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Friday, December 2, 2011

Imagine If Spock Was Female

Posted by on Fri, Dec 2, 2011 at 3:46 PM

Did everyone already know this except me? That Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) orginally read for the role of Spock?! Did you see the Science channel documentary Trek Nation by Rod Roddenberry (Gene's son)?!


…Spock was originally intended to be a female character. That is, there was a vulcan on the crew, the head science officer. There was also a female character known as Number One, a cold, efficient and logical woman to play against the hot headed, libidinous Kirk. She was intended to by played by Majel Roddenberry, then Majel Barrett. Gene Roddenberry was dating her at the time, but hadn’t yet divorced his estranged wife. The studio producing Star Trek was uncomfortable A) with a woman as such a central character and B) with the scandalous nepotism of the whole thing. They also didn’t particularly like Spock as a character, and so as a compromise Roddenberry eliminated Number One, made a Spock the emotionless one, and promoted him to First Officer. Majel got the more secondary role of Nurse Chapel.

I would love to see the original version. I mean I love Leonard Nimoy and what he did with Spock, but I find this… fascinating.

(More about the documentary at HuffPo. It premeired this past Wednesday, but repeats several times including tomorrow evening at 9pm.)


Comments (28) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
You can see that. Parts of it were used in the episode The Menagerie.
Posted by OVERT on December 2, 2011 at 3:53 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 2
Why does this make me think of K/S fanfic ...
Posted by Will in Seattle on December 2, 2011 at 3:55 PM · Report this
Teslick 3
What 1 said, although you can see the original pilot "The Cage" on DVD...
Posted by Teslick on December 2, 2011 at 3:59 PM · Report this
brandon 4
Thats kinda sad about Majel Barret. She would have made a great vulcan. Oh well, if that had happened we wouldn't have got the diva that was Lwaxanna Troi.
Posted by brandon on December 2, 2011 at 4:04 PM · Report this
blip 5
I got sucked into this documentary last night, unfortunately too late to watch the whole thing. The bit about Nichols' interaction with MLK gave me the chills (in a good way).
Posted by blip on December 2, 2011 at 4:17 PM · Report this
What @3 said. Majel was Captain Pikes Number One.
Posted by tkc on December 2, 2011 at 4:17 PM · Report this
Captain Wiggette 7
Imagine if Spock WERE female.

Subjunctive, bitches.
Posted by Captain Wiggette on December 2, 2011 at 4:34 PM · Report this
merry 8
"..but I find this… fascinating.

I see what you did there... heh heh...

Posted by merry on December 2, 2011 at 4:39 PM · Report this
The Max 9
The Menagerie (I think it's a two-parter) gets the meat of Majel B's Number One, and there's a pretty good reconstruction of The Cage (the original pilot) floating around out there somewhere. She's a good character and well-played by a talented actor. Too bad there're only memories of Nichelle's Spock, who as originally imagined, would have been more like Worf. That sure would've been something to see.
Posted by The Max on December 2, 2011 at 4:40 PM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 10
Trek Nation was great. I have to agree with Brandon, though. No Lwaxanna? No Lwaxanna chasing around Picard like a psychic alien Pepe Le Pew? No Lwaxanna in one of the few really good Trek novels, Q-In-Law (hint: yes, there is a scene where Lwaxanna gets Q powers). Lwaxanna is the best tertiary character in all of Trek, especially after they bring her back full circle and you learn her family's secrets later, where she stops being just comic relief and becomes rather heartbreaking.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on December 2, 2011 at 4:47 PM · Report this
If you went to Star Trek in the Park you'd get to see what a female spock would be like. Answer: super-hot.
Posted by NMSpaz on December 2, 2011 at 5:02 PM · Report this
I can't help thinking that if the original idea was for a female Vulcan, it was based on an implicit contradiction/oxymoron of being both a woman and totally logical. (I don't think it is a contradiciton/oxymoron, of course, I just wonder if that's "where they were going" with it)
Posted by Jude Fawley on December 2, 2011 at 5:06 PM · Report this
Wow, really? The incredible sexism of TOS wasn't actually part of Roddenberry's vision but was forced on him by the studio? Once again, we see that management is the enemy of good art.
Posted by I have always been... east coaster on December 2, 2011 at 6:26 PM · Report this

In the context of when it was created, TOS was actually very progressive in terms of its depiction of women. Keep in mind, there simply weren't any other programs on TV at the time that showed a woman, let alone an African American woman, in a position of authority, which was part of what prompted MLK to talk Ms Nichols into remaining on the show (haven't seen the documentary, but this is a pretty well-known anecdote in "Trek" history).

