Thursday, December 18, 2008

R.I.P. Majel Roddenberry

The First Lady of Star Trek has passed away today: Majel Barrett Roddenberry.

To the summaries of her career at Trek Movie and elsewhere, I can only add these personal observations from a post here in 2007:

I attended my first Star Trek convention in Washington, DC in the summer of 1976. This was Trek’s first big surge of post-NBC popularity, when the original series was on TV every day in syndication--sometimes more than once on different stations in the DC area. I was there in particular to interview Gene Roddenberry... After GR’s talk, I saw him checking out some of the exhibits with his wife, Majel. With my photographer in tow, I approached them. It was a warm day and Majel was wearing a kind of sun dress, sleeveless and largely backless. She was lovely from across the room but when I was standing with them, she was utterly dazzling. Her deep tan, her smile and those amazing, mesmerizing, dancing eyes. I suddenly forgot every question I had.

I think I managed to mumble something, but basically my mind went blank. Here I was, face to face with Gene Roddenberry, and I couldn’t take my eyes off Majel. So much for my interview.

Fast forward almost 30 years. On assignment to the New York Times, I interviewed Eugene Roddenberry, Jr. on the telephone. At the end of a pleasant and useful interview, I told him this story. I was about to go to my second convention, the “Beam Me Up, Scotty,” farewell to James Doohan convention in Hollywood. Majel was going to be there, and Rod told me to be sure to relate it to his mother.

No problem. I’ve done a lot of interviews over the years, with some major movie and television stars—including some very beautiful women-- as well as Senators and CEOs. .. When I saw [Majel] sitting at a table autographing photos and talking with fans, I introduced myself. I mentioned that convention in Washington, and then I looked into those deep, oceanic blue eyes, and got flustered all over again. I never told her.

I resolved to absolutely tell her at the 40th anniversary convention in Seattle, but she didn’t come. So I’m telling her, and you, right here and right now.

No single individual has been more important to Star Trek for so long, on screen and off, than Majel. Fans know that as an actress she appeared in nearly every incarnation of Star Trek, one way or another. In fact, I hear her voice whenever I fire up my old computer with the TNG theme, which is almost every day. She’s my computer’s voice, too. [Update: She will continue her record of appearing in one way or another in every Star Trek TV series and movie when once again in the new Star Trek movie, she will be the voice of the Enterprise computer.]

She also contributed to GR’s legacy by producing, acting and helping to create other series based on his scripts and ideas. But perhaps her most personal contribution to Trek was in her relationship to the fans and to the conventions. She set the tone for how Trek stars relate to fans that remains a deep part of the Trek culture. ... The grace and personal interest she brought to countless conventions was reflected in many interactions. Majel’s legacy—and her beauty—are lasting.

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