Grace Lee Whitney, one of the original cast members of the 1960s television series “Star Trek” who overcame addictions to become an advocate for others struggling with addictions, has died.
She was 85 and died Friday at her Coarsegold home, her son, Jonathan Dweck, confirmed Sunday.
Early in her career, Ms. Whitney was a singer who opened in clubs for performers including Billie Holliday and Buddy Rich. She appeared in a number of movies and early television shows. But she is best known for her “Star Trek” character Yeoman Janice Rand.
Ms. Whitney’s role originally was as Capt. James T. Kirk’s (William Shatner) assistant and eventual love interest, but her time on the show ended halfway through the year. Why she was cut from the show remained one of the big mysteries with fans for years. Reports ranged from addiction and undependable behavior to a network decision that a love interest for Kirk would be too cumbersome.
Ms. Whitney said in her 1998 autobiography, “The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy,” that she was sexually assaulted by a member of the “Star Trek” management team, then learned a few days later that she had been written out of the series.
Ms. Whitney’s acting career — and almost her life — largely came to an end as she fell into a horrific spiral. She credited her recovery to the fans who never forgot her. It was at a Star Trek convention where Ms. Whitney went public with her addiction problems.
“When I told the fans I was an alcoholic, they all applauded. When I told them I had given myself to a higher power, they cheered again,” Ms. Whitney told The Bee’s Rick Bentley in 2013. “I’m in a great place because I’ve gone full circle.”
Ms. Whitney appeared in several Star Trek films in the 1980s, according to her biography on IMDB.com, and in an episode of the TV show “Diagnosis Murder” in 1998. She also made frequent appearances at Star Trek conventions.
But her later years were devoted to helping others gain and retain sobriety, her son Jonathan said. She moved to Coarsegold in 1993 to be close to Jonathan Dweck, who remained in the area after attending Fresno State.
“She continued her fellowship work in Fresno and Madera County, completely dedicating her life to helping herself and others find daily sobriety and a higher power out of addiction,” he said.