Star Trek: Discovery stars walked the red carpet on Thursday night in New York to celebrate the premiere of season two. We’ll be bringing you interviews from there all week.
One of the cast members we spoke to was Rebecca Romjin, who’ll be taking on the iconic role of Number One, originally played by Majel Barrett in the first Star Trek pilot, “The Cage.”
When you were going in to play Number One, what did they tell you about her and what is she like?
Romijn: Well, I looked up anything I could find on Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, obviously. And the first call I got was, ‘Are you interested in playing an iconic role?’ from The Original Series, and reprising this character. And I jumped, knowing how vast Trek fandom is, and how much I don’t want to disappoint or let anybody down. I was a huge Trekkie as a kid, I watched The Original Series in reruns with my mom—who’s no longer with us, she passed two years ago—and being on the set I was on, which I’m not allowed to talk about, in the gold uniform I was wearing, I was like “ah!” I mean it was emotional for me, actually. Very.
What are your favorite episodes of the original series?
Romijn: Oh god, what were the ones with the little furry creatures … “The Trouble With Tribbles.” I mean, as a kid I loved those.
What characteristics did you bring to Number One as a person?
Romijn: Well you know, she was only in that one episode. So as an actor, you want a certain amount of liberty to help a character unfold, obviously. She’s got a vast skill set, she’s obviously Captain Pike’s number one, second in command, he feels comfortable leaving her in charge of the Enterprise when he’s not there. I don’t even think we know how vast her skill set is, I think there’s a lot of exploration to do. She knows her shit. I want her to be a little bit of a fast-talking dame, in a way. It was fun. It was really fun to play her.
Do you have scenes with characters other than Pike?
Romijn: Yes. Yes I do.
Can you tell us which ones?
Romijn: No! I feel so scared to reveal anything, like … the number of letters we’ve gotten and emails, I was scared to post anything on Instagram. I can’t say anything.
(Asked by another interviewer) Everyone talks about the responsibility of stepping into an iconic character like Spock, was it the same for you stepping into the role of Number One?
Romijn: Weirdly, yes, although Ethan Peck doing Spock – that was daunting for him. He nails it. He’s not going to let anybody down. He’s so good. You know, it’s not the first time I’ve been part of a franchise where I step into a character that already existed, and again, as an actor you want some freedom, but you’re also, in the back of your head, not wanting to disappoint, so that’s always there.
(Asked by another interviewer) Will we see Number One in several episodes?
Romijn: Yes. But I can’t be more specific than that, I’m so sorry!
Can you tell us how soon we’ll see her?
Romijn: Not tonight? (winces) I don’t know what I’m allowed to say at this point, but they asked me not to be more specific than that, sorry. I’m annoyed too, all I want to do is talk about it.
What’s been the most fun part of being on the show for you?
Romijn: I think the first time I put on that gold uniform. I cried.
More from the season 2 premiere
There is more to come from our red carpet coverage of the season 2 premiere in NYC.
Star Trek: Discovery is available exclusively in the USA on CBS All Access. It airs in Canada on Space and streams on CraveTV. It is available on Netflix everywhere else. The second season debuted on All Access and Space on Thursday, January 17th, 2019, and on Netflix January 18, 2019.
Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery news at TrekMovie.
Being quite the Mystique
How is a character who only appeared in one rejected pilot, who’s primary role was painfully beautiful breeding stock, iconic?
Very good question. I can only reply with my experience. I was about 11 or 12 when I saw a tv guide from the local newspaper with Kirk and Spock on the cover. I ran off with it and read the story about the new show over and over again. I was a dorky tomboy type of kid who read all the sci fi she could get her hands on. When the show was aired at last (I think I begged and begged we watch it on the family tv set) I was blown away by the amazing concept of a female second in command. I’d never seen such a thing, even in ‘youth’ sci fi books. (Except for Meg in Wrinkle in Time). All these decades later I still remember that one episode and how it made me feel.
The “rejected pilot” was repurposed into two episodes of the first season. Number One then appeared in novels and comic books over the years. If you’re new to Star Trek, the 50 Year Mission by Altman & Gross provides a good overview.
Appearantly you need to go back and watch the cage if you didn’t get that.
Well that was how the Talosians described her. To the crew though she was a highly skilled officer, next in line of command to Pike and had this gone forward as is, would have been a massive step forward for female representation, but unfortunately this was one of the elements the corporate side was uncomfortable with back then.
