If Star Trek: Discovery is your introduction to the Star Trek franchise, the relevance of Number One (played by Rebecca Romijn in Discovery) beaming aboard the USS Discovery and slipping Captain Pike a digital note might have seemed confusing.
Who is this person? What does she do? And, perhaps, most importantly: Does she have a real name? Here’s everything you need to know about “Number One,” and including her past, present, and possible future in the world of Trek.
Mild spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, Episode 4, “An Obal for Charon.” Complete spoilers for the classic episodes “The Cage” and “The Menagerie.”
First up, Number One’s moniker is a huge tradition across the entirety of the Trek franchise, but in fact, began with her. In the rejected Star Trek: The Original Series pilot episode “The Cage,” Number One was the first officer of the USS Enterprise under Captain Pike, and never referred to by anything other than “Number One.”
The idea that a captain would call their first officer “Number One” comes from the naval tradition, and was most famously used by Captain Picard as a nickname for Riker in The Next Generation. Discovery honored this tradition in the first season, too. Captain Georgiou called Michael Burnham “Number one,” on the USS Shenzhou and Captain Lorca called Saru “Number one” on Discovery. Burnham even called Mirror Detmer “Number one” when she was undercover as her evil self in the Terran Universe on the ISS Shenzhou in the first season episode “Despite Yourself.”
Also, way back when Discovery was in pre-production in August 2016, original showrunner Bryan Fuller publicly stated that the main character of the show would be referred to as “Number One,” leading many to speculate the lead of the show would in fact be the character from “The Cage” and “The Menagerie.” Obviously, the structure of Discovery changed substantially after Fuller’s departure, but in a sense, he was proven true when Burham was called “Number one” in the first episode, “The Vulcan Hello.”
But, outside of the nickname/codename “Number one,” what do we know about the person known as Number One? In the new Discovery episode, Pike only refers to her as “Number One,” even when she’s not there, which seems to imply we might never know her “real” name, assuming of course, she even has one. As far as visual canon is concerned, she doesn’t. In “The Cage” she’s just “Number One,” and, even in Roddenberry’s old production notes for the Trek pilot script, she also doesn’t have a proper name. But, when it comes to the Trek novels and other apocrypha, there are conflicting thoughts as to what her real name actually is.
In an ‘80s handbook called Star Trek II: Biographies, Number One’s name was “revealed” to be Leigh Hudec. In a sense, this is an inside joke. In “The Cage,” Number One was famously played by Trek creator’s Gene Roddenberry’s wife Majel Barrett. After NBC rejected the original pilot, Barrett was re-cast as Nurse Chapel on the original Trek, and wore a blonde wig to trick the NBC executive into thinking she was a different actress than the person in “The Cage.” (According to legend, NBC wanted an all new cast after rejecting “The Cage,” and Roddenberry even had to fight for the retention of Leonard Nimoy as Spock.)
So, when footage from “The Cage” was slickly repurposed as a flashback in “The Menagerie” in 1966, Number One was credited as being played by “M. Leigh Hudec,” to again, disguise the fact that Majel Barrett was not the same person who played Number One. Hence, Star Trek II: Biographies using “Leigh Hudec” as her real name.
But, the search for Number One’s name doesn’t end there. In the 1998 Trek novel Where the Sea Meets the Sky, its stated that Number One’s real last name is…Lefler! This strongly implies that she is the mother of Robin Lefler, a character from The Next Generation played by Ashley Judd in the episodes “Darmok,” and most famously, “The Game.”
In fact, if Number One was Lefler’s mom, it makes a lot of sense: Lefler was a brilliant engineer and a fantastic Starfleet officer and probably smarter than Wesley Crusher. In “The Cage” you get the sense that Number One is smarter or at least as smart as Spock, so all this brainy stuff check out. Sadly, though, the Lefler connection isn’t canon, unless of course, Discovery decides to reveal it at some point…
However, at this point, the most likely candidate for Number One’s real name is “Una.” This name pops up in the books Captain to Captain by Greg Cox, and most relevantly in David Mack’s Discovery novel, Desperate Hours. In 2017, Desperate Hours was released before the first episode of Discovery had aired, and presciently featured Georgiou and the crew of the Shenzhou teaming up with… Pike and the USS Enterprise.
Though this book is not canon, it does contain a few things that influenced canon. For example, Mack gave the character Keyla Detmer her entire name in this book, which was later adopted into canon by the show. Mack also presents a plausible explanation about the different uniforms in this book, which also seems to have been referenced in the new season of Discovery. However, this book also features Burnham teaming-up with Spock a year prior to “The Battle of the Binary Stars,” and Saru teaming up with… Number One! So there’s some stuff that doesn’t work.
If Discovery decides to incorporate the canon of this novel, into the new season, it would be tricky. Burnham hasn’t seen Spock in “years” and Saru would have to recognize Number One. Still, even if Desperate Hours isn’t made pseudo-canon, Number One could still be named “Una.” Unless of course, she’s not.
Right now, the biggest mystery of Discovery’s second season is all about Spock and the Red Angels. But, for those who loved Rebecca Romijn as Number One, there’s an even bigger mystery: When will Number One come back? And will we ever learn her real name?
Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 airs on Thursdays at 8:30 pm ET on CBS All-Access. Read more about Season 2 here.