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J.J. Abrams, George Takei, and More React to Nichelle Nichols’ Death: ‘A Remarkable Woman in a Remarkable Role’

Tributes have poured in for the actress forever known as Lieutenant Uhura.

Nichelle Nichols in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan"

Nichelle Nichols in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”

©Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

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.

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