Number One was the first officer aboard the Enterprise under Captain Christopher Pike. Spock served alongside her under Pike's command years before he served under Captain Kirk.
We met Number One in The Menagerie. Captain Pike obviously had huge respect for her. He called her at one point "the ship's most experienced officer".
If Captain Pike ever was killed, she would have become acting Captain by default, so Janice Lester's remark in Turnabout Intruder about how women could not become starship Captains was obviously wrong. Number One certainly could become a starship Captain at a moment's notice, and Captain Pike acknowledged her fittedness and readiness.
Number One was known for being very intelligent and somewhat emotionless. When she was kidnapped by the Talosians, they said this about her:
"The female you call Number One has the superior mind and would produce highly intelligent children."
Vina's sour assessment was:
"They'd have more luck crossing him with a computer!"
Obviously, what Number One lacked in femininity she made up for with mental brilliance, courage, and moral clarity. Just as Pike was bargaining with the Talosians - offering his life in exchange for the freedom of his two female crewmen- Number One got a better idea. To convince the Talosians of her utter seriousness both about refusing to live as a captive AND refusing to let her Captain throw his own life away for her sake, she set her phaser on overload.
Number One: "It's wrong to create a race of humans to live as slaves."
Pike fully endorsed her action seconds later, in effect agreeing that hers was the better idea.
It's that moment, when we see even Pike following One's lead, that it's obvious who is the one with REAL leadership qualities.
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