Watch Enlightening 40-Minute BFI/Black Star Conversation With Nichelle Nichols on 'Star Trek' + Much More
Photo Credit: BFI Black Star "'Star Trek' at 50" with Nichelle Nichols

Watch Enlightening 40-Minute BFI/Black Star Conversation With Nichelle Nichols on 'Star Trek' + Much More

BFI Black Star "'Star Trek' at 50" with Nichelle Nichols
BFI Black Star “‘Star Trek’ at 50” with Nichelle Nichols

September 8th, 1966, “Star Trek,” the sci-fi tv series that spawned a media franchise that continues through today, premiered on NBC. The groundbreaking series is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Many of you have likely heard the story of how Martin Luther King Jr. persuaded Nichelle Nichols to remain on the original series as Lt. Uhura, when she almost left the show after its first season, to pursue her Broadway dreams. Nichelle has previously detailed the story of how she landed the role with the show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, plus her meeting with MLK, and his words of wisdom that resonated with, and influenced her.

A shortened version of the true story summary goes something like this… halfway through the second year of the series, Nichols was offered a show on Broadway, which had long been a dream of hers (performing on the so-called Great White Way). On a Friday in the fall of 1967, a year after “Star Trek” began its lengthy franchise run, Nichols went to Roddenberry and submitted her resignation. The following day she was invited to speak by the NAACP at UCLA. After the discussion, an aide informed Nichols that there was a huge fan in the audience who asked to meet her. She agreed to meet with the fan, whom she expected to be a “Trekkie,” but who actually turned out to be MLK, who then convinced her of the significance of her role as a black woman on this science fiction TV series, and how important it was that she stay on the show playing Uhura.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Thankfully, she stayed put! After all, if she did leave for Broadway, we may never have had the now notorious kiss “heard” around the world, which happened during the show’s 3rd season, in 1968. In that episode of “Star Trek,” titled “Plato’s Stepchildren,” Lt. Uhura and Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) exchanged the first interracial kiss on American television.

In a lengthy November conversation, which was presented as part of the BFI’s (British Film Institute’s) ongoing Black Star symposium (which celebrates the contributions of black people to film and TV), Nichols joined filmmaker-broadcaster Thomasina Gibson, and scientist-broadcasters Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock and Dr. Kevin Fong to discuss the impact of “Star Trek” on their own lives, decades later, as well as its progressive stance on multiculturalism, and how its characters became role models for many. They also talk about “the kiss” and its significance.

The “‘Star Trek’ at 50” conversation was hosted by broadcaster Samira Ahmed. Watch it in full (40 minutes long) below:

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