Star Trek: The Wardrobe Demand That Allegedly Made Teri Garr Walk Off The Set

As groovy as "Star Trek: The Original Series" is, the 1960s sci-fi television series hasn't completely aged well in the intervening years since its original run. Blatant sexism — both on and off the screen — was unfortunately par for the course at the time, something that one "Star Trek" alum notably called out. Appearing in just one episode, "Assignment: Earth," actor Teri Garr had an experience so uncomfortable that she walked off the set during a pivotal scene. 

Garr plays Roberta Lincoln in the episode, an Earth secretary to Gary Seven (Robert Lansing) whose mission is to stop humanity from destroying itself. The narrative stakes are undoubtedly high, but you wouldn't know it considering the wardrobe note that showrunner Gene Roddenberry gave Garr. In the scene where the characters are trying to stop a nuclear launch, Garr was already wearing a criminally short skirt, but Roddenberry insisted that it be shortened by another two inches. According to "The Impossible Has Happened: The Life and Work of Gene Roddenberry," author Lance Parkin recounted that the actor was so insulted that she walked off set. 

Garr's negative experience with "Star Trek" was a turning point. Although she returned to finish her work on the episode, she washed her hands of anything to do with the franchise in the future. Even years later, in an interview with Starlog, Garr slammed the "Star Trek" universe and even maligned sci-fi as a genre. Garr's experience was not favorable, to be sure, and it squashed any potential for her return in the future.

The original Star Trek and Gene Roddenberry have an unfortunate history with sexism

Teri Garr's sexist experience at the hands of Gene Roddenberry while working on "Star Trek: The Original Series" speaks to the troubled legacy of the show and its creator. While elements of the original entry in the "Star Trek" canon have been praised for being progressive, the series and its writers have also been criticized for portraying female characters through a misogynistic lens. 

There are plenty of examples to parse through. In Season 2, Episode 3, titled "The Changeling,"  a robot analyzes the brain of Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), only to label her as defective and nonsensical — clearly playing on harmful stereotypes about women. In Season 3, Episode 24, titled "Turnabout Intruder," Captain Kirk (William Shatner) is possessed by his ex-girlfriend, only for the team to realize this fact due to how emotionally volatile he acts. The list goes on.

Beyond Garr, other people involved with various chapters of the "Star Trek" franchise over the years have commented on the controversial history of "Star Trek: The Original Series" and Roddenberry himself. Actor Kate Mulgrew, who starred as Captain Kathryn Janeway in "Star Trek: Voyager," opined in an interview with the Radio Times that despite Roddenberry's visionary status, he and his original creation were still beholden to outdated values. "It was extremely misogynist," she said of the original series. "That's what it was for years and Picard followed that to a certain extent. Roddenberry himself was that way. We are simply going to have to change this sensibility, this ideology, and we are, but it's like moving granite. It takes a long time."

Wardrobe issues have plagued the Star Trek set for many years

In a science fiction universe, costumes and prosthetics are often required, resulting in quite a laborious process. But the women on the "Star Trek" set seemed to have it worst than most. Teri Garr wouldn't be the last actor on set to endure wardrobe uncomfortably. When Jeri Ryan landed the role as the assimilated Borg, Seven of Nine in "Star Trek: Voyager," she had more to handle than just onset tension with Kate Mulgrew. Her famous corset on the show was a source of discomfort, especially when she needed time to herself. The costume was so elaborate that she needed help anytime she needed the bathroom.

"If I had to go, it was on the radio, 'Jeri's going. 10-1. That's 20.' Because, you know, I had to have somebody dress me and undress me," Ryan recalled during the "Voyager" reunion. "It was a 20-minute thing to get me undressed, go to the bathroom, get dressed, go back to set. It was a thing." Ryan became so self-conscious, that she even tried limiting food and liquids just so she wouldn't hold up production. The actor suffered all so she could represent a sense of sexuality for the show, which was consequently why the show's star also made Ryan's time on "Voyager" so unpleasant. Thankfully in her appearance in "Star Trek: Picard," she seemed to have a much more comfortable outfit and less of a double standard lodged against her.