What if TOS had 900% more central female characters?
(Since I don’t want to stretch your dashboards any more than I have already, I’ve written some thoughts about the characters and the process that went into making the graphics under the cut.)
Nichelle Nichols frequently tells a story of getting into a dispute with director Marc Daniels over the filming of this episode. As it had already been established that Uhura’s first language was Swahili, Nichols believed that, after her mind was erased, Uhura would revert to her first language. However, as Nichols herself did not speak Swahili, Daniels wanted Uhura to just speak English. Nichols refused to, telling Daniels, “Nichelle Nichols doesn’t speak Swahili, but Uhura does!” Gene Roddenberry was eventually brought in to settle the dispute, and he sided with Nichols. A linguist specializing in Swahili was then brought in to write the few lines of Swahili that are spoken in the episode. (Memory Alpha)
A peek at the first seven pages of Star Trek #29 via startrek.com with my interiors. Out January 29th from IDW!
I want this to be the basis for the next movie.
[x] Gates McFadden on the role of women in Star Trek (1993)
[ Image: An onset publicity photo of Nichelle Nichols as Nyota Uhura from the classic series of Star Trek, an african anerican woman with very 60s hair, wearing the stockings-and-one-piece miniskirt female uniform of the era. She holds a tricorder and offers the viewer a no-nonsense expression. ]
“Uhura” comes from the Swahili word UHURU meaning “freedom”. Uhura was pretty much the first ever black main character on American television who was not a maid or a domestic servant in 1966. TV network NBC refused to let Nichelle Nichols be a regular, claiming Deep South affiliates would be angered, so Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry hired her as a “day worker,” but still included her in almost every episode. She actually made more money than any of the other actors through this workaround, and it was kept secret from the other actors, but it was still a humiliating second-class status. The network people made life hard for Nichols, constantly trying to pare down her screen time, purposefully dropping racist comments in her presence and even withholding her fan mail from her. This deplorable state of affairs led Nichols to make the decision to quit after the 1st season, but then she happened to meet the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. who pleaded with her to stick with the show because as a Black woman she was portraying the first non-stereotypical role on television.
RE-BLOGGING AGAIN BECAUSE TODAY IS THE 46TH ANNIVERSARY OF STAR TREK AND UHURA IS A BABE AND NICHELLE NICHOLS IS AWESOME!
- after Star Trek was cancelled, she volunteered for a special project with NASA to recruit minority and female personnel for the space agency
- those recruited include: Dr. Sally Ride (the first American female astronaut), United States Air Force Colonel Guion Bluford (the first African-American astronaut), Dr. Judith Resnik and Dr. Ronald McNair (who both flew successful missions during the Space Shuttle program before their deaths in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster), Charles Bolden (current NASA administrator), and Lori Garver (current Deputy Administrator).
- she flew aboard NASA’s C-141 Astronomy Observatory, which analyzed the atmospheres of Mars and Saturn on an eight-hour, high-altitude mission
Sometimes you fight with things other than weapons.
Action Girls have been around as long as people have told each other stories; from the goddess Ishtar to the legendary Princess Fantaghirò to Buffy Summers. But they were all heroes (or villains). I haven’t come across many female supportive characters whose arc is questioning society’s ethics. But that’s what Ro Laren was all about. She might not have been human, but she joined the human-dominated Starfleet and was expected to follow their rules. Yet she disobeyed them, leading Picard – her captain and mentor – to threaten her with a court martial if she doesn’t follow orders. Eventually her betrayal seemed inevitable; but it was remarkable that she stayed a sympathetic character because the audience was shown her struggle and her ultimate decision to be true to her beliefs.
All in all the character of Ro Laren might not have radically changed science fiction forever, but she did introduce a new type of female anti-hero and without her we might never have had Farscape’s Aeryn Sun or Battlestar Galactica’s Kara Thrace.