earth (tv movie) (Marc Daniels 1974); Spectre (tv movie) (Clive Donner 1977); Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Robert WISE 1979); Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (Leonard NIMOY 1986); "Haven" (1987), "Manhunt" (1989), "Menage a Trois" (1990), "Half a Life" (1991), "Cost of Living" (1992), "Dark Page" (1993), episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation; "The Forsaken" (1993), "Fascination" (1994), "The Muse" (and co-wrote story with Rene Echevarria; script Echevarria) (1996), episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; Mommy (Max Allan Collins 1995); "Point of No Return" (1996), episode of Babylon 5; Gene Roddenberry's Earth: Final Conflict (tv series) (1997-1999); Trekkies (documentary) (Roger Nygard 1997); Mars and Beyond (Herbert Wright 2000).

Provided voices for: Star Trek (tv series) (1966-1969); Star Trek (animated tv series) (1973-1975); Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Robert WISE 1979); Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (Nicolas MEYER 1982); Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (Nimoy 1984); Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (Leonard NIMOY 1986); Star Trek: The Next Generation (tv series) (1987-1994); Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (William SHATNER 1989); Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (Meyer 1992); Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (tv series) (1993-1999); Star Trek: Generations (David Carson 1994); Star Trek: The Next Generation Interactive Technical Manual (video game) (1994); Star Trek: Judgment Rites (video game) (1994); Star Trek: Voyager (tv series) (1995-2001); Star Trek: The Next Generation: Interactive VCR Board Game—A Klingon Challenge (video game) (1995); Star Trek: The Next Generation—A Final Unity (video game) (1995); Star Trek: First Contact (Jonathan FRAKES 1996); Star Trek: Borg (video game) (1996); "Sins of the Father Chapter 1: Doctor Strange" (1996), "Partners in Danger Chapter 8: The Return of the Green Goblin," "The Wedding" (1997), episodes of Spider-Man; Star Trek: Generations (video game) (1997); Star Trek The Next Generation Companion (video game) (1999); Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (video game) (1999); "Emission Impossible" (2001), episode of The Family Guy; Star Trek: Enterprise (tv series) (2001-2005); Star Trek: Nemesis (Stuart Baird 2002)' "World Enough and Time" (2007), episode of Star Trek: New VoyagesStar Trek (J. J. ABRAMS 2009).

Produced: Gene Roddenberry's Earth: Final Conflict (tv series) (1997-2002); Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda (tv series) (2000-2005).

 
To be perfectly blunt, the only reason we are discussing Majel Barrett Roddenberry is that, as a young actress, she happened to land a role in "In the Highest Tradition," an episode of the short-lived series The Lieutenant (1963-1964) (an episode which interestingly also featured her future colleague Leonard NIMOY), she happened to catch the eye of the show's producer, Gene RODDENBERRY, and so she happened to become the mistress, and later the wife, of a man whose career was about to take off, ensuring her a lifetime in the spotlight. But to assess her a bit more kindly, one should acknowledge that luck has played a role in the lives of many performers, and one can certainly admire Majel Barrett Roddenberry for making the most of her opportunity.

Her major roles as an actress—all of them under the aegis of her husband—can be classified as the good, the bad, and the ugly. She was reasonably good in the original Star Trek pilot, first incorporated into the two-part episode "The Menagerie" (1966) and later released on video as The Cage, playing Number One, the cold and capable second-in-command of the starship Enterprise. When NBC insisted upon the removal of this powerful woman character, the result was her bad performances in the role that made her famous, Norse Christine Chapel; it is as if Roddenberry resolved to satirically respond to NBC's sexism by creating the most stereotypically "feminine" character possible, a simpering blonde haplessly longing for the love of the tall, dark stranger, Mr. Spock. Today, the scenes in which she is allowed to emote are uniformly unwatchable. The first Star Trek film attempted to update the character for the feminist era by restoring her natural hair color and elevating her to the status of a doctor, but all this meant was that she went from being annoying to being superfluous. Thus, thankfully, except for a cameo appearance in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Chapel was not seen in the subsequent films. Finally, positively ugly were her guest appearances in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as Deanna Troi's eccentric mother, Lwaxana Troi—performances that were consistently tedious, overdone, and relentlessly unamusing. Manifestly, only the ring on her finger kept her from being thrown off the set.

Still, when you turned off the camera and turned on the microphone, matters improved considerably. Drawing upon her Number One persona, Majel Barrett Roddenberry performed quite effectively as the voice of the Enterprise's computer, the role she reprised in all subsequent Star Trek series and most of the films. She also did many other voices for various incarnations of Star Trek, memorably including the catlike Lt. M'Ress in the animated series, and she also reprised her role as the ship's computer on an episode of The Family Guy.

Her acting outside of the Star Trek universe was generally unmemorable, including appearances in every single one of her husband's 1970s unsuccessful pilots and a guest appearance on the rival program Babylon 5, perhaps a muted expression of displeasure over the way that Gene Roddenberry had gradually been deprived of all control over his own Star Trek franchise. But after her husband's death in 1992, she devoted little time to brooding, instead launching a new career as a television producer. First, she dusted off one of her husband's old ideas about an alien race coming to Earth and launched the series Earth: Final Conflict, also casting herself in a recurring role during its first two seasons; although it must have attracted respectable ratings, nobody really seemed to be paying any attention to it. Then, displaying greater creativity, she revisited the scenario of Roddenberry's proposed series Genesis II, which involved a cryogenically preserved man who awakens in a future world devastated by a global nuclear war. Giving the idea the tiniest of tweaks, she then unveiled Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, which involved a cryogenically preserved man who awakens in a future world with a spaceship, which he promptly boards in order to begin exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations, and boldly going where no man has gone before. While better and more popular than Earth: Final Conflict, and blessed with a strong lead performer in Kevin SORBO, Andromeda also managed to last only five seasons—but perhaps this was only a matter of cosmic karma, since Gene Roddenberry had after all declared in the 1960s that five years was the optimum length for a science fiction television series.

Following the demise of Andromeda, Majel Barrett Roddenberry settled into retirement, although she could still be lured to a microphone to provide the clear, crisp voice of a starship computer, and she will be heard in her most memorable role one more time in the forthcoming Star Trek film, her lines recorded before her death in late 2008. Because of the influence of her innumerable performances as a computer, and in light of research showing that female voices tend to attract more attention, it seems probable that the talking computers of the future will in fact sound much like Majel Barrett Roddenberry. Paradoxically, then, one of Star Trek's weakest performers may end up having the greatest impact on our culture.

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