In light of the recent reboot of the Star Trek franchise with the release of J.J. Abrams’ new movie, this weeks’ Danger Gal Friday post profiles Number One, the original first officer of the Enterprise from The Original Series pilot “The Cage.”
Number One was played by Majel Barrett, wife of Gene Roddenberry. Originally, Number One had also served as first officer under Christopher Pike on the USS Yorktown before joining him on the Enterprise. Network executives made several changes to the series after the original pilot, one of which included changing Barrett’s character to Nurse Chapel. Number One’s “highly-logical, steel-trap mind” was then attributed to Spock instead. I have few criticisms of the new Star Trek movie, and in fact very much enjoyed it, but one facet that saddened me was the continuation of the Nurse Chapel character without any reference to the Number One character. Initially, Spock was the science officer, but the new movie continues with the idea that he is both chief science officer and first or executive officer.
While I appreciated the update to Uhura’s character, I do hope that Abrams touches on the Number One character in future installments of the new franchise considering he’s also created characters such as Alias’ Sydney Bristow* and previous Danger Gal Fringe’s Olivia Dunham. Jennifer Weiner at The Huffington Post voices many of my misgivings with the female characters in the new movie:
Honestly, I didn’t have a problem until about midway through the film…at which point I realized that every single lady on screen was either a mother, a ho, or an intergalactic hood ornament.
Memory Alpha describes Number One: “. . . she held the rank of lieutenant. She was noted for her exceptional intelligence and rationality. In 2254, Captain Pike regarded Number One as the most experienced officer on the Enterprise.” Evidently, Roddenberry initially based the Starfleet rank structure on the 18th and 19th century British navy, when a ship’s second-in-command was often a First Lieutenant, rather than 20th century Naval ranks now associated with the series.
In “The Cage,” the Talosians reveal to Pike that Number One harbored feelings for him. Number One and Spock at one point installed computer upgrades that made the Enterprise voice-interactive. They utilized her voice-pattern, which was later carried over into all Starfleet computers.
Many different names have been associated with Number One in the Star Trek expanded universe: Eunice Robbins and Morgan Primus among others.
* I thought I’d already profiled Sydney Bristow, but when I searched the archives I discovered that I’ve neglected her! I’ll try to rectify that shortly.