Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Star Date

 Nichelle Nichols and William Shatner shard the first scripted interracial kiss on television. I understand this may raise some eyebrows or tweak some pointed ears with that "scripted" mention, but this actually makes the scene all the more important. In 1968, these two thespians went where no one had gone before on commercial TV. While Shatner's Captain Kirk had certainly made the rounds across the galaxy it wasn't until he laid a big wet one on Lieutenant Uhura in the episode "Plato's Stepchildren" that most of America had seen such a thing. 

It should be noted that the story had these two crew members of the Starship Enterprise locking lips for the entertainment of an alien race who can control others with their minds. The suggestion there being that the ship's captain would never take advantage of his position with one of those under his command. Pretty sure. 

Nichelle Nichols, one half of that society-shifting kiss so long ago, passed away this past weekend. She joins so many of her cast and crew members in the great beyond, leaving William Shatner and George Takei to squabble with one another here on Earth. She leaves behind not just the legacy of her groundbreaking role as one of the first African American actors to be featured on a weekly TV series, but decades of work after that to bring more women and people of color to join NASA. She helped bring about the reality of the fantasy she helped pioneer. It was a discussion with Martin Luther King Jr., a fan of Star Trek, When she suggested to Dr. King that she was contemplating leaving the series, he insisted,  'you cannot, you cannot...for the first time on television, we will be seen as we should be seen every day, as intelligent, quality, beautiful, people who can sing dance, and can go to space, who are professors, lawyers." And though the Enterprise never finished their initial five year mission to explore strange new worlds, Ms. Nichols managed to ride the zeitgeist into syndication and eventually a series of films that featured her character in ever-more prominent position. 

Astronaut Mae Jemison and comedian Whoopi Goldberg count Nichelle Nichols as their prime inspiration for finding their way to their careers of choice. She paved the way for so many who would boldly go where she had already been. Elon and Jeff never invited her to go for a ride on their spaceships. She didn't need to. She stomped on the Terra as well as the stars, and she will not soon be forgotten. Hailing frequencies to heaven are now open. 

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