I went on CNN this morning (since it’s not my Easter until next month) to discuss how well the media has been covering the gay marriage debate, especially this past week with DOMA and Prop 8 being before the Supreme court.
And I finally got to invoke Star Trek during a TV appearance. Here’s the incident between Star Trek’s “Lieutenant Uhura” and Martin Luther King that I reference during the broadcast:
On Star Trek 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 African Americans 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. Goldberg asked for a role on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the character of Guinan was specially created, while Jemison appeared in an episode of the series.
In her role as Lieutenant Uhura, Nichols famously kissed white actor William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk in the November 22, 1968, Star Trek episode “Plato’s Stepchildren”. The episode is popularly cited as the first example of an inter-racial kiss on United States television.
The Shatner-Nichols kiss was seen as groundbreaking, even though the kiss was portrayed as having been forced by alien telekinesis.