Chapel abandoned a career in bio-research for a position in Starfleet, in the hopes that a deep-space assignment would one day reunite her with her fiancé, Dr. Roger Korby – a scientist of renown, incommunicado from his expedition to Exo III since 2261.
On stardate 2712.4, the Enterprise reached Exo III. Korby was found, exploring and exploiting a sophisticated android manufacturing technology, the legacy of a long-dead civilization. Korby had replaced his own damaged body, transplanting his personality into an android replica, and had built himself a beautiful companion, Andrea. After exhibiting his madness, the android Korby was destroyed. Initially, Chapel doubted if she should stay aboard, but she elected to remain with the Enterprise throughout the five-year mission. (TOS: "What Are Little Girls Made Of?")
By 2267, there were occasional times when Chapel was called upon to help other doctors, sometimes with McCoy being the patient. She also knew when it was a good idea to be supportive of Dr. McCoy, even when others questioned whether he could be entirely reliable. On stardate 3478.2, such an event happened. When Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty and Lieutenant Arlene Galway contracted a mysterious rapid-aging syndrome on planet Gamma Hydra IV, due to radiation left by a passing comet, Chapel was called upon to help the visiting Dr. Janet Wallace in an effort to help comfort, if not cure, Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty and Lt. Galway (unfortunately, before a cure was discovered, Galway died of old age). Later, when Dr. McCoy, with Spock's help, figured out that it was increased adrenaline levels that had kept Ensign Pavel Chekov from developing the syndrome, Chapel instinctively knew that McCoy would be able to figure out an antidote for the rapid-aging syndrome in time for him to cure himself, Kirk, Spock and Scotty. She stood up for McCoy even while that wisdom was questioned by Dr. Wallace and visiting Commodore Stocker, but also still let it be known that Dr. Wallace could be of great assistance to her and Dr. McCoy. Sure enough, Chapel's wisdom was borne out when McCoy did find the antidote in time to save himself, Kirk, Spock and Scotty. (TOS: "The Deadly Years")
In 2268, though, there were times both when Dr. McCoy greatly confused Chapel, as well as when she was put into danger. On stardate 4657.5, Chapel was in the Enterprise sickbay when McCoy and the Kelvan Tomar brought in Spock, from the surface of a Class M planet where a landing party had met the Kelvans. McCoy told Chapel that Spock was close to dying, though she could tell that wasn't true. This was a ruse by both McCoy and Spock, on the orders of Kirk, because Kirk wanted them on the ship, to help stop the Kelvans from taking the ship to the Andromeda Galaxy, and Spock had put himself into a Vulcan vacation trance to trick the Kelvans into thinking he was truly gravely ill. McCoy had to hint to Chapel to keep quiet. She did take the hint but remained confused. On stardate 4658.9, the Kelvans still hijacked the Enterprise to return to the Andromeda Galaxy and Dr. McCoy complained to Kirk that he had watched four of his best doctors and nurses, including Chapel, be neutralized and reduced into dehydrated porous cuboctahedron solids, the size of a human fist, composed of their base minerals, which represented the "distilled" essences of their being. The Kelvans considered them non-essential personnel. Chapel and the other doctors and nurses were reconstituted, after Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Scotty, the only four not neutralized, regained control of the Enterprise. (TOS: "By Any Other Name")
On stardate 5029.5, when children from the Starnes Exploration Party were on board the Enterprise, she cared for and entertained them. She also was the first to notice how the children didn't cry for their recently deceased parents. She reported this observation to Dr. McCoy. (TOS: "And the Children Shall Lead")
On two separate occasions, Chapel displayed excellent skills as a lab assistant. On stardate 5693.2, she assisted Dr. McCoy in developing a diluted theragen derivative to cure mental degradation effects caused by an interphase as the Enterprise was passing through Tholian space. She also assisted McCoy by administering the cure throughout the ship and helping him, in the transporter room, in administering the tri-ox compound to Kirk, after he was beamed aboard from the USS Defiant. On stardate 5710.5, Chapel assisted Spock and McCoy in synthesizing an agent to counteract hyper-acceleration effects of Scalosian water. (TOS: "The Tholian Web", "Wink of an Eye")
Relationship with Spock
Even while she still sought to locate Korby, Chapel was deeply infatuated with the Enterprise's half-Vulcan science officer, Spock. While her attraction never interfered with her professional duties, it was an ongoing source of tension and bemusement throughout the five-year mission.
