Monday, May 4, 2015

Character Insight No. 143: Best of Grace Lee Whitney (Janice Rand)

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 honor the memory of actress Grace Lee Whitney, who passed away at the age of 85 this week.  This is the "Best Of" her character Yeoman Janice Rand from TOS.

 Janice Rand, 2293.jpg
(Janice Rand as she appeared in the latter movies and in Voyager, courtesy

Grace Lee Whitney grew up as an adopted child in Michigan and she found rapid success as an actress, first on Broadway and then with several guest appearances on well-known television series of the 50s and 60s like Bewitched, Batman, and Cimmaron Strip. She was slated to be a regular main character as the captain's yeoman on TOS, but her role was cut just 8 episodes into the first season.

Although the specific reason for her dismissal from the cast is not clear, it has been rumored that her problems with alcohol and diet pills was part of the problem, as was the need to avoid a regular love interest for the Captain Kirk character. Those problems with alcohol abuse unfortunately worsened significantly for Whitney following her pain from being sacked from this popular television show.

However, this story does end much better, as Star Trek become the bookends on a tumultuous decade in her life. She began her recovery from alcohol addiction in 1980, following an invite back to appear in the first Star Trek movie. She would go on to appear in three other TOS films, and then an episode of Voyager as well as a couple of independent Star Trek episodes produced in 2007.

So while the disappointment of what happened on TOS almost killed her, Star Trek also became a big part of what saved her and allowed her to enjoy life and engaging with fans for 35 more years.

As yeoman on TOS, Whitney delivered many highly quotable lines in her limited run of 8 episodes. One good example is from The Corbomite Maneuver:
Dr. McCoy: [Rand enters the bridge carrying a tray] I thought the power was off in the galley?
Yeoman Rand: I used a hand phaser, and zap! Hot coffee.

In the Voyager episode Flashback, we learn about Tuvok's past on the USS Excelsior while seeing a future version of Janice Rand serving as second-in-command and night duty manager, while still being quotable as ever:
Commander Janice Rand: All right, gamma shift. Time to defend the Federation against gaseous anomalies.

In the sixth TOS movie The Undiscovered Country, we again see Rand serving on the Excelsior, although this time as a communications officer:
Captain Hikaru Sulu: An *incident*?
Commander Janice Rand: Do we report this, sir?
Captain Hikaru Sulu: [turning to Rand] Are you kidding?

Although it is sad that we did not get to see more of Grace Whitney and Yeoman Rand in the TOS series, her appearances in the movies and on Voyager was a nice touch of nostalgia and a great move to bring Whitney back into the fold. Let her struggles and success be a lesson to you, if you are struggling with alcohol addiction or anything else, please talk to your family, friends, or even just random podcasters on the internet. We can listen and help others get through the tough times, much like Star Trek helped Whitney get back on track.

Rest in peace, Grace. You, like Leonard Nimoy, did Live Long and Prosper.


Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy. Until next time, live long and prosper...

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