Monday, January 24, 2011

"I am a Trekker...." - Dr. Martin Luther King.

"I am a Trekker, I am your biggest fan." - Dr. Martin Luther King.

This was according to Nichelle Nichols, "Uhuru" on the original 1960s TV show, Star Trek, as she stated on the PBS documentary, "Pioneers of Television - Science Fiction".

"SCIENCE FICTION" (Tuesday, January 18, 2011, 8-9 p.m. ET/PT): Storytellers Gene Roddenberry, Irwin Allen and Rod Serling created the storylines and characters behind the best-loved futuristic television of their time. But as Roddenberry's "Star Trek" competed for ratings with Allen's "Lost in Space," each show's creator aimed for a very different direction. This episode explores how Roddenberry and Serling (of "The Twilight Zone") used the future as a stage for modern morality plays, and William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols and other science-fiction stars describe how they prepared to interact on-camera with a malevolent alien force… or, perhaps, a giant radish. - from Healthy Aging web site article.

Nichelle told of how she was ready to quit the show. But someone changed her mind. Below, from New York Daily News article:

After a year with"Star Trek" as communications officer Lieutenant Uhura, she turned in her resignation. But at an NAACP event that weekend, she ran into King.

"One of the promoters came up and said someone wanted to meet me. He said he's my greatest fan," says Nichols, 78. "I thought it was some Trekker, some kid. I turned in my seat and there was Dr. Martin Luther King with a big smile on his face.

He said, 'I am a Trekker, I am your biggest fan.'"

At that point, Nichols thought of herself as just a cast member on the show and hadn't fully grasped the racial implications of her part. She'd dealt with race all her life, of course, even on the set at Paramount, where a security guard hurled insults at her, but she hadn't grasped the importance of an African-American woman having a position of respect on TV.

Nichols thanked King, and told him she was leaving the show.

"He was telling me why I could not [resign]," she recalls. "He said I had the first nonstereotypical role, I had a role with honor, dignity and intelligence. He said, 'You simply cannot abdicate, this is an important role. This is why we are marching. We never thought we'd see this on TV.'"

Nichols was at a loss for words. It was the first time the importance of being an African-American woman on television had sank in. She returned to "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry the next Monday morning and rescinded her resignation.

"He sat there and looked at me and said, 'God bless Dr. Martin Luther King. Somebody does understand me,'" Nichols says.

She and King stayed in touch occasionally afterward and until his death.

"I never looked back from that day," she says. "I never regretted the decision."

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