KISSING CAPTAIN KIRK
Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols beams into Fan Expo
Woah, woah, woah. If anybody is gonna get to kiss Lieutenant Uhura it’s gonna be me.
QUOTING CO- STAR WILLIAM SHATNER
TV’s first interracial kiss was supposed to be an inter- species kiss. Nichelle Nichols ( a. k. a. Lieutenant Uhura from the original Star Trek series which debuted in 1966) told The Vancouver Sun she was rehearsing her lip- lock with Leonard Nimoy ( a. k. a. the Vulcan, Mr. Spock) when William Shatner ( a. k. a. interstellar stud, Captain Kirk) saw the smooch. “Bill Shatner saw what was going on and he said, ‘ Woah, woah, woah. If anybody is gonna get to kiss Lieutenant Uhura it’s gonna be me.’ And he had the whole thing changed so the first interracial kiss was with Lieutenant Uhura and Captain Kirk.”
Nichols laughs almost constantly as she recalls her most memorable Star Trek moment. “Bill wanted to rehearse all the time. He said he wanted to get this right! I said to him, “It’s right, it’s right. I promise you, it’s right.” And the camera was shaking and the director was laughing his head off. We really had a good time.”
Uhura’s relatively small part on Star Trek — for anyone who spent the last few decades in another galaxy, she was the communications officer — had a huge impact on America’s black community. When Nichols contemplated leaving the low- rated series to return to her career as a singer ( she’d toured with Duke Ellington) Dr. Martin Luther King convinced her to stay by stressing that she was going where no black woman had gone before. King told Nichols that once she opened these doors, they weren’t going to close behind her.
Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg is living proof of that. In a recent interview with The Sun, Goldberg talked about seeing Nichols on Star Trek as a life- changing moment. It was the first time she’d ever seen a black woman on TV who wasn’t playing the maid. Nichols was such an inspiration that at the height of her fame, Goldberg asked to join the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. After convincing Trek producers she wasn’t joking, Goldberg came on- board the new Enterprise as the wise alien bartender, Guinan.
Nichols’ lasting impact and her open attitude toward friends and fans of the iconic show — it’s tough to imagine her yelling at Trek lovers to “get a life” — is the big reason she’s a favourite at events like Fan Expo Vancouver ( April 20 and 21 at the Vancouver Convention Centre).
Although she’s probably told the story a million times, Nichols graciously shared her memories of meeting America’s most iconic civil rights leader.
“I was in Beverly Hills at an event and we were the guests and I was sitting up on the dais and I was one of the first ones who they took up to our place on the stage. And one of the producers came up to me and said, ‘ Ms. Nichols, before you sit down and before you get started there’s someone who says he’s your greatest fan and he wants to meet you.’ I thought it was a little kid because it was kind of a family event and there were a couple of little kids there. And I said, ‘ Well certainly.’ And I turned around and I said, ‘ Where is he?’ And he said, ‘ He’s right over here. He’s right here, behind you.’ ”
“So I stood up and turned around to see this cute little boy and it’s Dr. Martin Luther King.” Nichols laughs again. “And he was smiling to me and he walked up to me and he says, ‘ Yes, I’m your greatest fan, Nichelle Nichols.’ And that’s how I met Dr. Martin Luther King. He was a big Trekkie.”
Fan Expo has something for everyone who loves comics and comics- inspired TV and films. Featured guests include the Amazing, Incredible and Invincible Stan ( the Man) Lee ( creator of Marvel Comics characters like SpiderMan, Iron Man and The Hulk, ’ nuff said); iconic comic artist Neil Adams, who defined Batman in the ’ 70s and beyond; Sean Astin ( Sam from Lord of the Rings), Sanctuary star Amanda Tapping, Vancouver’s twin terror film makers, The Soska Sisters; James Marsters and Juliet Landau ( Spike and Dru from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and the cast of Continuum.