RIP: Nichelle Nichols (aka Lt. Nyota Uhura)

Image (Credit): Lt. Nyota Uhura on the deck of the U.S.S. Enterprise. (Paramount)

This weekend we lost actress Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Nyota Uhura on the original Star Trek television series. She was 89.

Back in 1966, her role as part of the crew on the U.S.S. Enterprise was a risky and eye-opening move by creator Gene Roddenberry in a nation divided by race (as well as many other issues – sound familiar?). In an NPR interview, Mr. Nichols noted how civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. encouraged her to remain with the Star Trek series at a time she was considering leaving:

He complimented me on the manner in which I’d created the character. I thanked him, and I think I said something like, Dr. King, I wish I could be out there marching with you. He said, no, no, no. No, you don’t understand. We don’t need you on the – to march. You are marching. You are reflecting what we are fighting for. So, I said to him, thank you so much. And I’m going to miss my co-stars.

And his face got very, very serious. And he said, what are you talking about? And I said, well, I told Gene just yesterday that I’m going to leave the show after the first year because I’ve been offered – and he stopped me and said: You cannot do that. And I was stunned. He said, don’t you understand what this man has achieved? For the first time, we are being seen the world over as we should be seen. He says, do you understand that this is the only show that my wife Coretta and I will allow our little children to stay up and watch. I was speechless.

An impressive endorsement.

The last time I saw Ms. Nichols was on the History Channel special on the television series: The Center Seat: 55 Years of Star Trek. I enjoyed listening to her stories about her time with the television series and related movies. I recommend the program as a way to learn more about Ms. Nichols as well as the other actors associated with the Star Trek phenomena.