Monday, 4 May 2015

Grace Lee Whitney

2015 is becoming a very sad year for Star Trek fans with another loss to the franchise family.

Guest star Thomas Towles (Voyager's Rise) and The Original Series Don M Mankiewicz (Court Martial) have both recently passed but this morning we heard that Grace Lee Whitney, aka Janice Rand had also died at the age of 85.

First appearing back in The Corbomite Maneuver (production order), Yeoman Rand was a constant figure on the bridge of the USS Enterprise during its first season, taking significant parts in episodes such as Charlie X and Miri. The latter of those episodes certainly proved controversial and was banned for a number of years in the UK due to it dealing with the passage from child to adult. In terms of involvement with the story it was definitely Rand's most prominent role and suggested great potential for the future however other matters were to take control. For example, her encounter with Charlie X was shocking in its suggestion of what she was put through and Rand seems to have been a character used to explore fairly heavy, important themes - moreso than Uhura - in the early first season.

Whether she was dismissed due to either personal issues, a budget cutback or following an alleged sexual assault which involved a member of the production team after The Conscience of a King is still up for debate but it meant that officially, she only appeared in eight stories and some of those being fleeting walk-ons.

However, following a battle with her demons, Whitney returned to the fold in The Motion Picture as transporter chief on the Enterprise and then again in The Search for Spock watching the battle-scarred Enterprise return to Spacedock with that knowing shake of the head - however there is some inconsistency between this and her next appearance as a communications officer at Starfleet Command in The Voyage Home.

Grace returned with the original crew for The Undiscovered Country as comms officer aboard the USS Excelsior again with the commander rank. It would also be a situation she would revisit five years later in the Voyager 30th anniversary episode, Flashback. This would ultimately be her final canon appearance in Star Trek although the actress turned up in the well-known Of Gods and Men fan movie alongside Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nicholls and a whole slew of Star Trek alumni. Whitney also featured in the Star Trek: New Voyages episode World Enough and Time from 2007.

Her original tenure with with franchise was, at best, fleeting, but her impression on fans was such that the actress returned to the fold again and again even if it was for a brief cameo. In fact I've only recently watched Flashback and it was fitting that this episode included Whitney and Takei who were the two main actors left out of the Deep Space Nine tribute based around The Trouble with Tribbles.

It is a tragic loss to the franchise and to fans around the world. It's amazing to think how much she gave to Star Trek over the course of its near-50 year history. Our sympathies go out to all those affected by her passing.

What are your memories of Grace Lee Whitney? Why not share them here...