WARNING – The following article mentions sexual assault and links to Grace Lee Whitney’s (who portrayed Yeoman Janice Rand on Star Trek: The Original Series) autobiography that discusses the assault. Reader discretion is advised.
While Star Trek: The Original Series is often lauded for dealing with complex issues and having characters audiences could connect with, Yeoman Janice Rand, played by Grace Whitney, was never developed into a great character and was sadly underused even further into the franchise. Rand is often remembered more for her distinct hairstyle or how there were hints of a relationship between herself and Kirk that never came to fruition.
Rand had the potential to be a complex and nuanced character, fondly remembered as a vital member of the Enterprise crew. Unfortunately, her character was written out of TOS after only eight episodes and Whitney was not seen again until the original cast movies in bit parts and in the Voyager episode “Flashback”.
Many female characters from the Star Trek franchise deserved better written character arcs and Rand in particular was very underused in the franchise. This year Grace Lee Whitney would have turned ninety three, and we should honor her by exploring why one of her most iconic characters was so underused.
Yeoman Janice Rand: Kirk’s personal yeoman
According to the series bible, Rand was originally Kirk’s personal yeoman and throughout her eight appearances she is often seen bringing him things, from clipboards with paperwork requiring his signature to a salad after a physical. Very little of her personal life is revealed during her appearances, except for a brief hint about her painting due to the presence of art supplies in her room in one scene. Other plans had her as the senior officer for the female crewmembers which also never came to fruition.
There were also hints from both that they felt for each other, such as Kirk’s heartfelt mourning in “The Naked Time” about how he can never have a relationship due to his role as captain. He even reaches for Rand, mumbling about how he wants to walk on a beach with her. In “Miri,” Rand refers to how she wanted Kirk to look at her legs previously yet now she wanted him to look at her legs so he could see how the same ailment that killed the adults on the planet was manifesting on her. Several episodes even have both characters reaching for each other during times of distress or imminent demise, such as “The Corbomite Maneuver.”
Rand often performed domestic tasks for other crew members as well. In “The Man Trap,” Rand brings Sulu a meal while he is tending his plants. Sulu and Rand even joke together in the scene, but it is striking how they interact compared to how Kirk and Rand interact. Sulu and Rand come across as friends with no sexual tension or unrequited feelings whereas Kirk and Ran often did.
Yeoman Janice Rand written off due to a behind the scenes event?
Grace Lee Whitney writes in her autobiography that one of the Star Trek producers sexually assaulted her during the filming of the first season. Shortly after this took place, Rand was written out of the series entirely, removing her from several episodes and replacing her with a new love interest for Kirk every episode. Grace Lee Whitney also faced a hostile work environment as her body was harshly judged.
Gene Roddenberry later said he regretted firing Grace Lee Whitney and writing Rand out of the series was a terrible decision. Rand never getting a proper send off before her return in the first movie also left fans wondering what happened – did she get transferred to another ship? Did she leave Starfleet to explore a new career path? Novels and fan productions may explore these possibilities, but when Grace Lee Whitney died in 2015, an official canon answer had not been created.
Rand was also absent from The Animated Series and had very little screen time in the movies with her former crewmates. The last appearance of Rand (as of this writing; she may appear in the upcoming season of Strange New Worlds) was in the episode “Flashback” of Voyager where she served under Sulu as his communications officer.
Yeoman Janice Rand had great potential
Uhura may be the most well written woman in the main cast, but Rand could easily have gotten similar character depth. In “Charlie X” Rand is seen trying to help Charlie adapt to life among humans and even introduces him to a female crewmember closer to his age when Charlie seems to fixate on her. Writing Rand merely as ‘motherly’ may not be the nuanced portrayal, but why not use that to contrast her with Uhura who was more often seen in the context of her job?
Rand also had hints of a deep friendship with Sulu in the series premier, “The Man Trap”. They are seen interacting in three separate scenes, joking and working together. They could easily have been written to have the same dynamic seen between Uhura and Chekov in “The Trouble with Tribbles” where the two go on shore leave together.
In later interviews, Grace Lee Whitney revealed that Rand was supposed to be the CEO for the female members of the crew, which opens up plenty of possibilities for Rand. She could have worked with Chapel to improve crew health or advocated for her fellow crewwomen with Kirk. What if she had stood up to Khan on McGiver’s behalf in “Space Seed”?
Was Yeoman Janice Rand a victim of sexism?
The rejected pilot, “The Cage” had a woman as second in command. In the second pilot, Spock has taken her place and the only main member of the crew who is a woman is Uhura. Throughout TOS and even into Star Trek: The Next Generation, women do not always have the best representation. While many women appear on TOS, many of them have no distinct character arcs or significant roles in the episode plots.
Did the writers forget to create a character arc for Rand? Did they focus on Kirk and Spock at the expense of the rest of the cast? Did the material that was meant to expand her character end up on the cutting room floor?
For example, a brief shot of canvases is seen in Rand’s cabin, but the audience never learns more about that. No dialogue even mentions these canvases. Even a quick line about “Rand’s new painting looks great” or “I can’t wait to see Rand’s piece in the Starfleet art show” would have given her more depth. It is understandable to focus most of the character development on the main leads, but Rand barely got crumbs.
Yeoman Janice Rand embodies many naysayer’s views of Trek
Since Rand was not given the character depth of Uhura or many of the other main characters in TOS, she is often considered an unimportant character or becomes more of a joke for her hairdo. Since most of the character development she did receive was based around her relationship with Kirk, her love life became the focus instead of her as a character.
While the main trio received the most character development, other characters got to have arcs and implied pasts, yet Rand got very little development across over her dozen total filmed appearances in tv and movies. Minor things – establishing her favorite art style, her spending more time with crewmates like Sulu, referring to her studying for an officer’s exam, and more – would have fleshed out her character, making her more memorable.
Rand deserved to be more than a romantic interest. Given better writing and more appearances, she may have become well regarded and beloved as many of the other characters from TOS.