Grace Lee Whitney’s son, Jonathan Dweck, wants her to be remembered as a survivor of addiction. According to her autobiography, she should be remembered as a survivor of sexual assault by an unnamed producer. She might also be remembered as a singer; she opened for such names as Billie Holliday and toured with such bands as Spike Jones. She might be remembered for her minor role in Some Like It Hot or her two appearances on the Adam West Batman, among others. But, and I feel quite sure she knew this, basically she’s remembered as Yeoman Janice Rand.
She was only on a handful of first-season episodes, but she’s instantly recognizable for all that. She’s in some of the most iconic episodes of the series, and apparently the fans knew that, too. DeForrest Kelley saw her on an unemployment line and hooked her up with the convention circuit, which eventually led to her being in several of the movies and Voyager and a few web series as well. Honestly, eight episodes is seven more than you need for Star Trek fans to remember you forever, whether you have lines or not.
The problem, really, is that Star Trek was simultaneously progressive and regressive, and she was only considered someone to have in the series if she was Kirk’s love interest, but if Kirk had a love interest, could he really go chasing all those green-skinned alien space babes? She was designated as a yeoman, but even in the days around World War I when the US Navy enlisted what were called “Yeomen (F),” serving coffee was not in their official job description. So you got a woman onboard, but at the same time, she’s defined pretty much exclusively by her relationship to Kirk.
And, of course, there’s the fact that her addiction stems in part from the show. William Ware Theiss was afraid she weighed too much for the uniform which he’d designed for her, so the studio put her on amphetamines, which was the fashion at the time. And then, in true Judy Garland style, she started drinking to take the edge off at night and let her sleep. Which, shockingly enough, ended with addiction, because that’s how this works. So not only did that uniform impose a standard on all the other women of the show, it was damaging to the woman it was designed for.
Don’t get me wrong; I like Star Trek. And I’m glad they brought her back for the movies and promoted her character and all that, and maybe the version of the story that they were just trying to save money so they fired a minor character who was costing them a fair amount is the correct one. But she was still assaulted by she-wouldn’t-say-who (though she did say Leonard Nimoy was incredibly supportive to her at the time), and she still got fired, and no one really sought her out when conventions started to be a thing. No wonder it’s not how her son wants her remembered.