Star Trek’s Grace Lee Whitney Passes Away at 85
At ease, Lt. Commander.
It’s difficult to remember that Grace Lee Whitney, who played Yeoman Janice Rand on Star Trek, only appeared in eight episodes of the show when you consider how popular the character remained, particularly for female Trekkies longing to see themselves in Starfleet. Sadly, Whitney passed away on Friday at the age of 85.
Though she’s best remembered, and should be remembered, as an actress with a memorable role in a long-lasting science-fiction franchise, her family has asked us all to remember her for another reason—as a survivor of addiction.
Whitney was only on Star Trek for eight episodes, because it was decided that they didn’t want Kirk tied to just one love interest on the show, so she was released from her contract early. However, there’s a darker side to her departure as well. In her memoir, The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy, Whitney talks about having been sexually assaulted by one of the show’s executives. In dealing with that, and the seeming end of her career, she turned to alcohol and became an alcoholic.
Thanks to her friendship with Leonard Nimoy, she was able to get her career back on track through the increasingly popular Star Trek conventions, as well as appearances in Star Trek films, on Voyager, and in fan films, where her Yeoman had been promoted to Lt. Commander. Said her son, Jonathan Dweck, according to Comic Book Resources:
Over time, she became appreciative of her short time on Star Trek because she developed meaningful relationships with the fans, Leonard Nimoy and other cast members.
And through her connection with others, as well as her own hard work, she achieved 35 years of sobriety, which she maintained until her death. Anyone who’s ever dealt with, or loved someone dealing with addiction, knows what an accomplishment that is. It seems that she was not only a role model to women watching Star Trek, but she’s a role model in life, too, showing us that no matter what life throws at you, there’s always a way back.
RIP, Ms. Whitney. Thank you for being an inspiring example of survival and renewal. You will be missed.
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