This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe. An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.
Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we profile Christine Chapel from TOS.
Christine Chapel serves as head nurse aboard the Enterprise, and she regularly serves as Dr. McCoy's right hand when medical emergencies occur on the five-year mission. Chapel appears in 25 episodes, making her character straddle the role between a main character and a regular recurring character.
Chapel surrenders a promising career in biomedical research to be in Starfleet, and her reasoning stems from hope in finding her lost fiance, Dr. Roger Korby. The Enterprise finds Dr. Korby transplanted into an android replica, but his madness forces the crew to destroy him. Having nothing left to search for, Chapel decides to stay aboard and continue exploring deep space.
In addition to serving as head nurse, Chapel proves adept at being an inventive lab assistant in the field. She helps develop a theragen derivative to solve effects of passing through Tholian space, and she also successfully synthesized an agent for counteracting effects of Scalosian water. That makes Chapel a key character in numerous episodes rather than a bit character.
Following up on the discovery of Dr. Korby, Chapel turns her love interest to Spock. Chapel becomes so infatuated with Spock that it becomes well-known and sort of a running joke, especially as Spock always rebuffs her advances. The only successes in romance between these two come as a result of telekinetics in Plato's Stepchildren and a brief stint with love potion crystals from Harry Mudd.
Chapel rises in the ranks from an ensign in TOS to a lieutenant in The Animated Series, and finally, a full fledged Doctor and commander in the movies. She was to serve as chief medical officer on board the Enterprise before McCoy rejoins the crew in the first movie.
Our notable quote this week comes from The World is Hollow and I Have Touched The Sky:
Nurse Christine Chapel: I am a nurse first, Dr. McCoy, and a member of the crew of the Enterprise second.
Dr. McCoy: You're excused! You may return to your quarters.
Nurse Christine Chapel: No, I'm sorry, Doctor! I have called the Captain, and I'll wait until he comes!
Actor: Majel Barrett played Christine Chapel, and this role was added to the show because Barrett was pressuring Gene Roddenberry to stay on the show after being fired following the pilot. Barrett was having an affair with Roddenberry at the time, so he made it happen. She also starred later as Lwaxana Troi in TNG and was the computer voice for much of Star Trek's history.