Nichols On Her 'Groundbreaking' RoleBy Caillan
May 30, 2002 - 6:28 PM
Nichelle Nichols is fiercely proud of her role as Lieutenant Uhura on the Original Series, and recalls her time at the communications console as if it were yesterday.
"I didn't do the pilot, and I started from the first episode," Nichols said during a recent appearance on Scotland Today. "It was just after Bill Shatner was cast for the second pilot. And Gene Roddenberry sent for me - I was in Europe, I'd just left London, I was in Paris - and he sent for me to create Uhura. I was just delighted."
Nichols described creator Gene Roddenberry's vision for the series. "He literally started the first ensemble cast on television of people who had equal parts. The studios and the networks weren't used to that and they were nervous about it. So they started cutting down people's roles a little bit so that they could have a lead character, a captain and the first mate."
Fortunately for the actress, there were plenty of moments for Uhura to shine. "But then the writers just kept writing for me and writing for me and Gene kept saying 'No, you've got to get her in there' more and more," Nichols recalled. "So we did some wonderful episodes like 'Mirror, Mirror,' in an alternate universe, and 'The Trouble With Tribbles.'"
There's one reason why Nichols is especially proud of her role on Star Trek. "I got to have the first non-stereotypical role on television," she said. "In other words, I had a role that was neither black nor white, or any other, it was not male or female. It could have been as any of the roles, so it was not a black role. It was really a groundbreaking event. As a matter of fact, I was going to leave the show at the end of the first year to get back to theatre, which is my first love, musical theatre, which I was doing so well in. I always tease them that Star Trek interrupted my career - for the next thirty-five years!"
Since the end of the series, Nichols has been pursuing some of her other talents, and recently completed her second science-fiction novel, entitled 'Saturna's Quest.' "I've always written, and I got this opportunity to publish a science-fiction novel, called 'Saturn's Child,' which went very very well, and I wrote this sequel, because everyone started writing me going 'Where's the sequel?' So I wanted to write the adventures of Saturna, this beautiful young child."
The novel centres around a first contact situation between humans and another alien species. "It's about Earth's first mission to Saturn. And it's on Saturn's largest moon, Titan. And when we get there, we discover another race of people from another planet not in our solar system. The Fazisians have been there for fifty years mining the place magnificently. They happen to be a peaceful people, and as we come in peace - startled when we see them, but come in peace - we find that they've be monitoring us for fifty years and haven't made contact with us because we still settle our differences with war. Saturna is the product of these two people, who are scientists, and once they've done all of their many experiments, they decide the most logical next step is procreation. And so they speak to their respective planets and get a resounding 'No.' And they do it anyway."