Nichelle Nichols has been an icon for decades. The actress is legendary for her groundbreaking role in the original Star Trek series. As one of the first women of colour to be on prime-time television, Nichols broke barriers and paved the way for many other actors and actresses of colour. So it’s only fitting that there is a Strange New Worlds Nichelle Nichols tribute in the premiere episode of season 2. It’s something that ended up a very sweet moment in an already amazing season 2 premiere of Strange New Worlds.
How Nichelle Nichols Became An Icon
Nichols played Lt. Nyota Uhura in the original Star Trek series and its subsequent film sequels. The actress was not only one of the first African-American women on television but was also part of many groundbreaking firsts in American media. One of those things was being part of the first-ever interracial kiss on television, with her co-star William Shatner. As Uhura, Nichols was able to pave the way for many African-American women in film and television, and I would even go further to say that she helped move things along for all women of colour in the industry.
Since her Star Trek days, Nichols has been a huge advocate for the recruitment of minority and female personnel for NASA. In her years with the organization, Nichols was responsible for many first female and first astronauts of certain minorities. Nichols’ iconic status was even more special because of her ability to always say it like it is and be a person that called out BS when and where she saw fit. Nichols passed away in July 2022 from heart failure. So it’s only fitting that the Strange New Worlds Nichelle Nichols tribute comes from this show, and not the other Star Trek series on air.
Strange New Worlds Nichelle Nichols Tribute Is Sweet
Since the original Star Trek series, the franchise saw a reboot in the cinematic Star Trek in 2009 by director J. J. Abrams. In that movie, Zoe Saldana played the character of Uhura. However, that film was later set up as a different timeline from the original series. However, Strange New Worlds is a new series that acts as an in-canon prequel to the original series. And in that show, Celia Rose Gooding plays Lt. Uhura, acting as the official in-canon depiction of that character since Nichols.
So it makes sense that the Strange New Worlds Nichelle Nichols tribute comes on the heels of her passing, as well as the Season 2 premiere. The show takes a deeper look at the character of Uhura and her motivations and origin story. Actress Rose Gooding even wrote a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter discussing how Nichols inspired her, and how she feels stepping into her shoes as the character that she embodied.
“I’ve embraced the role of Cadet Nyota Uhura, understanding and grateful for the role Nichols played in paving the way, and the work she did to establish a proud tradition of Black women carving out a place for others to fill. On the TV screen and beyond, Nichols’ legacy lives on in all of us, myself included, who are grateful for and benefit from her perseverance, talent and grace.”
Celia Rose Gooding for THR
Zoe Saldana Offered Her Own Nichelle Nichols Tribute
As mentioned, the only other actress to play Uhura after Nichols was Zoe Saldana. So it makes sense that the Guardians Of The Galaxy actress was affected by her death. On Instagram, Saldana shared some kind words about her experiences with Nichols, and what it meant to her to play the same role as Nichols on Star Trek 2009.
“She’s an icon, an activist and most importantly an amazing woman- who blazed a trail that has shown so many how to see women of colour in a different light.”
Zoe Saldana, Instagram
Nichols played Uhura as a proud and strong black woman at a time when Black women or women of colour were scarcely seen on television. She was a trailblazer who opened the doors to many other women of colour on film and television. And even outside her contributions as an actress, she continued opening those doors for women and women of colour in many other fields. Making the Strange New Worlds tribute to Nichelle Nichols that much more powerful and emotional.
You can see the tribute at the end of Strange New Worlds Season 2’s first episode now airing on Paramount+.
What did you think of the Strange New Worlds Nichelle Nichols tribute? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter at @theshahshahid.