It was through Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future that she would make her mark on popular culture. A mainstay of the Trekverse from the beginning, Whitney first appeared as Captain Kirk’s personal assistant during the first season of the original Star Trek. Appearing only in eight of the first thirteen episodes, she was fired from the role early on. About her termination, she said “They wanted William Shatner to have romances in each episode with a different person, because for him to be stuck with one woman was not good for him and it wasn’t good for the audience. That’s what they told me, so I was written out.”
Whitney later admitted that she turned to amphetamines in an attempt to stay thin, and that she turned to alcohol to cope with her frustration and anger following her release from the show. The most shocking revelation, however, came from her memoir, The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy, in which she revealed that she was sexually assaulted by one of the show’s producers, an executive at Desilu. Like other members of the iconic cast, she would go on to credit Leonard Nimoy, who died in February, as a source of support during her troubles.
She returned to the Trek franchise in large part due to the legions of devoted Trek fans who, as the show went into syndicated reruns during the 1970s, would routinely ask about her at conventions. Thanks in part to DeForest Kelly, who portrayed Leonard “Bones” McCoy, she appeared in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. She also appeared on an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, and in two Star Trek fan films released online.
Originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, Whitney began her entertainment career at age 14, appearing on local radio as a singer. She would later work nightclubs in Chicago, opening for legends like Billie Holiday and Buddy Rich. Her varied career included Broadway theatrical roles, appearances in the Billy Wilder Films Some Like It Hot and Irma la Douce, several musical projects, and more than 100 television roles. She was also the first model for the Chicken of the Sea mermaid.
As news of her death spread, tributes to Whitney poured in on Twitter from fans and fellow actors alike, including William Shatner, James T. Kirk himself.
Whitney had lived in Coursegold since 1993, where she often worked as an advocate for people struggling with substance abuse. She is survived by her son, Jonathan Dweck.