Captain Kirk’s Girlfriend

Captain Kirk’s personal assistant and love interest, Yeoman Janice Rand, was played by singer and actress Grace Lee Whitney in the original 1960s TV series. 

Now in its seventh decade, and with several movies and spin-offs, Star Trek can still boast of over 40 million fans worldwide. Some estimates set the figure much higher. 

Star Trek favourite

Writer and series creator Gene Roddenberry cast Grace as Yeoman Rand in 1966 when the first series was made. She also appeared later in the Star Trek Voyager series. Gene had seen her work in other film and TV roles. He felt that she would be the perfect PA for the Star Ship Enterprise Captain Jim Kirk. However, despite Gene’s backing and the fans’ approval of Janice Rand as the Captain’s love interest, NBC did not want Kirk tied to one particular woman. The TV and movie giant reduced her role to guest appearances in sporadic weekly adventures from the eighth episode onwards, and to occasional appearances in the movies and spin-offs that followed. 

Although she continued to have a successful acting and singing career, this rejection from her favourite role, alongside a sexual assault by an NBC executive, were the main catalysts in leading Grace into alcohol and drug addiction. 

Rejection and addiction

Grace later shared in a public interview that while still with NBC she was sexually assaulted by a company executive. She also  sung the praises of actor Leonard Nimoy, who played science officer Spock in the TV series. He was her main source of support during that difficult time. Grace wrote in detail about the assault in her book The Longest Trek but she refused to name the executive, saying, “This is my story, not his!

Grace became involved in alcohol and drugs.  She battled with these addictions throughout her life and her continuing career in music and acting. In 1980, during the filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, she made a serious attempt to get sober. But she added, 

I switched addictions from booze to marijuana. After the film was released I was shocked to see how old I looked! 

Twelve Steps to freedom

Grace resumed drinking and hit rock bottom. That is when she decided to enter the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) 12-step program. The AA program was derived by Frank Buchman, who was a devout Christian. Eventually it was adopted to help with other addictions. With the help and guidance of AA, she became sober in 1981, and also became a devout Christian. She said,

“… I was sick and tired of being sick and tired and I had to get help. What happened was that I was down on Skid Ro, on 6th and Main in L.A., looking for my lower companions to get some kind of help, when I was 12-stepped down there by a man from the Midnight Mission named Clancy, who is a guru in the 12-step program. His sponsee helped me get to my first 12-step meeting where God absolutely delivered me. There was no question. I could not not drink. I was using a lot of drugs from Dr. Feelgood. A lot of actors used the amphetamines from Dr. Feelgood to stay skinny, to function. It’s just insidious. Once you get into the drinking and using, it’s almost impossible to get out without the grace of God, which is what I give my credit to. Leonard Nimoy (who is also a recovering alcoholic) was so moved that he (later) wrote the foreword to my book. But that’s how I began my recovery and my trek back to the studio to make amends, to do everything I’ve had to do there.

“I Found Jesus Christ”

When interviewed in 1995, Grace spoke further of her commitment to Christ.

“…I committed my life to Jesus and began to journey back. The high I looked for in drugs and alcohol I eventually found in Jesus Christ.”

“…Many people think they can be totally recovered from addictions if they have Jesus Christ. They think that is going to make them new and take away their addictions. I really do not think that is possible. I think God has taken away my alcoholism today. He has taken away my addictions today. But I have to start new every day. I have to start the 12 steps every day. I have to commit my life to him every day.”

Grace dedicated the rest of her life to helping others overcome addiction. She became a leading light in Alcoholics Anonymous. She often spoke in churches, prisons, and media conventions. 

After her divorce in 1991, she moved to Coarsegold, California to be close to her son Jonathan Dweck, also a born-again Christian. 

Grace Whitney is still fondly remembered by millions of fans as one of the Star Trek ‘originals’. She died of natural causes at her home in 2015, freed from the trappings and unrealistic expectations of fame and success. Her son Jonathan said that his mother wanted to be known more as a survivor of addiction than as a Star Trek cast member.

Story by Ralph Burden

Photo attribution: Public Domain

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