And despite Roddenberry's original stated intention of incorporating such a character into his concept, I would somewhat reject the suggestion that some of the less progressive depictions of women (from our 21st Century perspective) in the show can ALL be foisted onto the studio or network suits, but came in equal part from Roddenberry himself, who was, for all his foresight, as much a product of his time as were they. I would suggest reading Joel Engel's biography for a less panegyric critique of the man and his work.
Posted by COMTE on December 2, 2011 at 7:24 PM · Report this
Sandiai 15
@4,@10 and the voice of the computer in almost all of the Star Trek franchises, as well.
(Lordy, is that how you spell "Lwaxanna"?)

Majel Barrett is a wonderful and underestimated actor, but my favorite tertiary character actor would have to be Jeffrey Combs (Wayoun/Brunt/Shran/etc).

I also agree with those who say TOS was way ahead of its time.

Posted by Sandiai on December 2, 2011 at 8:00 PM · Report this
@14 - True, but I always felt that the sexism was the worst thing about TOS. If meddling suits made it more sexist then it would have been if Roddenberry had been left to his own devices, they did the show and everyone who's ever seen it a huge disservice. Was it really revolutionary for its time with just three named recurring female characters who were all in subordinate, stereotypically feminine jobs (communications, nurse, secretary)? I know it was revolutionary in its treatment of race, showing people of all races living and working together, but I'd hardly call Uhura an authority figure. A female first officer would have been really revolutionary and it's a huge shame it didn't happen.
Posted by I have always been... east coaster on December 2, 2011 at 10:45 PM · Report this
The original pilot with Majel Barrett as Number One (and a very different Spock) is available on Netflix streaming, incidentally.
Posted by joyquality on December 2, 2011 at 10:56 PM · Report this
I read this a long time ago in Nichelle Nichols' autobiography "Beyond Uhura" where she describes her audition process. They said she would have been an amazing Spock.
Posted by shazbot on December 2, 2011 at 10:58 PM · Report this
this guy I know in Spokane 19
@7 thank you.

BTW a link on the MarySue page mentions that Luke Skywalker was originally going to be female.
Posted by this guy I know in Spokane on December 2, 2011 at 11:17 PM · Report this
venomlash 20
what if Zelda was a girl?
Posted by venomlash on December 3, 2011 at 2:09 AM · Report this
Towanda 21
@20 Zelda IS a girl. That is Link. (/pedant)
Posted by Towanda on December 3, 2011 at 5:47 AM · Report this
Plenty of vulcan's down the line played by females.

The Spock - Kirk pairing would not have been improved with a female actor.
Posted by bornhere on December 3, 2011 at 10:59 AM · Report this
I don't want to call HuffPo a bunch of dirty rotten liars, but...I suspect that quote is fabricated.

Spock is described as a pointed eared male in the earliest of production notes for Star Trek, long before the characters of Kirk or Bones even existed. Nichelle Nichols was brought in by Roddenberry specifically to play a communications officer. It's doubtful that she ever read for any other part and impossible for her to have read for Spock, since the character was made male and cast before the names "Kirk" and "Bones" could have appeared on a script.
Posted by Zuulabelle on December 3, 2011 at 11:16 AM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 24
I really wish they would have done more with Nichelle Nichols. She really is the Diva of Star Trek. I'd even go so far as to having her have her own series. Captain Uhura!!!
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on December 3, 2011 at 12:27 PM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 25
Like t'pal?
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on December 3, 2011 at 12:40 PM · Report this
venomlash 26
@21: That was the troll I fell for when I first came to the Internet. Congratulations, newfag!
Posted by venomlash on December 3, 2011 at 1:25 PM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 27

Right. Exactly. Just like it was for five years in Star Trek:Enterprise.


Jolene Blalock

The most sizzling Vulcan ever to grace a Star Fleet uniform.

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on December 3, 2011 at 6:38 PM · Report this
Numerous other sources (such as Solow & Justman's excellent "Inside Star Trek: The Real Story") indicate that the issue the network had with the character of "Number One" was that Majel Barrett turned in a pretty terrible performance in "The Cage," the first Star Trek pilot. Trek Nation's producer, Rod Roddenberry, isn't likely to report something like that that about his mom...
Posted by Daddy Todd on December 3, 2011 at 7:57 PM · Report this

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