Nichelle Nichols‘ Star Trek costars are honoring their crewmate after the actress, who played Uhura on the original Trek series, passed away Sunday at the age of 89.
William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk alongside Nichols on Star Trek, tweeted: “I am so sorry to hear about the passing of Nichelle. She was a beautiful woman & played an admirable character that did so much for redefining social issues both here in the US & throughout the world. I will certainly miss her. Sending my love and condolences to her family.”
George Takei, who played navigator Sulu on Star Trek, added: “I shall have more to say about the trailblazing, incomparable Nichelle Nichols, who shared the bridge with us as Lt. Uhura of the USS Enterprise, and who passed today at age 89. For today, my heart is heavy, my eyes shining like the stars you now rest among, my dearest friend.”
Kate Mulgrew, who starred as Captain Janeway in the spinoff Star Trek: Voyager, paid tribute as well: “Nichelle Nichols was The First. She was a trailblazer who navigated a very challenging trail with grit, grace, and a gorgeous fire we are not likely to see again. May she Rest In Peace.”
Nichols played communications officer Nyota Uhura, who helped Kirk and the Enterprise crew make contact with alien lifeforms. She was a trailblazer for Black actors in science fiction: She and Shatner shared the first kiss between a white person and a Black person on television, and when Nichols considered leaving the role after Trek‘s first season, Martin Luther King Jr. encouraged her to stay, telling her what a role model she was to Black children.
Shatner and Takei, along with Walter Koenig (Chekhov), are now the only surviving members of the core Star Trek cast who starred together for three seasons on NBC and then reunited for six big-screen Trek movies. DeForest Kelley (Dr. Bones McCoy) died in 1999, James Doohan (Scotty) passed away in 2005 and Leonard Nimoy (Spock) died in 2015.