Friday, December 19, 2008

"This does not compute..."

I am saddened to learn of the passing of "Star Trek" actress Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, aka Nurse (then Doctor) Christine Chapel, Mrs Lwaxana Troi, and the voice of Starfleet starship computers. And the animated felinoid character, M'Ress the Caitian...

You know, I was honoured to be a dinner guest in Majel Barrett's Bel-Air mansion in December 1991, when it was decorated for Christmas. Gene had passed away just a few months earlier. I was driven there in Gene's yellow limousine (by their driver, Ernie Over), and Majel was a most gracious and friendly hostess, with a delightfully wacky sense of humour.

Also at dinner was Majel's mother - and Rod Roddenberry, then an unassuming but friendly teenaged, longhaired, Californian skater dude.

Coincidentally, it was the night of an important Superbowl final, and Majel asked if I minded her having the game on during dinner, since "her team" was playing. (Who was I to argue? But please don't ask me who won; it's a night that's kind of hard to remember, because I was floating in a bizarre haze of disbelief, and there was a traditional house rule that "Star Trek" not be mentioned.) I did get a tour of Gene's office from Ernie and, when I got home, I wrote a column on the highlight of that US trip for my Australian Trek club. My piece was called, "For the Wallet is Hollow and I have Touched the Car."

It truly felt like I was meeting Mrs Troi - ie. Majel Barrett-Roddenberry wasn't acting whenever she played that character. Majel WAS Lwaxana Troi!

I understand that Majel recently recorded the Enterprise computer voice for JJ Abram's new ST film, which opens in May 2009. A fitting and timely reprise.

Star Trek fans the world over will miss her. Vale Majel.

The Roddenberrys

1 comment:

Therin of Andor said...

It was banned to discuss Trek inside the house (longstanding rule!), so we talked about Los Angeles, earthquakes and the meal she was cooking (scampi for us but only salad for her - she was dieting for a her next Mrs Troi role, Ernie Over whispered - what I now know to have been "Cost of Living" the next February). We also chatted about my job, a beautiful set of Franklin Mint "Wizard of Oz" figurines she'd only recently put on display (the Franklin Mint Trek chess set was on a table, but all other Trek stuff was in Gene's office), and her amazing foyer display of artificial Christmas trees - there was a whole grove of them, each one a different colour and style! There was also a pirate's treasure chest (under one tree), filled with huge Christmas chocolates, and it was traditional for each departing guest to take one.

I did meet Majel again, in 1996 at a Brisbane, Australia, Star Trek convention, where I surprised her by asking her to sign one of her ST IV cue cards!

Bought in a charity auction at a New Zealand convention in 1988 (auctioneer: David Gerrold), the cue card was supposedly written by hand by the ST IV director, Leonard Nimoy, and features dialogue for the character of Commander Christine Chapel. Majel was staggered to see it again! It also was a great ice-breaker so I could mention our 1991 dinner, and I was able to thank her again for the wonderful memories. She gave a huge Mrs Troi guffaw and empathised that, as a Trek fan banned from discussing Star Trek, I had done very well. "That rule is how we keep our sanity," she said.