Majel Barrett wasn’t liked as the second in command
In the first pilot of Star Trek: The Original Series, Majel Barrett, who would later become creator Gene Roddenberry’s wife, played Number One, Captain Pike’s second in command aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise. At the time, it was virtually unheard of for women to be leads in a series and certainly not one that would have control over men.
After the pilot, “The Cage,” was completed, it was aired for a test audience. Gene Roddenberry got the reports with comments from the women in the audience, and Edward Gross and Mark Altman shared his quote regarding those results in The Fifty-Year Mission: The First 25 Years. According to Roddenberry, the women in the audience, while watching the show, were asking who Number One thought she was. He didn’t mince words when he added that the audience hated the character.
NBC decided to remove Majel Barrett from the second pilot
In a move that even Leonard Nimoy called “sexual inequality,” NBC decided Majel Barrett needed to go as they didn’t think anyone would believe that a woman would be second in command of a starship even though women were making major accomplishments even before then like physicist Maria Goepper-Mayer who won a Nobel Prize in 1963. And, of course, there was Jaqueline Cochran who became the first woman to break the sound barrier in 1953 when she piloted an F-86 plane. In fact, by 1963, a woman had already flown into space—Valentina Tereshkova who was a Soviet cosmonaut.
Fortunately, Star Trek was allowed to catch up with the times, and viewers began accepting women in lead roles, although it would take almost another three decades before a woman would helm a starship as the captain. Now, it’s not surprising to see a woman taking command or leading away missions. Gene Roddenberry was one step ahead of the curve in the 1960s. Unfortunately, NBC, most likely because of the opinions of other women, halted what would have been a ground-breaking moment for television.