Sunday, December 21, 2008
Majel Barrett Roddenberry - wife, mother, Number One, Christine, computer, Lwaxana
I heard the news on Thursday that Majel Barrett Roddenberry, wife of "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry, had died of leukemia early that morning. I'm not usually one to be overly saddened necessarily by celebrity deaths because they're not people I know. I think the last celebrity death that really hit me was Douglas Adams, and that was partly because he had a very young daughter at the time.
I was saddened by Majel's death more than I expected to be. There were reasons not associated with her personally, but she's also the last main connection in my mind to "Star Trek". I know that most of the original cast is still around, and other creators and writers and such are as well, but I guess for me, "Star Trek" was Gene and Majel.
I didn't get into "Star Trek" heavily until the third season of "Next Generation", so I didn't know that much about Majel until that point. I know she voiced the computer, and I know she played Christine Chapel, and I even know she was the original Number One. But I really knew her as Lwaxana Troi, the very outspoken mother of Deanna Troi. Majel was just really good as Lwaxana, and whereas Majel had to be mechanical as the computer and shy as Christine Chapel and austere as Number One, she could show her comedic flare as Lwaxana. But she also could show her vulnerable side. There are two episodes that stand out in my mind when I think of her.
One is the episode "Cost of Living" from "Next Generation" when Lwaxana was supposed to get married and had decided to tone herself down for her very proper, very stuffy, soon-to-be-husband, which included abandoning Betazed marriage customs that required the bride to be married naked. The very end of the show has her deciding that changing herself to suit her would-be husband was not the way to go, and she showed up to her wedding in full glory - and nothing else.
The other episode is "The Forsaken" from "Deep Space Nine" when Lwaxana is trapped in a turbolift with Odo, and Odo has to regress to his liquid state after so many hours. He is struggling to hold himself together after being trapped for so long, and if he melts, he's also likely to leak through the pores of the elevator, not to mention that he's not comfortable melting in front of people. Lwaxana removes her makeup and her wig and shows herself to him without all that, which convinces him to melt into the basin she has made out of her dress. It's an amazing side of Lwaxana that we'd not seen before.
When I was attending "Star Trek" conventions, I saw her a few times, and she was always smiling and grateful to the fans.
My thoughts and prayers go out to Gene and Majel's son Rod and the rest of the family and all who knew and loved her. But at least Gene and Majel have now been reunited - I'm sure they've both missed each other a great deal.
I will look forward to seeing the new "Star Trek" movie next May and applauding (and probably crying) when her credit and/or acknowledgement card appears.
Here's the official Roddenberry site.
Here's a news article about Majel from the San Jose Mercury News.
Here's a really good article about Majel from zap2it.com.
Here's a blog entry from Wil Wheaton, who played Wesley Crusher on "Next Generation", about Majel. I found his post to be very touching. I would also suggest reading the comments because some of the stories told in them are pretty incredible as well. In particular, the fifth comment on the blog post, from Tall Rob, tells an amazing story about Majel.
Here's an article from a Trek site with comments from various people who knew and worked with Majel. Marina Sirtis' comment was especially touching for me. Because she played Deanna, who was Lwaxana's daughter, Marina has said on many occasions that she really formed a bond with Majel, even though it was intimidating at first to be working with the boss's wife, but she said Majel really put her at ease.