Grace Lee Whitney, best known for portraying Captain James T. Kirk’s (William Shatner) personal assistant in the original “Star Trek” series, and several of its subsequent films, died Friday in her California home, The Fresno Bee reports. She was 85.
Rand’s death comes just a few months after Leonard Nimoy, who portrayed Mr. Spock on the classic series. After appearing in the first eight episodes, Rand was released from her contract as part of a creative retooling of the show.
She would not return to “Trek” until the franchise took the leap to the big screen with the 1979 release of “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” Whitney subsequently appeared in a cameo role in “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock,” and then again as Rand in “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” and “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.”
She also reprised her role alongside fellow original series cast-member George Takei for the franchise’s 30th anniversary on an episode of spinoff series “Star Trek: Voyager” in 1996.
Whitney released her autobiography “The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy” in 1998, which talked about her hiring and firing from the original series, as well as her struggles with alcohol and substance abuse, which she ultimately overcame. In her latter years, Whitney settled in Coarsegold, California, where she worked with others dealing with substance abuse and addiction.
Her career started as a vocalist, kicking off at the age of fourteen with a Detroit radio station. She moved to Chicago and became a nightclub singer, opening for major acts of the 1950s.
It was in this decade, that Whitney shifted her focus to acting, appearing on stage, television and in multiple films. Many of her early roles were uncredited, or credited to different names, including appearances in the original “House of Wax,” “The Naked and the Dead,” and “Pocketful of Miracles.”
Whitney debuted on television in “Cowboy G-Men” in 1953, and continued with appearances in more than a hundred episodes thoughout the next several decades, including shows like “Batman,” “The Rifleman,” “The Outer Limits,” “Gunsmoke,” and “Hart to Hart.”
Music never left completely, though, with Whitney appearing alongside several bands in the 1960s and 1970s. She even wrote several “Star Trek”-themed songs, which were collected and released in the latter 1990s.
But she will always be remembered as Yeoman Janice Rand, the first woman to catch Captain Kirk’s oft-wandering eye.