When Nichelle Nichols died at the age of 89 on Saturday night, it sent a ripple through the entire “Star Trek” fandom. Not only had the beloved show lost one of its last surviving cast members from the original series, it lost one of the best ambassadors for many of the values that it has always espoused: diversity, boundary pushing, space exploration, and kindness.
Nichelle Nichols famously played Nyota Uhura throughout the original “Star Trek” series’ three season broadcast run and in six subsequent films. Her presence on the show was one of the earliest examples of a Black woman playing a competent character in a leadership role on a major television show. If that wasn’t enough, she made television history by sharing one of the first major interracial kisses with her c0-star William Shatner in 1968.
Her role on the show earned her a fan in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who famously dissuaded her from leaving the show by telling her how important her role was for the civil rights movement. “For the first time on television, we will be seen as we should be seen every day,” King told her. “As intelligent, quality, beautiful, people who can sing dance, and can go to space, who are professors, lawyers.” He added that the science fiction nature of the show made it even more necessary for her to stay, because creator Gene Roddenberry could theoretically replace the character with a member of any race in the galaxy. “If you leave, that door can be closed because your role is not a Black role, and is not a female role, he can fill it with anybody even an alien,” he said.
Nichols ultimately decided to stay on “Star Trek,” and King was not the only fan who was glad to see her stick around. Famous fans and former colleagues came out in droves on Sunday to express their condolences and pay tribute to the incredible life that Nichols lived. Keep reading for a roundup of social media tributes to Nichols’ death from major figures in the “Star Trek” universe and other famous Trekkies.
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.
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) July 31, 2022
Heartbroken at the news of her passing, however, I am comforted in the knowledge that she illuminated the way for so of us many with her grace, beauty, talent, intelligence and her commitment to humanity going boldly to the stars! #godess #queen
— LeVar Burton (@levarburton) July 31, 2022
A remarkable woman in a remarkable role. Nichelle, you will be deeply missed. Sending much love and respect. pic.twitter.com/ZRnMblXx0Z
Nichelle was a singular inspiration. She’s the one who really opened my eyes to what Star Trek is and can be. I can’t tell you how many people have told me she’s the reason they became… an astronaut, a scientist, a writer, a linguist, an engineer… it goes on and on. 1/2
— Alex Kurtzman (@Alex_Kurtzman) July 31, 2022
We celebrate the life of Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek actor, trailblazer, and role model, who symbolized to so many what was possible. She partnered with us to recruit some of the first women and minority astronauts, and inspired generations to reach for the stars. pic.twitter.com/pmQaKDb5zw
— NASA (@NASA) July 31, 2022
Nichelle Nichols told us that we belonged in outer space. We are limitless. The heavens have gained an Uhura today.
— Colman Domingo (@colmandomingo) July 31, 2022
One of my most treasured photos – Godspeed to Nichelle Nichols, champion, warrior and tremendous actor. Her kindness and bravery lit the path for many. May she forever dwell among the stars. #RIPNichelle #Uhura pic.twitter.com/nFXHif8HEC
— Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) July 31, 2022
Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura on the original STAR TREK series–and broke new ground–has passed away at 89.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) July 31, 2022
Before we understood how much #RepresentationMatters #NichelleNichols modeled it for us. With her very presence & her grace she shone a light on who we as people of color are & inspired us to reach for our potential. Rest well glittering diamond in the sky https://t.co/DmeLFbg825
— Wilson Cruz (@wcruz73) July 31, 2022
My favorite photo of Dad and Nichelle Nichols on set. The importance of Nichelle's legacy cannot be over-emphasized. She was much loved and will be missed. pic.twitter.com/1zlTd4F9BD
— Adam Nimoy (@adam_nimoy) July 31, 2022