Why Number One?

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Gotham Central, Feb 21, 2014.

  1. Gotham Central

    Gotham Central Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Has anyone that worked on TOS ever explained the rationale for not giving Number One a name? I get that she was some how supposed to be "mysterious" but it seems odd for that mystery to extend to her name. It feels even stranger to have the rest of the crew refer to her as Number One instead of just the Captain. I get that that nick name is an actual term that was used in the navy, but was it used by the crew?

    I could accept not giving her a name if there was some grand plan for the character that would be revealed in the future...but this was 60s TV. That was not really in the cards at that time. So why do this?

    As a side note, it was kind of a shame that Majel came back as Nurse Chapel. Had she not done so, it would have been possible for her to return as the Number One character perhaps as a ship captain or even an Admiral.
     
  2. The Wormhole

    The Wormhole Admiral Admiral

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    Given the story that the reason Number One wasn't brought back when the cast was retooled was that network executives were uncomfortable with a female in authority, I doubt this would ever have happened in TOS.
     
  3. Brutal Strudel

    Brutal Strudel Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Didn't Bob Justman say that the network had no problem with a woman in the position but they did have a problem with Gene Roddenberry's mistress playing the part?
     
  4. The Wormhole

    The Wormhole Admiral Admiral

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    Admittedly, I've been content to parrot the party line all these years without looking into the matter further, though it does seem to fit with the facts. Particularly the lack of any female admirals, captains or first officers in TOS even up to that silly line in Turnabout Intruder.
     
  5. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    If Number One had become a regular character we might have eventually learned her real name.

    In the bigger scheme of things Gene Roddenberry created this whole mess. NBC had no problem with a woman as First Officer. At the time they were actually pushing for more unconventional roles for women and minorities. But NBC had a big problem with GR casting his extra-marital girlfriend in such a prominant role, compounded by NBC didn't think she was a strong enough actress to carry the role. One also has to take note that NBC had already had run-ins with GR over his previous series The Lieutenant. So they didn't appreciate his obvious nepotism for "The Cage."

    Their message to GR was: you can keep the character but cast another/better actress.

    GR was now in a bind. How was he supposed to explain to his lover that the network liked the character but didn't want her in the role? So GR cooked up the story that NBC didn't care for the character and wanted her gone because they didn't like the idea of a woman being in a position of command. Now GR had painted himself into a corner. After telling Majel Barrett and everyone else the lie he fabricated how was TOS supposed to depict a woman in command in any future story?

    The solution appeared to be to just not talk about it. And fans have been debating it ever since. The only real positive thing is that Number One did eventually appear because of the two-part episode "The Menagerie" which showed a woman in command for most of the background story. And because throughout the series there is nothing that explicitly states a woman cannot command we are left to assume there is no reason someone like Number One couldn't eventually rise higher in rank and command her own ship or starsbase.

    The only potential fly in the ointment doesn't happen until the very last episode "Turnabout Intruder" where a former lover of Kirk's asserts that his world of starship captains doesn't admit women. But you really have to look at what Janice Lester says in context. We soon pick up that Janice Lester is batshit crazy and extremely bitter and resentful that Kirk chose his career rather than pursuing a relationship with her. Later Kirk (trapped in Lester's body) states that she couldn't command because of her temperament and lack of training. Lo and behold Janice Lester (in Kirk's body) proceeds to prove Kirk's assertion exactly right through her erratic behaviour and blaming everyone else except herself for what goes wrong. So it's easy to interpret what Lester is really pissed about, that Kirk's career, his "world" of starship command doesn't admit women, or more specifiaclly doesn't have room for her. And if she did indeed try for the command path several years prior and failed (because of her erratic temperament and lack of training) than it follows she blames assumed Starfleet chauvanism rather than her own failings. Note, too, that earlier in "Bread And Circuses" we learn Captain Ron Merrick also failed getting into Starfleet's command path and left Starfleet to go into the merchant service. He, too, also exibited a weakness of character and judgement, failings that eventually got his entire crew killed.


    Candidly if saner heads had prevailed I don't think it would have been a problem to show a woman in command after the series got going from about midway through Season One onward. They could even have had Majel Barrett (in a dark wig or her own brown hair colour) play a guest role as a now senior Number One. But with the lie GR fabricated being genrally accepted and spreading wider with each retelling it's possible he felt they were stuck with the way things were.
     
  6. Campe98

    Campe98 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Other than that one con (the name escapes me -- maybe WorldCon?) before the series aired, would that story really have been told with that much vigor? Remember this is 1966 we're talking about, not 2014. No quick dissemination stories like today over the web. The tale probably hadn't been told or circulated that much by the time "Menagerie" aired. In fact, if might have been interesting to have Mendez's role be filled by Number One. She could play a very torn individual in that role fighting between what was right for Pike and what was right for Starfleet.
     
  7. Lance

    Lance Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Well, to be fair it *was* only a pilot episode. Perhaps the title was simply a placeholder name of sorts, and Gene would have properly "named" the character if NBC picked it up? Admittedly I'm clutching at straws for an explanation there, but if The Cage had've been picked up, and another episode was screened as the premiere (as happened with The Man Trap), then *that* episode would have established the character's name, and possibly also the habit of others to refer to her as 'Number One'. And when The Cage eventually got aired as a part of the regular series run, the crew addressing her as 'Number One' throughout would have simply been seen as a nick-name by then. :)

    I'm struggling to recall what the Marvel comics did in their Early Voyages comic book series. Did she get stamped with a name in those, or was it just 'Number One' all the way through?
     
