Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek Star & Hollywood Trailblazer, Dies At 89

Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek Star & Hollywood Trailblazer, Dies At 89
Star Trek star Nichelle Nichols (photo: screen capture/Gage SkidmoreCC License)

Nichelle Nichols, the trailblazing icon for Black women in Hollywood who starred in the 1960s sci-fi series Star Trek as communications officer Lt. Uhura, has died at the age of 89.

Nichols’s son Kyle Johnson shares that the actress passed Saturday in Silver City, New Mexico.

“Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away,” Johnson wrote on her official Facebook page Sunday. “Her light however, like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and draw inspiration.”

“Hers was a life well lived and as such a model for us all,” he added.

From AP News:

Her role in the 1966-69 series as Lt. Uhura earned Nichols a lifelong position of honor with the series’ rabid fans, known as Trekkers and Trekkies. It also earned her accolades for breaking stereotypes that had limited Black women to acting roles as servants and included an interracial onscreen kiss with co-star William Shatner that was unheard of at the time.

Like other original cast members, Nichols also appeared in six big-screen spinoffs starting in 1979 with “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and frequented “Star Trek” fan conventions. She also served for many years as a NASA recruiter, helping bring minorities and women into the astronaut corps.

More recently, she had a recurring role on television’s “Heroes,” playing the great-aunt of a young boy with mystical powers.

The original “Star Trek” premiered on NBC on Sept. 8, 1966. Its multicultural, multiracial cast was creator Gene Roddenberry’s message to viewers that in the far-off future — the 23rd century — human diversity would be fully accepted.

Nichols, with her co-star William Shatner, made history when they delivered one of the very first interracial kisses to be seen on broadcast television in 1968 in the Star Trek episode “Plato’s Children.”

Given the racial tensions felt across the country at the time, it was a courageous move on the part of Nichols.

In the scene, Uhura and Captain Kirk are forced to kiss involuntarily by aliens with the ability to control the movements of humans for their amusement.

In the 2010 interview segment below, Nichols shares how the director wanted to shoot different versions of the scene with and without the kiss to avoid controversy, but Shatner ran out the clock with mistakes and flubs forcing the network to use the iconic moment.

According to reports, the episode got the most “fan mail that Paramount had ever gotten on Star Trek for one episode.”

While very active in her 80s, she pulled back on her schedule in 2018 sharing with the world that she was had been suffering from advanced dementia.

I met Ms. Nichols a few years ago via Ian Ziering when she appeared in the 5th iteration of the popular Sharknado sci-fi film series in 2017. She was gracious, warm, funny, and beautiful as ever.

Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek Star & Hollywood Trailblazer, Dies At 89
Me and hubby Michael Caprio with Nichelle Nichols in 2017

Fly high, Nichelle Nichols. The stars await you.