Christine Chapel

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Name: Christine Chapel
Occupation: head nurse, became a doctor during the movies
Relationships: Roger Korby (fiancé), Spock (crush), Uhura (friend)
Fandom: Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
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inside art from Interphase #4, Connie Faddis

Christine Chapel is a recurring character in Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Animated Series and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. She also appears as Dr Chapel in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. She was played by Majel Barrett in TOS and Jess Bush in SNW. In ST:XI and ST:XII she is mentioned in dialog.

She has a canonical unrequited crush on Spock.

The Fanon Chapel: TOS

The Chapel in fanon, naturally, is given much more agency than the one in canon.

Fanworks have portrayed in a variety of ways:

Some Fannish Reaction to Chapel

The Original Series

Fans tend to have strong feelings regarding Christine. Some feel she is a strong character who could hold her own, some enjoy her unrequited love towards Spock, others dislike her passivity.

Chapel was perhaps the least popular character in the zine era TOS fandom. Among the reasons for their dislike of her fans cited not being a well-written character, having a weak/passive/stereotypically feminine personality, replacing more interesting Number One and her crush on Spock being annoying.

Back in the days of Classic Trek, the least popular character was Christine Chapel, because she almost never got to do anything but aim lovelorn stares at Spock, who had nothing to say to her but 'I'm sorry.' [1]

Some fans, however, reported changing their attitude towards Chapel with time:

For years I was an ardent disliker of Christine Chapel until I tried to analyze why. I came to the conclusion that I wasn't reacting so much to her character or personality as I was to the way she was treated by the other characters. It was usually "Nurse Chapel, leave us" or "If you can't assist me, Nurse, I'll call someone else," Does anyone remember the "Changling" when Kirk and Spock rushed into Sickbay after Nomad had broken into Kirk's files? McCoy plunked the unconscious nurse into a chair where she stayed until the end of the scene. She deserved better than that. She had, after all, been injured while trying to stop Nomad. Other shows (and I can cite quite a few) depicted her as a very admirable lady. She had a lot of emotional sensitivity along with her obvious efficiency. She was, after all, usually McCoy's extra right hand even if he didn't always appreciate it. I found very little to fault and much to like about her character. As a result I have revised my early opinion of her and am now a fan. [2]

Inconsistent quality of writing the Chapel character often gets mentioned in the discussions of her. A fan in 1977 wrote:

Thank goodness something is to be done (in the film) with Christine Chapel. Never was a character more used and abused. One minute she's an excellent nurse with a witty, intelligent turn of speech, the next she's a goggle-eyed, wishy-washy, incapable, lovesick male chauvonist's dream girl. How can scriptwriters and those responsible for character continuity allow such a thing? How could Majel Barrett allow her character to be so mutilated? It's inconceivable that such a strong-willed woman as would search the galaxy for a lost fiance should waste herself on Spock. He isn't her type, if Corby is any guide. He [Spock] doesn't love her, he pities her, tolerating her out of politeness. I don't believe she loves him either. I think the revelation of the truth surrounding her fiance shattered her, made her so unwilling to trust another man that she latched on to the only 'safe bet' - Spock. She could direct her feelings at him, knowing he wouldn't take her up on it, wouldn't betray her, wouldn't hurt her. She'd run a mile if he tried to start something, witness her reaction in Amok Time. And the fact she was so obviously interested in him would deter any other man from making an approach, so she was doubly safe. I hope she breaks free of him when he's served his purpose, and finds true love elsewhere. She's had enough heartbreak without burdening herself with a lifetime's toil and anguish on Spock's behalf. Set her free, you lot, she deserves it. Let her be happy. [3]

A fan in 1978:

[Christine Chapel] is perhaps the most maligned player in Star Trek. She has been flitting around the edges of the series for almost twelve years now, and I think it's about time someone spoke up in her defense. [4]

A discussion of Chapel in spock_chapel livejournal community addressed some widespread views of her in fandom:

newest_gloss: Since Chapel is a very polarizing character in the Star Trek fandom, I wonder what the Spock/Chapel fans think of her. Do you think she's pathetic for her crush on Spock, like so many others seem to think?