Initially, Chapel kept these feelings to herself. However, when the Psi 2000 intoxication afflicted the crew of the Enterprise, Chapel admitted her love for Spock, who was shocked:
- "I'm in love with you, Mr. Spock. You, the Human Mr. Spock... the Vulcan Mr. Spock.... I see things... how honest you are. I know how you feel. You hide it, but you do have feelings. Oh, how we must hurt you... torture you."
Chapel insisted that Spock address her by her first name, as opposed to her title, which he resisted. Chapel was unaware that Spock's inability to react to her emotionally was further complicated by his betrothal to T'Pring. Leading him to the ceremony in which his fiancée rejected him in favor of a different suitor, Spock underwent a period of intense emotional outbursts: a blood fever known as pon farr. Chapel characteristically doted after the Vulcan, preparing plomeek soup, a traditional Vulcan broth. The experience allowed them to discuss, even if briefly, Chapel's confession of love. Despite his acknowledged inability to return her affections, he did refer to her as Christine for the first time. (TOS: "The Naked Time", "Amok Time")
Chapel's longing for Spock was well-known among crew members, and noted openly by Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy on a number of occasions. During Spock's recovery after a near-death experience on Neural, fellow medical officer Dr. M'Benga caught Chapel tenderly holding Spock's hand while watching his recovery on the medical panel atop his bed. M'Benga was sympathetic, despite Chapel's attempt to hide her feelings. Chapel later pro-actively aided Spock by secretly holding his consciousness to keep him from being destroyed by Henoch. (TOS: "A Private Little War", "Return to Tomorrow")
Three years after confessing her love to Spock, Chapel finally shared a kiss with him. Unfortunately, the situation was forced by powerful telekinetics, compelling Chapel to admit that, despite her long-standing desire to be close with the Vulcan, all she wanted to do, given the humiliation of the situation, was "crawl away and die." (TOS: "Plato's Stepchildren")
On stardate 5483.7 when under the influence of the women of planet two of the Taurean system, the male crew members of the Enterprise were incapacitated by the siren's song. Lieutenant Uhura took command of the vessel, and assigned Chapel to acting chief medical officer. They led an all-female landing party down to the planet's surface to rescue Captain Kirk, Spock, and Dr. McCoy. (TAS: "The Lorelei Signal")
At some point prior to stardate 5577.5, Chapel had acquired a titanium bracelet made by the metalsmiths of Libra, which she occasionally wore while on duty. This braclet would prove to be an important piece of information for Spock to form a hypothesis that would end up helping the whole crew of the Enterprise. (TAS: "The Terratin Incident")
On stardate 5577.5, after the Enterprise was struck by a flash of light coming from a planet in the Cepheus star system that temporarily paralized the crew, including Chapel, the whole crew started shrinking and be miniaturized to fingernail length at 1/16th of an inch in height. On 5577.6, Spock took note that Chapel's titanium bracelet stayed the same mass, as their uniforms were shrinking at a proportional rate as their bodies. Spock hypothesized correctly that their Starfleet uniforms that were made of an algae based material known as xenylon was why biological and naturally made material objects were also shrinking, but not the ship itself or other totally man-made material objects. A short-time later, after Lieutenant Sulu fell from the helm station, on the bridge, in an accident and broke his right leg and was taken to sickbay by Kirk and Lieutenant Arex, Chapel fretted that they couldn't use their bone-knitting laser that was now too large. Chapel then had an idea that McCoy thought was a great idea that they could use the microscope laser they used to heal the inner ear to do the surgery to reset and heal Sulu's leg. Chapel would be proven correct about that, but unfortunately due to her shrinking size, when she was trying to bring the microscope laser from the medical cabinet so McCoy could use it in the surgery she tripped on knitting-needle, that had also stayed the same large size, and fell into the sickbay's fish aquarium and nearly drowned. Fortunately for Chapel, Kirk was able to save her. Later she was part of the crew that helped to rescue the Terra 10 colony's mutant descendants from the unstable planet that they were located on and relocate them to a more stable planet in the galaxy. Chapel was returned to her normal height, along with the rest of the crew by use of the transporter saving their original molecular structure in the pattern buffers. (TAS: "The Terratin Incident")
At some point following the events on Dramia II (TAS: "Albatross"), Chapel was able to complete her medical degree. Chapel returned to the Enterprise at the end of its refit, as chief medical officer.
