Grace Lee Whitney, best known to generations of Trekkies around the globe for her performance as Yeoman Janice Rand on the original NBC TV series Star Trek, died on May 1, 2015 in the small town of Coarsegold, California. She was 85. At press time, no cause of death has been released.
During Star Trek‘s first season in 1966, Whitney starred as Captain Kirk’s personal assistant, with her short skirt, intricate blonde beehive, and space-age clipboard in tow, before she was let go, but she did return for the motion pictures. While during its original run the TV show struggled somewhat in the ratings, its afterlife in syndication strengthened and the series soon become one of the most popular, iconic, and profitable programs in television history, a fever pitch of success and adoration which continues to this day. The success was a catalyst of the transition of bringing the franchise and the characters to the silver screen in 1979, and Whitney’s portrayal of Rand saw her promoted to Chief Petty Officer. She had become a lieutenant by the time she made her last appearance in a Star Trek film, in the sixth installment, The Undiscovered Country, released in 1991.
Born Mary Ann Chase in Ann Arbor, MI in 1930 and later adopted by the Whitney family, the actress was also a staple at Star Trek conventions for many years and even penned a book about her experiences and exploits making the sagas, entitled The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy.
While most will remember her as a memorable figure on Star Trek, her family however stressed that in the wake of her death, she should be remembered for her real-life role as a “successful survivor of addiction.” The actress, who had been an alcoholic and had been in recovery, used that newfound strength to help others who had the same problems and afflictions of addiction, and she had been credited as helping thousands of people complete 12-step programs successfully.
Another original Star Trek alumnus, Leonard Nimoy who played Mr. Spock, also passed away earlier this year in February at the age of 83. Whitney had credited her co-star, who also wrote the Foreword for her book, as her main source of support after she was sexually assaulted by an executive of the series.