"Star Trek" Creator's Spouse, Actress Dead at 76

Monday, Jan 26, 2009  |  Updated 1:22 PM PDT
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2008 Year in Review: In Memoriam

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Majel Barrett-Roddenberry was married to "Star Trek"' creator Gene Roddenberry from 1969 until his death in 1991. The pair met during her tenure as Nurse Chapel on the Starship Enterprise in the original series.

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LOS ANGELES -- Majel Barrett Roddenberry, wife of "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry and the actress who portrayed Nurse Chapel on the original science-fiction television series, died Thursday of leukemia, according to the family.

Roddenberry, 76, died at her home in Bel Air with her son, Eugene "Rod" Roddenberry, at her side, according to a family statement.

She began her acting career in the 1950s, appearing on shows such as "Bonanza," "The Untouchables" and "The Lucy Show." But she became a cult favorite on the original "Star Trek" series as Nurse Christine Chapel, the soft-spoken USS Enterprise medical assistant who adeptly aided Dr. McCoy and harbored a usually unspoken, unrequited love for Leonard Nimoy's Vulcan character, Mr. Spock.

Avid "Trek" fans also knew Chapel as the female voice of the Enterprise computer in virtually every television and movie incarnation of the series. She also voiced the ship's computer in the latest "Star Trek" film, which is due out next year.

Gene Roddenberry cast Majel Barrett -- whom he was dating at the time -- in the original pilot episode of "Star Trek" as the Enterprise's first officer, with her character known only as Number One. The pilot featured actor Jeffrey Hunter as captain of the Enterprise and a young Nimoy as Spock.

Most of the crew was re-cast after the pilot episode, with William Shatner coming aboard as Capt. James T. Kirk. The Number One character was eliminated, and Barrett took on the role of Nurse Chapel -- along with ship's computer voice.

She and Gene Roddenberry were married on Aug. 6, 1969, after the original series was canceled, earning her the crown of "First Lady of Star Trek" among many Trekkies.

Gene Roddenberry died in 1991.

"Over the course of their more-than quarter-century love affair, she became not only Gene's partner, but also his creative muse," according to the family's statement. "(Majel) Roddenberry helped Gene expand the `Star Trek' universe and was an integral part of its continued legacy after his death."

Roddenberry is survived by her son, Eugene. Funeral arrangements were pending, and a public memorial was expected to be held after Christmas or in early 2009.

According to the family, donations in Roddenberry's memory can be sent to Precious Paws, 18034 Ventura Blvd., Ste. 430, Encino, 91316; or C.A.R.E., P.O. Box 56631, Sherman Oaks, 91403.

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