Upon the return of Dr. McCoy during the V'Ger crisis, he explained to Kirk that he was "going to need a top nurse not a doctor who will argue every little diagnosis with me."
In 2286, she was stationed at Starfleet Headquarters, where she coordinated relief efforts while Earth was suffering a severe ecological "attack" from an orbiting space probe. (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)
|Chief medical officers of the starships Enterprise|
|USS Enterprise:||April • Boyce • Piper • McCoy • Chapel|
|USS Enterprise-D:||Crusher • Pulaski • Ogawa|
|ISS Enterprise NX-01:||Phlox|
|ISS Enterprise (NCC-1701):||McCoy|
|USS Enterprise (alternate reality):||Puri • McCoy|
- "The Naked Time" (TOS Season 1)
- "What Are Little Girls Made Of?"
- "Operation -- Annihilate!"
- "Amok Time" (TOS Season 2)
- "The Changeling"
- "The Deadly Years"
- "Journey to Babel"
- "A Private Little War"
- "The Immunity Syndrome"
- "By Any Other Name"
- "Return to Tomorrow"
- "Elaan of Troyius" (TOS Season 3)
- "The Paradise Syndrome"
- "The Enterprise Incident"
- "And the Children Shall Lead"
- "Spock's Brain"
- "The Tholian Web"
- "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky"
- "Plato's Stepchildren"
- "Wink of an Eye"
- "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"
- "The Lights of Zetar"
- "The Way to Eden"
- "Turnabout Intruder"
- Star Trek films
The character of Christine Chapel was created by Gene Roddenberry, intending the part to be played by Majel Barrett, with whom the married Roddenberry was having an affair. The creation of the recurring role was Roddenberry's solution to pressure that Barrett frequently put on him, as she was insistent that she play a regular character on Star Trek, even though executives at the television network NBC had fired her as Number One in the unaired original pilot "The Cage". As an executive producer on the original series of Star Trek, Roddenberry planned to ensure that the resultant character of Chapel would definitely recur. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, paperback ed., p. 224)
In his reference book The World of Star Trek (3rd ed., p. 28), writer David Gerrold reckoned that Chapel "was obviously created specifically" to love Spock and went on to say, "The need to dramatize Spock's Vulcan aloofness requires that a woman fall in love with him and be continually rebuffed. Hence, Nurse Chapel."
Majel Barrett saw her opportunity to further appear in Star Trek by auditioning for the role of Chapel. "I wanted to be a part of it so badly, and I kept watching the scripts that came in, and when this episode ['The Naked Time'] came in, my mind started to go in different directions," Barrett recollected. "So I bleached my hair and waited for Gene [Roddenberry] to come in and take notice of it." (Star Trek Monthly issue 27, p. 44) Barrett, whose hair was now bleached blond, awaited Roddenberry in his office. "I sat there talking to his secretary, Penny, and Gene walked in. He looked at me and at Penny, said, 'Good morning,' and walked in the door....I kept on talking to Penny, and pretty soon Gene came out again, put some papers on Penny's desk, sort of smiled at me, turned around, and walked back in his office. Then the double take happened. He opened the door and said, 'Majel?!' And I said, 'By God, if I could fool you, I can fool NBC.''" (Star Trek - Where No One Has Gone Before, p. 21) Roddenberry agreed. Concluded Barrett, "He said, 'Yes, you can' [....] You just don't come back again when they fire you once, but I so much wanted to be a part of this show." (Star Trek Monthly issue 27, p. 44) Christine Chapel was thereafter played by Barrett.
