Grace Lee Whitney, known to Star Trek fans as Yeoman Janice Rand, died last Friday at the age of 85. Rand was assigned to Captain Kirk as his personal assistant—and in the dynamic of the series, the coworker with whom he shares a mutual attraction, though Kirk couldn’t allow himself to act on it. In the episode “The Enemy Within,” however, Evil Kirk has no such reservations.
Whitney appeared in eight episodes of the original series before her character was written out, clearing the way for Kirk to flirt with every single female creature in the universe. As Whitney later wrote in her autobiography, The Longest Trek: My Tour Of The Galaxy, her brief tenure on the series was a tumultuous one, marked by constantly starving herself to fit into her Starfleet uniform with the help of amphetamines, and a sexual assault at the hands of one of the production’s executives.
Things got even worse once she was let go: Whitney began drinking heavily to deal with her bitterness and all but gave up on acting. She says it was Leonard Nimoy who helped her through some of those dark times on the show, while it was DeForest Kelley who eventually brought her back to the Star Trek franchise, after spotting her in an unemployment line.
Janice Rand made her return in Star Trek: The Motion Picture—now promoted to Chief Petty Officer—and appeared again in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and finally Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, eventually making it all the way to Lieutenant. She also appeared in the “Flashback” episode of Star Trek: Voyager alongside George Takei.
Beyond Star Trek, Whitney had a prolific TV career that included appearances on shows like The Outer Limits, Bewitched, Gunsmoke, and Batman. She could also be seen in two Billy Wilder movies—Some Like It Hot (as a member of the all-female band), and Irma La Douce (as “Kiki the Cossack”)—as well as films like House Of Wax, The Naked And The Dead, and Top Banana, in a role she’d originated on Broadway.
Though Whitney was a regular at Star Trek conventions, and even appeared in two fan-created Star Trek episodes, her son tells the New York Times that she would have rather been remembered as a survivor of substance abuse, and for the past 35 years she spent helping others with their own addictions—including fans who sought her counsel at conventions.