Hauke Fischer… “this was one of the elements the corporate side was uncomfortable with back then”
That’s Gene Roddenberry’s cover story. Majel was his mistress and that was an open secret at the studio. No way was NBC going to allow her to keep such a prominent role.
Quite simply, you’re wrong. Her primary role in the pilot was as exec officer on the Enterprise. Majel Lee Hudec (as named at the time) was a striking presence in the episode and certainly not played as glamorous. To me, she’s reminiscent one of those wonderfully brisk, efficient schoolteachers I had at a Catholic school in the 80s who really weren’t bothered with girlie nonsense. In fact, Rebecca Romijn seems almost too pretty for the role, although I’m going by stills and her performance will be the key. Majel Lee Hudec’s Number One was attractive in a distinctive, different way and her authoritative voice and manner cut through any bs. She was a character I regret not seeing again in the show or movies.
Well into The Cage, the character is abducted by the Talosians to be used as breeding stock. That was not her function in the episode, so I presume your statement is simply made to goad a reaction out of people.
Certainly, Number One was one of the most memorable things I remember from the pilot, watching it on VHS in colour and black-and-white in the 1980s.
I’m glad to see the character back and look forward to seeing how the new actress will portray her. I’ve already got to like Anson Mount as the less shellshocked, less broken Pike we saw in the pilot.
Iconic is a word that is overused. Not to take anything away from personal nostalgia, but to the public at large, Spock is probably the only character iconic to Trek, though there’s an argument to be made for Kirk or ‘space, the final frontier’. Number One don’t meet that standard anymore then the Horta does. Please, don’t confuse questioning the use of iconic with the characters inclusion in Dicsovery. There’s no issue using a character where canon says her captain will never get used to ‘having a woman on the bridge’. I doubt we’ll see sexist Pike on Discovery.
I actually agree with you Phil about the iconic part. To long time fans and TOS fans especially she’s probably ‘iconic’. To non Trek fans or even casual viewers they probably never heard of her or see her as just another character because frankly she is. She was literally in one episode like Pike was. They are only iconic because Trek fandom is weird lol. Some consider characters like Chekhov as considered ‘iconic’ and you know maybe five things about the guy over 50 years later.
As far as Pike and Number one to everyone else they were just those characters in that one episode from 50 years ago and nothing more than that. Pike has become more famous today and that’s also due to the Kelvin movies where he was introduced to a new generation of fans. But even in those movies he’s mostly treated like another character and not given the fan fare like Kirk and the others were given.
Questioning the character’s icon status is one thing, but whittling down the historical facts that she appeared in 2 iconic episodes down to she only appeared in an unaired pilot is beneath your rhetorical skills and totally unnecessary in making your salient point.
Nah Number One knew her s*it.
Sounds like we will see the bridge of the Enterrise given how coy she is about “the set” they are working on. Let’s hope they don’t mess it up else don’t show it at all…
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I heard it’s terrible.
Great to hear she is a fan though some nice callouts
They really need to give these actors some leeway for interviews. It’s like it will be the end of the world for them if they talk.
Well, how else are they supposed to keep you waiting for the last minutes of the last episode in the season without the tease of seeing the Enterprise bridge?
It would be really cool if the Enterprise ends up coming to the rescue at some point in the season.
Timewise, Kirk would be on the USS Farragut right now. Seeing that he and Spock seem to be good friends by the beginning of TOS, they must have met earlier. And the Farragut is in deep space right now. I know, the chances are slim, but it would be great if they introduced Kirk, had him meet and befriend Spock and maybe even see him interact with Pike and Burnham, learning a bit about how to be a good captain and maybe vowing that he’ll serve on the Enterprise at one point. There’s so much potential in this show, it’s just incredible.
Which brings up the question… do they recast Kirk or use the actor from the JJ verse movies. I know different universe but why would Kirk’s DNA have changed?
Since they recast Spock and didn’t use Quinto, I assume they would recast Kirk and not use Pine. Besides, Pine would probably be too expensive. Personally, I’d like to see someone else take a stab at it, although Pine does a pretty good job.
They also recast Pike.
And Kirk would be in his 20s here.
Pine is too old now and he’s fine as an alternate universe Kirk. The ‘stack of books on legs’ version of Kirk would need someone else I suspect. Contractually, I doubt they’d be allowed to use the same actors anyway.
The general assumption from the Star Trek Chronology is that Where No Man Has Gone Before is set a year into the five year mission and The Corbomite Maneuver a year after that, so Kirk and Spock likely didn’t associate before the start of that particular mission.