An issue which frustrated the show's producers, notably Robert Justman, as well as Majel Barrett herself was that the character of Chapel was not fleshed out. (Star Trek Magazine issue 144, p. 14) For instance, little canonical information exists about Chapel's life outside of her career in Starfleet. Just after seeing the first footage of Barrett in the role, Justman realized that he didn't much like the performance. He addressed this problem with Gene Roddenberry in the latter's office, saying that Barrett "seemed awkward" in the part. "Gene just smiled," Justman remembered, "as he always did when I told him something he didn't particularly want to hear [....] 'I thought she was fine,' he responded. 'Maybe a little nervous this time, but she'll work out great. It's a new character for her, and she'll get even better as she goes along. I like her a lot in this role.' Pushing him further wouldn't work. But I continued to needle him about it from time to time. His response was always the same: a smile, a short remonstration that she was 'fine' in the role, and then a change of subject. I stopped needling him about it after finally becoming aware of their relationship. Years later, I realized it wasn't the actress I disliked, it was the role. Nurse Chapel was a wimpy, badly written, and ill-conceived character." He particularly found fault with Chapel repeatedly pining for another character – whether it be Spock, as is the case in "The Naked Time", or Roger Korby in "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, pp. 224-225) Expressing similar sentiments, Barrett confessed, "I didn't care that much for Nurse Chapel, to tell you the truth. She really wasn't that exciting a person or that exciting a character for an actress to play." (Star Trek Monthly issue 38, p. 39) Clarified Barrett, "I was happy with what I did, except there wasn't that much to do. It wasn't that satisfying, but in those days, I couldn't talk Gene into doing any more; again, I was a woman, and they had already fired me once, so I wasn't given too much to do." (Star Trek Monthly issue 27, p. 44)
The script of "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" includes the following description of Chapel; "She's a strong, calm woman, very much in control of herself which emphasizes only more for us the flickers of emotions that do occasionally show through." Also, as scripted for that episode, Chapel's abandonment of a career in bio-research was stated to have been specifically for a position aboard the Enterprise, though this ultimately changed to being an assignment aboard a generic vessel.  Regarding Majel Barrett's appearance as Chapel in "What Are Little Girls Made Of?", Robert Justman critiqued, "The close-up shots of her eyes misting over and lower lip quivering were beautifully photographed by cameraman Jerry Finnerman, who used special lighting and diffusion lenses. But this only served to emphasize the lack of character written into the character." (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, p. 225)
According to Herb Solow, NBC did notice Chapel was portrayed by the same actress whom they had already fired. Solow related that – while he was screening a rough edit of "The Naked Time" for a group of NBC execs, well before the series was broadcast – NBC Vice President Herb Schlosser asked him who the performer was, a question Solow agreed to answer later. When they were alone after the screening, Schlosser repeated the inquiry and, upon Solow revealing the name of the actress, the NBC executive realized it was the same controversial performer. Schlosser was therefore initially puzzled about why the Star Trek producers hadn't cast a different actress for the part. "This was one of those times when the truth would be painful for all concerned," stated Solow. "I answered quickly, 'Putting together a cast is like forming an orchestra. Individual actors are unimportant; it's an ensemble thing.'" Schlosser then correctly assumed that Barrett's casting as Chapel was due to her having an affair with someone who had a lot of influence in the Star Trek production team, a suspicion that Solow didn't confirm until after the series had been airing for a while. Also according to him, the news within NBC that the portrayal of Chapel involved Barrett returning to Star Trek led Jerry Stanley – another executive at the television network – to yodel, "Well, well – look who's back." (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, pp. 224 & 233) Barrett herself claimed, "For three years, NBC never knew it was the same person." (Star Trek Monthly issue 27, p. 44)
Christine Chapel proved to be highly unpopular among some fans of Star Trek's original series. "It was because of her love for Spock and his occasional moments of gentleness toward her that Christine Chapel was largely disliked among the Trekkies who adored Spock," explained David Gerrold. "Female fans saw her as a threat to their own fantasies and male fans saw her as a threat to Spock's Vulcan stoicism." However, the fans who met Majel Barrett were often surprised by how beautiful she was. Gerrold concluded, "They just couldn't see it in her as Chapel because of the relationship between her and Spock." (The World of Star Trek, 3rd ed., p. 28)
In Star Trek: The Animated Series, the voice for the character of Chapel was provided by Majel Barrett, reprising the role from TOS.
