Monday, July 30, 2012

TWITrek Character Insight No. 14: Nyota Uhura

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe.  An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.
Welcome back to Character Insight!  This week, our subject is Lieutenant Nyota Uhura from TOS.

Uhura is the communications officer aboard the Enterprise, a role she holds for nearly thirty years. Her proficiency at operating the communications system is rivaled only by her natural ability in xenolinguistics, which is crucial despite the invention of the universal translator in the 2140's.

Interesting Sidenote: a first pass at a universal translator was released by Microsoft earlier this year and is capable of translating English speech into 26 different languages.

Uhura grew up in Africa and is fiercely proud of her heritage, as proven by all the African artifacts and decor in her personal quarters. Before joining Starfleet, Uhura was known in her youth for being a record holder for running the hundred meter dash.

Uhura is no stranger to song and dance. One of the best known scenes featuring the Uhura character was an exotic dance Uhura performed in Star Trek V to seduce guards in Paradise City for Kirk and the crew.

She also sings for the crew on numerous occasions, although that penchant causes the space probe Nomad to wipe out her memory in the episode The Changeling.  The original script of the episode for Charlie X called for Uhura to be a talented mimic, but this was altered to be a singing talent in view of Nichelle Nichols' outstanding singing abilities. In lieu of a quote this week, here is a sample of Uhura singing Beyond Antares.

Uhura appeared in two season 1 episodes with the gold command uniform, but the well-known red uniform was donned by Uhura after that.  The character was named Uhura because Nichols and some of the casting directors were reading the novel Uhuru, which is a swahili word meaning Freedom.

Although Uhura does not form any long-term romantic relationships in TOS, she does share a kiss with Captain Kirk that is notable because it was the first interracial kiss aired during episodic television in the U.S. The mentorship relation between Uhura and Spock in TOS is expanded in the 2009 reboot to be a romantic relationship.

Nichols almost left the show after one season but Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. talked her into staying, and her performance inspired many young African Americans and girls to reach for the stars. This character's legacy is one of the cornerstones of what makes Star Trek special.

Actress: Nichelle Nichols played Uhura, and she has an entertaining Twitter feed that can be followed @RealNichelle.  Zoe Saldana took over the role in the 2009 reboot after appearing in other movies like Avatar.

Until next time, live long and prosper...

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