According to the official Roddenberry Twitter account, there are enough existing phonetic recordings of Majel Barrett to allow the late actress to voice the computer on the new Star Trek: Discovery series. It makes a certain kind of sense to include her voice, even posthumously, because she is so connected to the idea of Trek’s conversational computer. Google even codenamed their personal assistant “Project Majel” because of Barrett’s influence on the concept. But is using her voice now, nearly eight years after her death, a cool tribute or just morbid?
Married to Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, Barrett played several roles and appeared in all the various incarnations of the show. She was the first officer in the original Star Trek pilot episode. When the series made it on air, she became Nurse Chapel. The character assisted Doctor McCoy and quietly longed for Mr. Spock.
When the show and its spinoffs hit TV in the 1980s, Barrett’s voice issued from the USS Enterprise computer. She also appeared on camera as the very colorful Lwaxana Troi. She is the only performer credited in all six of the Trek TV series and several of the movies. Her last role was recording the computer’s voice for J.J. Abrams 2009 Star Trek reboot.
A Lasting Star Trek Legacy
The new Star Trek: Discovery, coming to CBS All Access in January, takes place ten years before the events shown in the original series. There’s no official word if they plan to include a talking computer but it is likely. That bit of science fiction from the 23rd century is already science fact in the 21st. With Trek celebrating its fifth decade of boldly going, I can only imagine Barrett would be thrilled to be included. She loved and often lived for Star Trek. When the show only existed in reruns, Barrett attended conventions and nurtured the fandom. She spent most of her life keeping her husband’s vision of the future alive. That legacy should continue with her on board.
While we don’t know for sure how she would feel about her voice continuing to act in her absence, she embraced the digital remastering of her husband’s series in 2006 readily enough. “You know what? He wouldn’t have been bothered by it at all. Gene did the best work he could at the time, but he was also all about the future. I think he’d have thought it was terrific that the show was being made to look better because of new technology.”
I think it would be terrific if new technology allowed Majel Barrett to remain a part of the amazing universe she helped create and expand.