Christine Chapel was intended to be included in the ultimately aborted television series Star Trek: Phase II, in which her promotion to doctor was planned to be established. The Writers'/Directors' Guide for that series said of the character, "Introduced in Star Trek I as Nurse Chapel, her medical degrees have been accepted by Starfleet, and she has returned to the U.S.S. Enterprise to serve as McCoy's associate. She is second in command of the ship's medical section, and McCoy seems to enjoy passing on to her every duty he finds too boring, irritating or annoying to himself. Yet outside of Captain Kirk, she is probably McCoy's closest confidante. An expert in psychotherapy, she has unusual ability to teach patients how to use the healing powers of their own bodies." (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 119)
In character notes that Gene Roddenberry wrote for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Chapel was mentioned in the note about Dr. McCoy and was described as being influenced by the fact that McCoy was dealing with a great deal of pressure at the time of the film, even to the point of almost causing him to suffer a nervous breakdown. The section regarding Chapel stated, "[She] must take on an overly large portion of the load of treating the sick, and is likewise subject to breakage." (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 102) Majel Barrett was delighted that, in The Motion Picture, Chapel was promoted to doctor status and that she herself was not required to ruin her hair by dying it blond to match her TOS appearances as Chapel. In the film, Barrett's portrayal of Chapel was partly based on the description of the character from the Writers'/Directors' Guide for Phase II. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 119) Her appearance in The Motion Picture is in keeping with the fact that long hairstyles were disallowed in that film. (The Making of Star Trek, p. 142) However, Majel Barrett had qualms about her appearance as Chapel in The Motion Picture, confessing, "I really didn't consider my work in the first one to be that great an experience." (Starlog #116)
In the script for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Chapel is described as a "Starfleet Medical Officer whose history in Star Trek is known to all." The same script features her in a short, ultimately excised scene. Set in the Federation Council Chamber, the scene details Commander Chapel meeting with Sarek upon his arrival there. She thanks him for coming but admits to being unsure whether he is too late to testify at the then-ongoing trial of Admiral Kirk and the senior crew of the Enterprise.  Noted Majel Barrett, "I just had a couple of lines with Sarek, so it was really nothing of consequence." However, Barrett also considered that this scene would have been her "only real scene" in the movie. Chapel's role in Star Trek IV is so minimal that Barrett hypothesized, "If no one had called me Commander Chapel, the audience wouldn't really know that I was there." Longing to have more involvement in Star Trek, she proclaimed, "Somewhere Chapel got lost." On the other hand, Barrett also related about her brief inclusion in Star Trek IV, "I am grateful for having been in it after not being in Star Trek II or III [....] I loved it, I had such a great time." (Starlog #116)
Simon and Schuster's officially licensed Star Trek: Starship Creator interactive software, written by production staffer Michael Okuda, lists some supplemental biographical details on Chapel. It mentions she is the child of Lauren Chapel and Patterson Chapel of New Orleans, Louisiana, Earth, and has an interest in ballet. Other information includes a birth date in 2237, Starfleet Medical Academy Nursing Degree in 2266, and doctorate by 2271. She graduated in the 98th percentile of her class, with degrees in bioresearch, medical archeology, and endocrinology. It assigns her original rank as a "brevet" (or provisional) ensign, and states that she rose to become the director of Starfleet Emergency Operations by the time of her Star Trek IV appearance.
In Peter David's New Frontier novel Renaissance, Scotty mistakes one of the characters, Morgan Primus, the mother of Robin Lefler, as "Christine". It was also suggested in that series that Primus was actually Christopher Pike's "Number One". This mistaken identification was a joke referring to the fact that both roles were played by the same actress.
- Christine Chapel at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- Christine Chapel at Wikipedia
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