@Dom — huh? What 5 year mission are you referencing? There’s nothing in canon that prevents Kirk and Spock from meeting prior to either of those episodes, nor any episode we see in TOS. Given that Kirk succeeded Pike, having them meet prior to Kirk’s appointment could explain a lot. Kirk might be the youngest starship captain because Pike was so impressed with him, and recommended him specifically to replace him. The easy relationship he and Spock have throughout TOS suggests Spock too embraced Pike’s endorsement of Kirk, likely because he already had some experience with him.
DISC could do worse than introduce us to beginnings of the Kirk/Spock relationship.
I have said this before, nothing in Discovery stops them from introducing everyone in TOS if they wanted because we know so little about their lives prior to that show. I’m guessing there has been tons of novels that has expanded their lives prior to serving on the Enterprise but in terms of canon its really scant.
So you’re right, it doesn’t stop them from introducing them together on this show. I HOPE they don’t do that though because it will feel like more fan pandering and too much emphasis on TOS then it would be about Discovery. But I wouldn’t be remotely shocked if that happens, especially if CBS feels they have to hook more viewers in.
Don’t forget Starfleet has hundred of thousands of officers and crewmen; possibly millions across vast amounts of the galaxy. The death count at Wolf 351 was enormous on its own, but Starfleet continued running in spite of it. The chance of two people from different planets casually associating before being assigned to the same ship is infinitesimal.
The five year mission I’m referencing is the one in the voiceover of almost every Kirk episode, including those episodes I mentioned.
There’s indeed nothing to prevent Kirk and Spock meeting and becoming friends before, but it’s unlikely for the reasons I’ve given. It’s running into ‘small universe’ territory if everyone was each other’s mother’s sister’s uncle’s father… ;)
I actually agree with you too Dom!
But yeah don’t be shocked if they indeed do it and it becomes exactly as you said and it turns into the small universe syndrome. That’s exactly why I don’t too many TOS crossovers because it will feel like everyone just know everyone. Staments hinted he knew someone on Enterprise which a lot of fans are theorizing its Sulu. It may not be, but don’t be shocked if we somehow find out it is.
I’m actually betting we are going to see more TOS characters this season then they have announced. They are just saving those for cameo surprises.
My guess would be Scotty. Plenty of deuterocanon has him working in a junior rank in Enterprise engineering, boarding at the same time as Spock, so it would make sense that he might know Stamets professionally or perhaps from their academy days. He’d also be involved in repairing the ship in this season of Discovery.
I can easily believe that some TOS characters were assigned to the Big E before Kirk arrived. I suspect Sulu might be too young in the Discovery period, the same as Uhura, Chekov, Rand and Chapel. I suppose a younger Bones could be working for Dr Boyce, but I’ve always had the impression Kirk and Bones were friends elsewhere years before the five year mission and Bones eventually took over from Mark Piper.
Based on their relationship in the 2nd pilot it looks like they have been together for a bit, but the friendship had yet to fully develop. How long was Kirk captain at the start of the show? It felt like he was there for a year or so already at least.
These days, any plot twist can be accidentally blown with a slip of the tongue and be spread all over the world in seconds, thanks to the web.
In fact, watching an old Twilight Zone episode for the first time a while back, I suddenly remembered reading – thirty years ago – what the twist at the end of the story was in Alan Asherman’s Star Trek Compendium. So spoilers can linger for an awful long time and catch a viewer unawares. ;)
I hope they finally give her a name.
How about Majel?
Her Beta Canon name is Una, the DSC novel Desperate Hours used that as her name as well. Since the novels and show are informing each other where possible, it’s very likely they’ll go with that.
I hope they don’t. Una is kind of on the nose, isn’t it? “Number One” named “Una”? Ugh.
Looking forward to seeing her performance!
OMG. I just simply adore her. Can we please just hurry up and greenlight a Star Trek series with her, Anson, and Ethan?
Yes! If Anson Mount’s performance in the Season 2 premier is any indication, a series featuring Pike’s five year mission on the Enterprise could be fantastic. I’m far more interested in something like that than I am the Georgiou/Section 31 show.
Why not have both? CBS All Access is already halfway to being rebranded “The Star Trek Channel” anyway.
(Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, mind you.)
Yes, I was thinking the same. I’ve always wanted to see more adventures with the original crew and this seems like a good way to dip their toes in the water
Could Jose Tyler related to Ash Tyler, one wonders…
Such a shame it isn’t ‘the’ gold uniform.