I always thought that was an unfair classification of her character since you can count the episodes on one hand in which her feelings for Spock are addressed. "The Naked Time," "Amok Time," "A Private Little War," and "Plato's Stepchildren." I don't count "Journey to Babel" and "Return to Tomorrow" because there isn't anything there that makes Chapel's feelings for Spock obvious in those episodes (but the shipper in me squeals in delight when I watch these episodes). Most of the time she is a highly efficient officer and Kirk, Spock, and McCoy clearly trust her like in "The Enterprise Incident" she is one of the few people to know the whole plan.

"Throwing herself at Spock in 'The Naked Time'" is always the accusation that grates on my nerves because there is such a double standard there. I don't think she can be blamed for anything in "The Naked Time" unless we want to hate on Spock for crying about his mother too.

haikitteh: It's definitely that mooning schoolgirl crap they gave her to do in The Naked Time that gave her a bad rep, but also the soup run in Amok Time hurt her character too.

As much as I love her, the times she was written in were just not kind to female characters. Even today, in the new movie, Uhura is defined primarily by her relationship to men: the brushoff she gives to Kirk's advances in the bar and her kisses with Spock. She never has an amazing kick-ass moment like Sulu's fencing on the Romulan drill. Male screenwriters just think that way. That's why female characters who barely get any screen time in anything other than a HAS-to-be-a-woman role (Winona gives birth to Kirk, Gaila gets it on with Kirk) have such a rich life in fanfic. Female writers can conceive of women with interior lives and expertise in their careers in a different way.

Sorry if this comes off as male-bashing, I don't want it to, but that's kind of what Hollywood does, IMO.

I love Chapel and think her professional relationship with McCoy is every bit as interesting as her attraction to Spock, but I think we'll be waiting for that proverbial cold day in hell before we'll see it on screen.

Spock teaching Chapel how to do the Vulcan Salute. Illustration for the novel The Elder Brother by Clare Bell from The Other Side of Paradise #4, artist Nan Lewis.

lilbreck: While I can see why many would see her as pathetic, I don't see her that way. She very rarely even hints at her feelings for Spock, save when she's not acting on her own will. She's always come across as very professional, and intelligent.

I also thought she was rather strong for giving up the security of her current life to search for the man she loved when everyone else had given up on him being alive.

Part of me would love to see Chapel in Trek again, but I don't trust those who made the newest movie. They already, IMO, messed up both Uhura's and Spock characterization, as well as a bit of Sarek's. I don't think they could be trusted not to make her into a harpy and comedic relief.

A tumblr user graceleewhitney compared fannish reactions on Chapel and Chekov:

What she says: I'm fine.

What she means: Nurse Christine Chapel was in as many Star Trek episodes as Chekov and even had an entire episode devoted to her background and how she wound up on the Enterprise. She was an interesting character with a bunch of hilarious lines and appears in several photo shoots with the other major seven characters, but for some reason no one ever considers her part of the main crew. The fact that she isn't considered a main character but Chekov is is likely the result of the overvaluation of male characters and the undervaluation of female characters. Christine Chapel is part of the main crew and I'm so pissed that she isn't included in very many space family posts. [5]


Even though Chapel is almost non-present in Star Trek: Alternate Original Series, fanon versions of her appear in many Archive of Our Own fanworks.

In those stories she is often paired with McCoy or Uhura.

Many fans were critical of the treatment of the Chapel character in the reboot:

this is the stuff i want to see Nurse Chapel doing cause yoO she did some pretty important stuff that I guess we won’t ever get to see in the reboot (check out her page on the memory alpha - cause there’s a pretty badass list of all the vaccines and lab work that she was seminal in assisting with - and hey kirk n spock would probably be dead like 20 times over if it wasn’t for her and Mccoy working their magic together)

In TAS (WHICH I COUNT GODDAMNIT) She was assigned as chief medical officer under lieutenant Uhura’s temporary command and she later became a lieutenant in her own right going on to complete her medical degree and became CMO OF THE FUCKING ENTERPRISE ( until McCoy came onboard - which mmmm not cool I will hella criticise THAT move, but regardless she was still CMO.) Her end rank was that of a commander. And she continued her training to become a Doctor.

