Majel Barrett was Nurse Chapel in Star Trek:TOS, the familiar voice of the Enterprise computer beginning in ST:TNG, and the lovely, self-determined Betazoid Lwaxana Troi in TNG and DS9. She passed away yesterday at age 76.
I admit, I don’t remember much about ST:TOS or Nurse Chapel. And while many of us know Majel Barrett from her legendary romance with husband Gene Roddenberry, I will always think of her as Lwaxana Troi, mother of the Enterprise ship’s counselor, Deanna.
My first memories of Lwaxana Troi are of her amorous advances toward the reserved and slightly embarassed Captain Picard. Later, Troi shows up with a new husband-to-be, a man who has very little time left to live, but to whom Lwaxana is determined to dedicate herself. And of course we’ll always appreciate her insistence at getting married in the nude (and that all attendees follow suit), as is customary in Betazoid tradition.
And then there’s Lwaxana Troi the ambassador, who visits Deep Space Nine and falls for the even-harder-to-get security chief Odo. Troi is the perfect on-screen match for the tightly-wound, dignified Odo- her comfort in her own skin, her certainty that life is something to be enjoyed, her warm honesty and acceptance of everyone around her, and her need to keep talking- make her that kind of person everyone feels good around. When Lwaxana and Odo are trapped for hours in a DS9 elevator, Odo must face one of his greatest fears: indignity in front of a near stranger. Lwaxana comforts him by pulling off her elaborate hairdo, revealing it as a wig above her plain, short brown hair. Odo, the most private of men, finally succumbs to his liquid form as Lwaxana holds him in the folds of her dress and promises to care for him. No one could see her compassionate expression and sincere eyes in that moment and doubt the kindness of heart of the character or the actor playing her.
This is how I will remember Majel Barrett: a beautiful, warm person who was at the heart of every incarnation of one of the most beloved sci-fi series ever. We’ll miss you, Majel.