For over 40 years (out-of-universe), actress Majel Barrett provided the default or standard computer voice aboard most Starfleet starships, including the original Enterprise, the Enterprise-D, the Defiant, and Voyager. Ms. Barrett also portrayed several human or humanoid characters at the same time, including Una Chin-Riley, Christine Chapel, and Lwaxana Troi.

From an in-universe perspective, at any level of canon, has it ever been addressed where the voice of the computer comes from or who might have provided it? Was the voice based on a specific Starfleet officer who worked on their talking computer interface development? Were Chin-Riley or Chapel recalled to Earth or Utopia Planitia to record their voice pattern for the synthesizer? Is the voice supposed to be a fully artificial voice driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI) research on what Starfleet officers find most pleasing?

Chin-Riley and Chapel seem like plausible options. Chin-Riley became famous as an officer in the ten years leading up to Kirk's command, and Chapel could have been selected as a result of her clinical training and a desire to portray the computer as displaying empathy. If Betazoids have similar lifespans to humans, then it seems unlikely that Lwaxana Troi was the source as she would likely have not been alive during Kirk's first command of the Enterprise. The opposite is also possible, that Chin-Riley, Chapel, and Lwaxana Troi modeled their own speech on that of the computer, possibly as part of some accent-reduction training or speech therapy. These are, however, just speculation.

The most likely in-universe options seem to be:

  • The voice was provided by or based on recordings of a character who was originally portrayed by Majel Barrett, such as Una Chin-Riley or Christine Chapel.
  • The voice was provided by or based on recordings of a character who would most likely have been portrayed by Majel Barrett had she ever appeared on-screen. This would cover, for example, an "unnamed programmer" or "admiral's favorite granddaughter" situation.
  • The voice is an AI construct trained with hundreds or even thousands of sample voices and adapted to what Starfleet officers reported is most pleasant coming from a computer. In other words, it's not based on any specific person but rather a specific personality, archetype, or background. The fact that the voice is practically indistinguishable from those of several historical Starfleet officers and Troi's mom is either coincidental or based on those characters imitating the computer, either unconsciously or as part of a speech therapy or accent reduction program.
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    Lwaxana Troi sounds nothing like the computer voice. I know it's the same actress, but she seems to have deliberately chosen not to sound the same in both roles. (I did find it amusing in the few scenes where Lwaxana interacts with the Enterprise computer, but the two voices are clearly different, even if they're both her.) Aug 25, 2022 at 13:16
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    @DarrelHoffman for a related question, you could ask whether Grover and Cookie Monster ever talked directly to each other on Sesame Street. :) Aug 25, 2022 at 14:05
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    Or how often Dan Castellaneta talked to himself on The Simpsons? Guess it's a little easier to do that when the characters are animated, or puppets, or one of them is a disembodied computer voice... Aug 25, 2022 at 15:12

1 Answer 1


In Star Trek Legacies: Captain to Captain, it's noted that the computer voice is modeled after Commander Una Chin-Riley as per the Memory Alpha entry for computer voice.

Captain Una Chin-Riley is momentarily distracted by hearing the Enterprise's computer voice after many years, which was modeled after her own.

Una Chin-Riley, as Number One in the pilot episode, was of course played by Majel Barrett.

There was also a bit in Star Trek: New Legacy where Morgan Primus, mother to Robin Lefler, is killed and her consciousness moves into the ship's computer, where it's noted that her voice is extremely similar to that of the computer, with some other jokes in the past about Morgan being confused for Chapel, possibly being Lwaxana's aunt, and perhaps having played the role of Una Chin-Riley in some segment of her immortal life, all Majel Barrett roles.

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    Union Pacific uses her voice to notify of train and track defects. Aug 24, 2022 at 14:51
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    @FuzzyBoots. I suspct there is a typographical error in your answer. One of your sentences says: ",,,about Moragan being confused with Church,...". I suspect that the wrong word was typed in and that phrase should be: "...about Morgan being confused with Chapel,...". That seems more probable than a character named Church being ment, or than Church being a typo for KIrk. Aug 24, 2022 at 17:59
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    @M.A.Golding: Thanks. I've fixed it. It was Chapel that I meant to refer to.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Aug 24, 2022 at 18:09
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    Not shocking, @EmsleyWyatt, that someone in the IT department at UP is a Star Trek geek. :)
    – FreeMan
    Aug 24, 2022 at 21:25

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