So idk it might seem all cute and what not to have her be a belittled and throwaway line love interest for Kirk (in whatever capacity) idk I think that the first quote speaks for iteself ~

“We just figured that would be a great reference, and we loved that Kirk didn’t remember her,” says Orci. “It’s an in-joke that also speaks volumes about his character when it comes to women. That’s why we used it.”

It doesn’t speak volumes about Kirk, it speaks volumes about these writers attitudes towards women, and IMPORTANT female characters. Let’s not also forget that the actress that played Nurse Chapel was originally cast as Number 1 (YO THATS A FIRST OFFICER RANK UP IN HERE) but it was too controversial for the 60s ( given that normalised gender attitudes were horrifyingly sexist) - also apparently it’s even too controversial for 2014 to have a less controversial version of that character even EXIST physically within the story line.

MAJEL BARRETT (who played Nurse Chapel) WAS ALSO GENE RODDENBERRY’S WIFE SO…..idk do ya think he’d be happy to see the character he’d built up that his wife played in the TV show he created be thrown away in a one liner notch on his now desecrated lead character’s metaphorical sexual conquest belt? Somehow i think NOPE. [6]

What gets me particularly angry is that this is new universe where they can just do about anything they want, yet they don’t find it important to integrate more female characters into the new franchise? If they didn’t think Chapel’s character was significant they could turn her into someone they would want to see on screen. From past statements the writers did not seem preoccupied with exploring Chapel without her relation to a male character. Their first plan was to make her pine over Spock, as a joke. Then they decide to have Kirk hump and dump Chapel, and it’s a big joke to them. She has basically been reduced to an object of derision. I know she’s fictional but media portrayal of women does have real life social implications. [7]

On the other hand, reactions to her relative popularity in the reboot fandom were more positive:

I'm currently ridiculously obsessed with Star Trek Reboot McCoy/Chapel fic. I finally figured out why.

This is a completely invented thing, I mean even more so than an ordinary pairing. In the original series canon, Chapel has a thing for Spock, but the reboot movie paired Spock up with Uhura, so that's not so much an option. Chapel is sort of in the movie, but only in that at one point McCoy yells her name. She doesn't show up on screen visibly, much less have a speaking role.

But some enterprising (heh) folk looked at Karl Urban's awesome portrayal of McCoy and remembered Rosamund Pike played opposite him in the awful movie version of "Doom" (which I found "funny awful" as opposed to "bleeding out my eyes awful"). They had wicked chemistry, especially considering they were playing siblings (Why, Maude, WHY? Ahem) and only had a few scenes really together.

So they cast her as the new Chapel. And wrote tons of fic about her and about her and McCoy. Much of which, at least that I've read so far, also develops her friendships with Uhura and Gaila, who were in the movie, and Janice Rand who was not but was in TOS. And delves into her backstory and personality and so on.

It's totally silly and it does lean on TOS canon for some of her backstory (born in NOLA, once engaged to mad scientist Roger Corby, PhD along with her nursing degree) which helps her be a more developed character than just an original OC.

But really, when was the last time a group of fans publicly and unashamedly took a minor female character and elevated her and celebrated her when she was actually in the text?** That it's happening to a character who wasn't even in the damn movie is almost miraculous. That much of the resulting fic is pretty good AND throws in gratuitous female bonding details... well it's no wonder I'm in love. :) [8]

Strange New Worlds


Most common are Spock/Chapel, sometimes McCoy/Chapel.

There is also a little Uhura/Chapel femslash based on their friendship in canon, one being a very early fic called Kismet (1977). Another early fic, a Chapel/Rand one, is Cross Currents (1980), the second Star Trek: TOS story written by Marion Zimmer Bradley.





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Archives and Links



  1. ^ Elizabeth B. in Rallying Call #14, July 1995
  2. ^ Bonnie Mac in Interstat #11
  3. ^ from STAG #23
  4. ^ from Interstat #9 (1978)
  5. ^ graceleewhitney's tumblr, July 9, 2015
  6. ^ anotherfallenchild's tumblr, September 23, 2014
  7. ^ midnight-unicorn's tumblr, May 30, 2013
  8. ^ These people like girls! from miera_c dreamwidth