Grace Lee Whitney, a.k.a. Yeoman Janice Rand, passes away at 85

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May 4, 2015, 11:18 AM EDT

In another blow for Star Trek fandom, Grace Lee Whitney, who played Yeoman Janice Rand on the classic TV series, passed away on May 3. She was 85.

Janice Rand appeared in only eight episodes of the first season of Star Trek; her character, who had a crush on Capt. Kirk, was phased out in order to give Kirk more leeway as a galactic stud. 

In her autobiography, The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy, she said that Leonard Nimoy was her acting coach in the first weeks of filming. She was raped by an executive of Star Trek, then dismissed less than a week later as a "creative decision."

As a result of her dismissal, Star Trek.com wrote, Whitney "slipp[ed] into an abyss of drugs and alcohol that left her, quite literally, on Hollywood's Skid Row. She finally got help, found God, and reclaimed her life and career, with an assist from Leonard Nimoy, and spent decades helping others overcome their own addictions."

According to the Washington Post, Whitney wrote in her autobiography, "The one person who really reached out to me after I was written out of 'Star Trek' was Leonard Nimoy," she wrote. "He was the only one who really knew how much I was hurting."

However, a chance meeting with DeForest Kelley--on the unemployment line in Ventura, Calif. --let her know her Star Trek career was not over: Trek fans had asked for her at conventions, and she began making appearances.

Over time, she not only reprised her role in The Motion Picture, The Search for Spock, The Voyage Home and The Undiscovered Country (promoted to Cmdr. Janice Rand), but also appeared in the (extremely good) fan films Worlds Enough and Time and Of Gods and Men.

David Gerrold, writer of beloved Star Trek episode "The Trouble With Tribbles," told Blastr, "I loved Grace so much. She'd been through a lot, she bounced back strong. I never saw her when she wasn't smiling. ...

"What I remember the most about Grace is that wherever she was, she just seemed to glow with her own joy and happiness. After all she'd been through, every day must have seemed like a gift to her."

Whitney's career included such varied roles as the first Chicken of the Sea mermaid, a member of the all-female band in Some Like It Hot and an uncredited appearance in first color 3-D horror film, The House of Wax.