Majel Barrett Roddenberry had some strong words to say about Nurse Christine Chapel, especially as it pertains to her reason for joining the Enterprise
Star Trek: The Original Series’ Nurse Christine Chapel was portrayed by Majel Barrett Roddenberry on Star Trek: The Original Series, but the actress didn’t think too highly of the character, mainly because of what led her to the Enterprise.
In the episode “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” Captain Kirk (William Shatner) has what is the first real conversation he had with Chapel, telling her he understands that she left a promising career in bioresearch. Chapel responds by saying she knows Roger Korby (her fiancé) is alive. Later on in the episode, she finds Korby only to discover later that Korby is an android with her fiancé’s memories. Of course, she chooses to leave this version of Korby behind and return to the Enterprise, and Roddenberry has no compunction about calling the character out on her choices.
Critical of the way the character made choices, Majel Barrett Roddenberry said she figured Nurse Chapel was kind of weak and namby-pamby.
In What Are Little Girls Made Of? Star Trek Sci-Fi Channel Special Edition Extras, [beginning at 4:58 in the clip] Roddenberry explains her feeling for the character, saying she’s never been an afficionado of Chapel. But, in all fairness, Chapel wasn’t created as a main part of the cast. She was a sideline character who showed up when she was needed. So there wasn’t much development there.
Fortunately, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is moving Nurse Chapel (Jess Bush) in a different direction, making her a strong, independent woman who can hold her own in a fight. Yes, she still has the love for Spock (Ethan Peck), but it doesn’t stop her from choosing to leave the Enterprise at the end of season two.
Roddenberry’s issue with Chapel was her leaving behind a career in bioresearch to join a starship at reduced rank and pay in order to find her lost fiancé. Roddenberry refers to Chapel as a doctor, but that has never been indicated in the canon. And money was never an issue in Star Trek…at least for the most part. The Ferengis were all about the latinum, another form of currency, and there were plenty of other instances where characters wanted to get paid.
Once Chapel learned that the man she loved was actually an android, she decides to stay with the Enterprise. Of course, she’s in love with Spock by this time as revealed in “The Naked Time,” which actually aired before “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” Roddenberry goes on to call Chapel a “loser” and added that “this is not the sign of a real strong woman.”
"“I’ve never been an afficionado of Nurse Chapel. I figured she was kind of weak and namby-pamby. I mean, after all, here she was a doctor, and in order to find a lost fiancé, she takes a reduction in rank and pay and signs on aboard this ship to go out to find her fiancé. She finds him. He turns out to be an android. Now he’s not going to do her any good. She immediately signs on board this ship again for another five-year mission, again at a reduction of rank and pay, falls in love with a Vulcan who only comes in heat once every seven years. Now, this woman is a loser. This is not the sign of a real strong woman.”"
Fortunately, with the improvements Strange New Worlds have made with the character, anyone would be hard-pressed to say Nurse Christine Chapel is anything but a real strong woman now.