Following the death of Star Trek: The Original Series actor Nichelle Nichols in July, members of the sci-fi franchise’s extended family gathered to pay tribute to the Hollywood icon who paved the way for Black women on screen and in space. The video was compiled for Star Trek Day, an event commemorating the show’s premiere in 1966 that took place yesterday.
“This woman is a true hero,” says Sonequa Martin-Green from the set of Star Trek: Discovery. “I hope she knows that she’s gonna continue to teach me.”
Nichols’ role as Nyota Uhura was a key part of Star Trek’s groundbreaking diversity. At the time, media representation was incredibly limited, and the actor was even once encouraged to stay on the show by Martin Luther King, Jr.
“She had this air of limitlessness,” says Celia Rose Gooding, who currently plays Uhura as a Starfleet cadet on the prequel series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. “It is an honor to try and have even a fraction of the impact that she had.”
Beyond her place on the Enterprise’s bridge, Nichols worked to inspire Black astronauts in real life.
“She pointed at me and said, ‘I want you to apply for the astronaut program,’” recalls Col. Frederick D. Gregory, who had a decades-long career with NASA starting in the ‘70s. “I never had the sense that she thought anything was impossible.”
It was recently announced that Nichols will get to go to space herself, with some of her ashes being on board a commemorative launch.
“She was so brilliant showing us how far she could take that possibility,” says Tawny Newsome, who leads the ensemble of Star Trek: Lower Decks, now airing its third season. “It is overwhelming to try and encapsulate what she means.”
Other Star Trek cast and crew members who came together to honor Nichols include director Hanelle Culpepper, executive producer Rod Roddenberry, and actors Dawnn Lewis, Michelle Hurd, Wilson Cruz, and Kate Mulgrew.
“The work of Star Trek has always been to make people believe that our better angels will win,” concludes producer Alex Kurtzman, who has worked on a variety of titles across the franchise. “There is no better angel than Nichelle Nichols.”