What Happened To Yeoman Janice Rand?
It is a question asked by many a Star Trek fan over the years. During the first season of the show in 1966 she was considered one of the most senior characters, forming the fourth corner of what would later instead become the triptych of Kirk, Spock and McCoy. Although for most episodes her duties on board the Enterprise consisted mostly of being the Captain’s personal servant, there was a frisson between her and Kirk that added another dimension to William Shatner’s character – a sad reminder that despite whatever latent feelings they may have had for one another, he was first and foremost married to the ship and crew.
The Yeoman’s greatest presences are in the episodes Charlie X and Miri – in the first she is the object of desire for a teenage crush, and in the second the perceived competition of a teenage crush someone else has on the Captain. In 8 of the first 13 episodes of Star Trek, we slowly get to know and like this reserved and composed member of the crew, until, after a short part in The Conscious of the King she seems to disappear, as though beamed out into space, never to be seen or heard of for the rest of the series’ three year run.
Where did Yeoman Rand go?
Why was there no farewell?
What happened to actress Grace Lee Whitney?
Why did she leave?
Discovering a 2007 edition of Grace Lee Whitney’s 1998 book The Longest Trek: My Tour Of The Galaxy while perusing a shop in Otley last year, then upon returning home with my purchase and Googling her name, I was surprised to find her death had gone unnoticed by me only 4 months earlier. At less than 200 pages long, it seemed even more fitting that I devote a little time to reading about one of my childhood heroes. So what exactly HAD happened to Yeoman Janice Rand / Grace Lee Whitney?
Long after the show had been cancelled fans were still perplexed as to the abrupt vanishing of the character. Throughout the early seventies ‘what happened to Yeoman Janice Rand?’ became a popular question at conventions, but no one, including former cast members, could either say or give any real answers. Then, by chance, DeForest Kelley (Dr McCoy) bumped into the actress at an unemployment line and explained to her the longing fans had to discover her story. Ignorant of the entire convention circuit, she was grateful to hear of the demand for her, and swiftly became one of its most prolific guests.
Writing in books many years later, some cast and crew involved with the show would claim that Whitney was released from her contract due to her alcoholism. During her tour of the conventions however, the explanation she always preferred to give was that ‘they wanted William Shatner to have romances in each episode with a different person, because for him to be stuck with one woman was not good for him and it wasn't good for the audience. That's what they told me, so I was written out’.
However in the late nineties, her autobiography would reveal a very different reason.
According to Whitney, one night after filming had wrapped on an episode, she was having a private drink with one of the show’s executives (she never reveals who), and was sexually assaulted by him. Apparently embarrassed by the incident, he had her character written out of the show so he wouldn’t have to face her on an on-going basis. As a result, she spent many years feeling extremely bitter over the entire experience and sank deeper into an already existing drink and drugs problem.
By the time the sixties drew to a close her acting career had dried up (acting in over a hundred TV shows in her lifetime, she only managed four minor roles throughout the seventies), but her popularity with the fans and the easing of her bitterness toward the show allowed her an opportunity to reprise her famous part in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) and three further Trek films throughout the eighties and early nineties. The character’s official last appearance was 30 years after her debut, in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager (Season 3’s Flashback).
REPORTING FOR DUTY: WHITNEY'S BOOK IN BRIEF
Despite having a co-author, Whitney’s book is not as polished as those by some of the other actors from the show. It is often gratingly repetitive, holds an irritating and relentless born-again Christian attitude and mentions the word ‘alcoholism’ in almost every paragraph. Also somewhat annoying is her use of the phrase ‘my friend INSERT FAMOUS NAME’, when in reality these people probably see her as only a passing acquaintance, and her use of the word ‘dating’ as a euphemism for ‘shagged’ - ‘I dated astronaut Buzz Aldrin twice, once in 1980 and again in ‘81’. However, structural issues and annoying quirks aside, there are some great anecdotes within, told with captivating honesty.
Of particular interest is the exploration of her adoption, her conversion to Judaism (of less interest is her later re-awakening as a Christian), her relationship with science fiction writer Harlan Ellison (who dumped her for smoking weed in his house), the seedy sex life of her nymphomaniac years in which she did things that she would later describe as ‘disgusting’, honesty regarding cosmetic surgery which kept her looking really good well into her fifties, and stories from her days working on the film Some Like It Hot (1959).
Of all the gritty and tragic incidents she entrusts to the reader, the one I found most interesting of all is the fact she ran over an elderly man when she was fourteen and didn’t stop to help him, admitting he likely died. Her entire account of the event is told rather casually, almost flippantly, and the reader is given the impression that it isn’t as interesting or worthy of print space as some of her other anecdotes, however I for one would have liked her to explore this episode further, possibly even considering it as an instigating factor in the reckless and destructive lifestyle that consumed most of her life.
Grace Lee Whitney
1st April 1930 - 1st May 2015
The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy
Grace Lee Whitney with Jim Denney
Quill Driver Books, 1998
You May Also Enjoy...
Writing Tips: The Workplace Email Structure
Can you skillfully construct a message suitable for the workplace?
Ye Olde Star Wars Trilogy
What if the original three Star Wars films were told by William Shakespeare, with a little help from author Ian Doescher?
Top 10 Facts On Mobile Phones
You use one every day, but did you know these bizarre ten facts about mobile phones?