  8. Armored Saint

    Armored Saint Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I think it's the more plausible explanation.
    I can't tell, but in John Byrne series on Romulans published by IDW, she's a Commodore without name. She's only identifiable because she says she had been Pike's First officer.
     
  9. Campe98

    Campe98 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    The New Frontier novels have strongly suggested her name is Morgan Primus. Early Voyages say her last name is Robbins and her first name begins "Eu--."
     
  10. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Admiral Admiral

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    There's been lots of ideas about the origins of Number One's name--including one that it was her designation in some sort of eugenics program somewhere--but I just like to think it was usually only Pike or Spock that called her "Number One" because she was the XO and everyone else just called her "ma'am," "sir," or by her rank. When talking about her in the third person, they just called her "the first officer." I never had any problems with her name being mysterious.
     
  11. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I think the story about Majel being rejected because of her relationship with Gene is becoming as overly anecdotalized as the story about NBC not believing a woman in command.

    As I recall from Inside Star Trek, the network was okay with Jeff Hunter and Nimoy (but not so crazy about Spock) and said "we can do better" for the rest of the cast. I don't recall them ever having been quoted as saying "recast her" so much as "recast everyone except Hunter and Nimoy". I believe the book reports that someone from the network said something like, "Ok, who does she belong to?" because it was obvious to them she wasn't hired because of her talent.

    I can pull the book out next week when I am home to get the exact quotes.
     
  12. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

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    I agree with that, and would add one thing. GR didn't stick with the false "mean old NBC" narrative solely to keep Majel in the dark. The lie also happened to be inherently flattering to himself. It painted him as a noble champion of women's rights, losing to NBC but at least fighting the network every step of the way. The opposite was true, both on screen and behind the scenes, but he basked in the uncritical admiration of Star Trek fans for it throughout the 1970s.
     
  13. Mytran

    Mytran Commodore Commodore

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    Not mention it allowed Gene to spout that amusing little anecdote along the lines of

     
  14. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Look at the character of Lt. Tyler, part of what they worked up on his character's backstory was that his first name was Jose, but it never was heard on screen (iirc), if NBC had gone with the first pilot we would have heard Jose, or possibly something else, The same with number one, in time I think she would likely have had a name created for her and a backstory too.

    Various novels, role playing games and fan fictions have given her many different names.

    I have alway accepted that it stems from the British naval tradition of referring to the first officer of a ship as "number one."

    Inside Star Trek, Star Trek Memories and other books and articles have said that the NBC brass had a specific problem with Majel beyond her below average acting abilities, that problem was her relationship with Roddenberry.

    If she hadn't been attached romantically to the married Roddenberry it's unlikely she would have obtained the role in the first place.

    :)
     
  15. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    Majel Barrett didn't project all that much in "The Cage," but then not many of the regular cast did. Pike could be seen as something of a version of a younger Picard, but from the opening he seems a bit defeated and worn out and doesn't project much warmth. There is a touch of sterility in "The Cage" that makes it easy to see why NBC could like the concept but feel it needed to be tweaked particularly in terms of characters.

    It can't be easy to establish a character rather than a type in a pilot episode. But compare "The Cage" with "Where No Man Has Gone Before" and in there is a marked difference. WNMHGB radiates energy and the characters come across as more fleshed out even though we still know next to nothing about them. Shatner is magnetic as Kirk as opposed to a sense of detachment with Hunter. All the characters in WNMHGB seem to have more presence. The inclusion of Sulu, Scotty and even Alden in the background is a step away from the all white, all American like cast in "The Cage." It's not hard to see, though, how "The Cage" setup could have been tweaked to work much better.

    There's little to anything exotic or appealing about Majel Barrett's portrayal of Number One (except in GR's eyes). But it would have been a good role for the right actress and if well written during a series.

    As I mentioned upthread NBC was already not enamored with GR because of their relationship with him during production of "The Lieutenant." As such they weren't predisposed to cut him much slack as opposed to if they had never met him before. It's anyone's guess that even if they hadn't known GR what their opinion of Majel Barrett's performance might have been. They might have rejected her anyway or they just might have given her another chance. But as it was NBC wasn't inclined to let GR have his way on this one. Majel Barrett just an okay actress simply made it easier for them to say no.
     
  16. Shik

    Shik Commander Red Shirt

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    It's the 3 most important things in business.
    Maybe she was a clone, & the first of the line.
     
  17. Ssosmcin

    Ssosmcin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    They called her Number One because they stepped in number two....

    Oy.
     
  18. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Did I say otherwise? I said there's no record that I know of where NBC said "recast HER" specifically. They said "try again" for all but two of the cast. They zeroed in on Majel as Gene's bit of neoptism, but nowhere have I seen a record of "Keep the character, change the actress."
     
  19. EnsignHarper

    EnsignHarper Captain Captain

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    Dorothy Fontana, in her Pike-era based novel, Vulcan's Glory, has Number One reveal to Pike that she comes from a planet of genetically engineered women, and that she was literally the Number one female intellect of her generation
     
  20. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Admiral Admiral

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    I included because she was the first officer in the rest of my post.