Star Trek Pin-up #34 FRAMED Nichelle Nichols Lt. Uhura


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Nyota Uhura served as communications officer aboard the USS Enterprise under the command of James T. Kirk for nearly thirty years, after which she continued her career lecturing at Starfleet Academy.

In 2266, Uhura began her Starfleet career as communications officer aboard the USS Enterprise with the rank of lieutenant in the command division.

In the following years of that vessel’s historic five-year mission, she was transferred to the operations division where she proved to be a proficient technician and was considered by Captain Kirk to be a capable and reliable bridge officer, manning the helm, navigation and main science station when the need arose.

In the 2270s, Uhura was promoted to the rank of lieutenant commander aboard the Enterprise. She served aboard the refit Enterprise under the command of Captain Willard Decker, and later during the V’Ger crisis under the command of Admiral Kirk.

By 2285, Uhura was promoted to commander and assigned to Starfleet Command communications and to Starfleet Academy while the Enterprise was reassigned to cadet training. Part of her duty included giving lectures at the Academy.

The kiss between Kirk and Uhura became famous, as it was the first kiss between an African-American and a Caucasian portraying fictional characters on American “episodic” television. The scene was seen as groundbreaking, even though the kiss was portrayed as having been forced by alien mind control. According to her 1994 autobiography Beyond Uhura, the scene was, at the behest of NBC executives worried that Southern affiliates might refuse to air the episode, filmed with and without the kiss, but Nichols and Shatner consciously sabotaged the non-kiss takes so that there would be no choice but to leave the kiss in the final version.

Uhura was the last main character to be cast for the Original Series, only a few weeks before production began on “The Corbomite Maneuver”, the first regular episode. In the original script of the episode, the communications officer was named “Dave Bailey”. When Nichelle Nichols (allegedly a lover of Gene Roddenberry) was cast as the new comm officer, Bailey (played by Anthony Call) was “transferred” to navigation.

The 1977 Writers’/Directors’ Guide for Star Trek: Phase II – the aborted second series – Uhura was noted as having been born in the “African Confederacy”. The full character description, written by Gene Roddenberry and Jon Povill, is as follows: Rank of Lieutenant Commander, Communications Officer, played by attractive young actress Nichelle Nichols. Uhura was born in the African Confederacy. Quick and intelligent, she is a highly efficient officer. Her understanding of the ship’s computer systems is second only to the Vulcan Science Officer, and expert in all ships systems relating to communications. Uhura is also a warm, highly female female off duty. She is a favorite in the Recreation Room during off duty hours, too, because she sings – old ballads as well as the newer space ballads – and she can do impersonations at the drop of a communicator.

Nichelle Nichols has stated on many occasions during the years, including on the video William Shatner’s Star Trek Memories that during the first year of the series, she was tempted to leave the show as she felt her role lacked significance, but a conversation with Martin Luther King, Jr. changed her mind. King personally encouraged her to stay on the show, telling her that he was a big fan of the series and told her she “could not give up” as she was playing a vital role model for young black children and women across the country. After the first season, Uhura’s role on the series was expanded beyond merely manning her console.

Former NASA astronaut Mae Jemison has cited Nichols’ role of Uhura as her inspiration for wanting to become an astronaut.

NASA astronauts, Sally Ride, Guion Bluford, Judith Resnik, and Ronald McNair were all recruited as a direct result of Nichelle Nichols’ employ as NASA’s recruiter, specifically for minorities.

Whoopi Goldberg has also spoken of Nichols’ influence. It was seeing Nichols play a prominent role on network television that allowed her to see that African American women could contribute more than just as domestic servants. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion) She is often fond of recalling that when she saw Uhura on-screen for the first time she ran out of the room telling everyone in her house, “I just saw a black woman on television; and she ain’t no maid!”

Nichelle Nichols (born Grace Dell Nichols on December 28, 1932) is an American actress, singer and voice artist. She sang with Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton before turning to acting. Her most famous role is that of communications officer Lieutenant Uhura aboard the USS Enterprise in the popular Star Trek television series, as well as the succeeding motion pictures, where her character was eventually promoted in Starfleet to the rank of commander. Her Star Trek character was groundbreaking in U.S society at the time, and civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. personally praised her work on the show and asked her to remain when she was considering leaving the series. Nichols gained popular recognition by being one of the first black women featured in a major television series not portraying a servant; her prominent supporting role as a bridge officer was unprecedented. During the first year of the series, Nichols was tempted to leave the show, as she wanted to pursue a Broadway career; however, a conversation with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., changed her mind. She has said that King personally encouraged her to stay on the show, telling her that he was a big fan of the series. He said she “could not give up” because she was playing a vital role model for black children and young women across the country, as well as for other children who would see Blacks appearing as equals. It is also often reported that Dr. King added that “Once that door is opened by someone, no one else can close it again.” Former NASA astronaut Mae Jemison has cited Nichols’s role of Lieutenant Uhura as her inspiration for wanting to become an astronaut and Whoopi Goldberg has also spoken of Nichols’s influence.

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