Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols died at the age of 89 this past Saturday. Co-star of the original series, George Takei, shared a heartfelt message on Facebook as a tribute to the passing of the beloved actress and his long-time friend.
Nichols — who portrayed Uhura, the head of communications on the show — was one of the first Black women to star in a major TV series. Her kiss with Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) in the episode "Plato's Stepchildren" made headlines and served as a revolutionary and pivotal TV moment. The interracial kiss on the lips was radical at the time and it was one of the first such kisses on TV.
“I have been truly moved by the tributes and messages honoring the life and work of Nichelle Nichols, our very own Lieutenant and later Commander Uhura on Star Trek,” Takei wrote on Monday.
The two starred together in the show from 1966-1969, only three years. However, by the end of filming they had fostered a friendship that went beyond the short-lived, yet classic show.
The out actor wrote, “We became bonded as the fans of our show organized, convened, and ultimately pressed for movies and spin-offs of the groundbreaking show. Nichelle and I spent the following decades together as not only colleagues from the bridge of the Enterprise, but as lifelong friends.”
He continued the post with a recollection of memories of him and Nichols. The 85-year old shared an anecdote of the time where he and husband, Brad Altman, asked Nichelle to be a part of his wedding in 2008.
“When my husband Brad and I got married, we asked Walter Koenig, who played ensign Chekov on the show, to be our best man at the wedding. We asked Nichelle to be our matron of honor. In her characteristic fashion, Nichelle declared, ‘I am not a matron! If Walter can be best man, why can’t I be best lady?’ Noting that Walter’s ‘best man’ title implied the awkward title of ‘best woman,’ she was determined to be known as the ‘best lady’ to the guests.”
Takei included a collection of photos from the wedding at the end post. He concluded the post writing, "While fans will miss and honor the famous actress who opened so many paths with her presence on the screen, I will also miss the dear friend who always let you know she was there to support you, to love you, and to go through this strange and wonderful life alongside you. Nichelle Nichols, you were one in a million in so many, many ways."
After Star Trek, Nichols dedicated herself to the U.S. space program, CNN reports. She worked with NASA to create a more diverse agency. That included helping to recruit astronaut Sally Ride.
Ride was not out to the public in her lifetime. She died of pancreatic cancer in 2012, and her obituary mentioned her partner of over two decades, Tam O'Shaughnessy.