‘Strange New Worlds’ Needs to Bring Back This Star Trek Character
Strange New Worlds loves reinventing classic Star Trek characters. Recently Scotty got added to the mix. Here’s who should be next.
Star Trek: The Original Series pays a lot of attention to three characters: Kirk, Spock, and Bones. And as such, much of the remainder of the cast lacks depth until the movies. One of the many things Strange New Worlds does so well is to provide backstories and depth to those characters who previously had little to none.
The most notable examples come from the medical team. Nurse Christine Chapel is basically just a lovelorn puppy for Spock on TOS. But in SNW she’s an expert in genetics, a war veteran, and also she’s a little lovelorn for Spock! Similarly, M’Benga, who only appears in two episodes of TOS finally gets more on SNW. He’s a father, and also a war veteran. Is he lovelorn for Spock? Sadly, no. But he gets a lot of meaty stuff nonetheless.
Strange New Worlds‘ most recent addition is Montgomery Scott. And while we’re very excited to see him, he is arguably one of the only other TOS characters who already has a lot to him. His addition (and portrayal by actual real-life Scot Martin Quinn) is exciting, no doubt. But we want more of what SNW does best: better serving the underserved.
With that in mind, let’s talk about the classic Trek character who needs the SNW treatment most.
Yeoman Janice Rand
Yeoman Janice Rand (Grace Lee Whitney) is a noncommissioned officer who basically works specifically for Captain Kirk. She’s actually a pretty significant part of TOS season one. Kirk really dislikes her, but then he grows to respect her. But the big thing about Rand is that she’s beautiful, she’s into Kirk, and Kirk is into her but he can’t do anything about it because he’s the captain.
Unfortunately, Grace Lee Whitney gets fired after only one season. And the tl;dr on that producer did not like Kirk being tied down to one woman. And since show creator Gene Roddenberry felt he’d fought back on too many studio notes, he decided to acquiesce to one demand.
So Rand disappears from Enterprise after only one season. Unfortunately, that means her character never benefits from the real-world cultural revolutions of the time. The civil rights movement of the 1960s could have helped push Rand out of her romance-heavy primary character trait. And it could also have moved her away from reacting to alien threats largely by freezing with fear.
Since Rand’s departure, Roddenberry admits he made a mistake firing Whitney. And Whitney has since spoken about being sexually assaulted by an unnamed studio executive. And while Whitney does get to reprise the role of Rand a few times in the movies, those appearances are very brief.
So it’s easy to see how SNW presents an opportunity to give a second life to this woefully undeserved character.
The most exciting part about bringing Rand in early is that we know very little about her. She shows up as Kirk’s new Yeoman but we basically know nothing about her prior to that. So there are a lot of ways we can explore her character. And one of the big ones is why she is a Yeoman.
What’s interesting about Yeoman is they are non-commissioned officers. And while we see them from time to time, the reason why someone chooses to be an NCO is rarely if ever discussed. And one of the best Star Trek characters of all time is an NCO: Chief Miles O’Brien. So just as a start, we can explore the Starfleet Technical Services Academy, what that institution is all about, and what kind of people join Starfleet that way.
And if we have Rand appear on Pike’s Enterprise, she will also be something else — very young. There’s no official birthdate for Rand but at one point there’s a hint she may have been born in 2242. In other words, if she shows up in SNW season three, she will be roughly 18 years old. Which basically makes her a clean slate.
One thing Rand is known for is this huge beehive hairstyle. I don’t want to reduce Rand down to fashion but imagine what SNW’s hair and makeup department could potentially do. Customer designer Bernadette Croft will have a field day.
An Imperfect Hero
One of the most exciting things about Strange New Worlds is how much they let flaws drive characters. M’Benga is a prolific killer in the Klingon War, but that drives him to be an even more dedicated physician. Ortegas is a great pilot, but she also has a lot of built-in bigotry toward Klingons and Romulans. Uhura is brilliant but she works too much to the point of exhaustion.
What makes Rand’s potential inclusion isn’t just where she may excel, but what her shortcomings may be. If she’s on Enterprise at 18, maybe she is a bit of a prodigy. Think of Rand as a second chance at Wesley Crusher. Someone brilliant and messy in equal measure. Since we only know her as Kirk’s Yeoman partway into TOS, it’s entirely possible she actually struggles enough that she has to leave Enterprise for a time.
In the end, bringing in all the other, remaining characters from TOS means losing who we have right now. Bringing in Bones means we lose M’Benga. If Sulu shows up, it’s au revoir Ortegas. And if Chekov turns up, we lose Jenna Mitchell, a character we barely know so far.
But Rand replaces no one. All she does is add a brand-new flavor to the crew. And that alone makes her the best choice for the next TOS character to appear on Strange New Worlds.