One of the things that struck me when seeing the trailer for J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek movie was that, for as much as he changed in his effort to revitalize the Trek universe, there were just enough things that he left unaltered—perhaps in an effort to tacitly state, “While this isn’t your father’s Star Trek, it still is Star Trek.” Like that classic “red alert” sound. And it was also reassuring to know that Majel Barrett-Roddenberry—who passed away earlier today from complications from pneumonia at the age of 76—was once again the “voice” of Starfleet computers, reprising the role she had played in every iteration of Star Trek since the very first episode back in 1966.
Even before she married Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry in 1969, she was integral to Star Trek. She was the original first officer aboard the Enterprise—replaced after the pilot by Leonard Nimoy’s Mr. Spock—and reappeared as the faithful Nurse Christine Chapel. When Star Trek: The Next Generation hit airwaves in the late-1980s, Barrett-Roddenberry took the recurring role of Lwaxana Troi—maternal gadfly to the Enterprise‘s counselor, Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), and romantic thorn to Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart). After Gene Roddenberry’s death in 1991, Barrett-Roddenberry would eventually shepherd some of his ideas to fruition; she served as the executive producer of Earth: Final Conflict (1997-2002) and Andromeda (2000-2005).
She was, and will remain, part of the very fabric of the Final Frontier. And, as such, the future as we imagine it to be. And, hey, every time your GPS orders you around in a sultry-yet-practical voice, remember who set the tone.