These are the on-screen voyages of Star Trek, a now-massive and popular franchise with 13 movies and over 800 episodes and counting. Star Trek: The Original Series went off the air in 1969, and was followed by two decades of movies about those same characters. Yet it wasn’t until the launch of the second TV series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, that we got to see new characters in this universe. Aptly named, Next Generation moved into the future from the original series, exploring new technology such as holodecks, and the universe-changing replicators, which could create almost any item you wanted in an instant.
As said in an article in the New Yorker, “It is hard to overstate how much of a departure the ‘Star Trek’ franchise’s eighties-and-nineties-straddling incarnation, ‘The Next Generation,’ was from the original series.” The show moved the Trek universe into a utopian future of post-scarcity. In one episode, for instance, Jean-Luc Picard, the current Captain of the starship Enterprise-D, tells a twentieth-century human concerned about his old stocks that, “People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of things. We’ve eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions. We’ve grown out of our infancy.”
Nichelle Nichols, best known for her groundbreaking role as Lt. Uhura on Star Trek, passed away on Saturday, a family spokesperson said on Sunday.
Her presence as one of the USS Enterprise’s heroic bridge officers was groundbreaking in 1966.
As an 11-year-old Whoopi Goldberg famously called out to her mother, “There’s a Black lady on TV and she ain’t no maid!” After completing the original show’s three seasons, Nichols continued her portrayal in a short-lived animated show in the early 1970s, and in a succession of six films from 1979 to 1991. She was 89 years old at the time of her death.
Born in 1932 in a suburb of Chicago, Nichols began her career as a singer and dancer, touring with both Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton’s bands. She appeared at the legendary Blue Angel club in New York, as well as the Playboy Club, and was in a production of Carmen Jones in Chicago. She also had an uncredited role as a dancer in Otto Preminger’s 1959 film version of Porgy and Bess.
Captain James T. Kirk famously died in Star Trek Generations but William Shatner personally conceived the perfect last words spoken by the Starfleet icon. Shatner starred as Kirk, the Captain of the USS Enterprise, for three seasons of The Original Series in the 1960s before headlining six Star Trek movies from 1979-1991.
Star Trek Generations was Shatner’s final canonical appearance as Kirk, and the legendary actor hasn’t reprised the role of the good Captain since 1994, although he remains indelibly linked to Captain Kirk. Kirk’s death was part of Star Trek Generations from its inception.
In the early 1990s, Paramount saw Star Trek: The Next Generation as the future for the movie franchise and the studio began planning for the show – headlined by Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard – to end with season 7 so that it could make the leap to the big screen. However, Paramount also worried about the TNG movie’s box office chances and wanted a crossover film with TOS’ cast to make it an ‘event’ for Trekkers.
Ultimately, only Shatner, James Doohan, and Walter Koenig signed on for the first of what became four TNG movies Shatner’s participation was crucial because the death of Captain Kirk was planned as the movie’s big climactic moment in order to pass the torch to Picard.
Tucked away at the end of a secluded cul-de-sac, Nichelle Nichols’ Woodland Hills home was a testament to her boundary-breaking career spanning more than 70 years.
Nichols lined walls and shelves with photos of herself as Lt. Uhura on the original “Star Trek” series, memorabilia from her legions of fans and documentation of her contributions to NASA’s recruitment of women and people of color in the 1970s.
The home was Nichols’ pride and joy, say those close to the star. She purchased it in 1982 for $12,000 and meticulously planned its details, from her plush, oversize furniture to the garden where she planted roses to the neighboring property she purchased in 1994 to use as a guesthouse and workspace for projects.
Questions around the fate of Nichols’ home — who lives in it and what happens to it — have been central to an ongoing, years-long legal battle over the finances and care of the beloved TV star, who friends and family say is financially drained and struggling with dementia.
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