For Tricia O’Neil, playing the first Star Trek female captain of the Enterprise in TNG’s Yesterday’s Enterprise was something special.
O’Neil had not been trying to get the role of Rachel Garrett when she got the call to come in and audition for it. “I’d auditioned for other roles on the show. I didn’t get those, but they called me in to play Captain Garrett,” she said.
The actress was ecstatic when she got word that she had won the role. “…When I got the part, I was at home, and I jumped up and down on the coffee table in my living room. I was just elated.
“I knew what that captain’s chair was and when I, Tricia O’Neil, sat in that chair, I understood the importance of it,” said O’Neil. “A lot of people work on these shows — people who build the sets and the props and make the costumes – and the work is so good you can absolutely suspend your disbelief of things. Everything becomes very real and, if you let go of not believing, you can sail right into a whole world. Sitting in that chair as captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, that’s who I was for a week or so. It was an extraordinary experience.”
“So I had the experience of being the captain of a starship,” said O’Neil. “I wear it as a badge of honor that I played the first female captain of the Enterprise.
Rachel Garrett was not the only role played by O’Neil on Star Trek; she later appeared as a Klingon scientist on the TNG episode Suspicions, and as a Cardassian on Deep Space Nine‘s Defiant.
Last fall, O’Neil was a guest at Destination Star Trek London, but her first convention experience was in Los Angeles where she was not a guest, but just there to see what a Trek convention was like. “One time, actually, there was a convention here in Los Angeles,” she explained. “I thought I’d go and look and see what it was like – as a fan, as a person, because I’d always been a fan of Star Trek. I was standing in line to get a ticket and I got almost to the box office and someone behind me said, ‘Captain Rachel Garrett! Captain Rachel Garrett!’ People turned around. I turned around. People just came toward me, and the next thing I knew, the people who were running things there came and got me and took me away. I was mobbed with enthusiasm, and I was so overcome.”
For Destination Star Trek London, now O’Neil was up on the stage in front of the fans. “…I just loved the camaraderie of it and being a part of it,” she said. “And the fans were amazing. They knew more about the characters, especially Rachel Garrett, than I remembered.”
Some U.S. conventions may be in O’Neil’s future. “Richard Arnold came while I was signing some cards and said that there were other ones here, in the U.S.,” said O’Neil, “and would I be interested? I said, ‘Yes.’ It’s a fantastic experience to be part of all of that, part of a legacy like Star Trek. It’s about people’s hopes and wishes, for people all over, everywhere, and they’re joined by their love for Star Trek. It’s almost magical.”