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Nyota Uhura

Nyota Uhura
Species Human
Home planet Earth
Affiliation United Federation of Planets
Posting USS Enterprise chief communications officer
Starfleet Command
USS Enterprise-A chief communications officer
Starfleet Academy
Rank Lieutenant
Lieutenant commander
Portrayed by Nichelle Nichols
Zoë Saldana

Nyota Uhura /nˈtə əˈhʊərə/ is a character in Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Animated Series, the first six Star Trek films, the 2009 film Star Trek, and its 2013 sequel Star Trek Into Darkness. The character was portrayed by Nichelle Nichols in all but the last two Star Trek films, in which a younger Uhura was portrayed by actress Zoë Saldana.

Uhura was an important part of the original series' multicultural crew[1] and one of the first characters of African descent to be featured in a non-menial role on an American television series.


Gene Roddenberry had intended his new female communications officer to be called "Lieutenant Sulu".[2] Herb Solow pointed out how similar this was to "Zulu" and thought it might act against the plan for racial diversity in the show, so the name Sulu remained with George Takei's character.[3] "Uhura" comes from the Swahili word uhuru, meaning "freedom". Nichols states in her book Beyond Uhura that the name was inspired by her having had with her a copy of Robert Ruark's book Uhuru on the day she read for the part. When producer Robert Justman explained to Roddenberry what the word uhuru meant, he changed it to Uhura and adopted that as the character's name.[3] Coincidentally, in the film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the end credits incorrectly refer to Uhura as "Uhuru".

Uhura's first name was not used in Star Trek canon until Abrams's 2009 film, in a scene where the young Spock calls her "Nyota" in a moment of intimacy. Although other non-canon names had previously existed, "Nyota" had been the most common. Author William Rotsler created the name "Nyota" for his 1982 licensed tie-in book, Star Trek II Biographies published by Wanderer (Pocket) Books. Seeking approval for the name he contacted Gene Roddenberry and Nichelle Nichols. Gene Roddenberry approved of the name. Nichelle Nichols also approved and was very excited when Rotsler informed her that Nyota means "star" in Swahili.[4] After originating in Star Trek II Biographies "Nyota" started appearing in Star Trek novels, such as Uhura's Song by Janet Kagan.

  • In appearances at Star Trek conventions, Nichols had indicated that the character is "Nyota [U]penda Uhura";[5] perhaps coincidentally, in Nichols' 1996 novel Saturn's Child she named the mother of the titular character "Nyota".
  • That "Nyota" is the Swahili word for "star" is mentioned by William Shatner in his book Star Trek Memories.
  • uses the name Nyota on its character biography page for the Animated Series but not on the TOS biography page.
  • "Nyota" was also used as Uhura's first name when Nichols reprised the character in the fan film Star Trek: Of Gods and Men.

Until the 2009 film became part of the franchise's canon, "Nyota" was one of three possibilities; the other two were "Penda" and "Samara":

  • According to FASA's Star Trek RPG, Uhura's first name is "Samara".
  • The non-canon book The Best of Trek suggests that Uhura's first name is "Penda", coined when a group of fanzine authors suggested it to her at an early convention.

In the 2009 film, the mystery regarding Uhura's first name is the subject of a running joke as Kirk repeatedly tries to find out what it is before finally hearing Spock utter it.


Soon after the first scripts for Star Trek were being written, Gene Roddenberry spoke of a new character, a female communications officer and introduced Herb Solow and Robert Justman to Nichols, who had worked for him on The Lieutenant.[2]

Nichols planned to leave Star Trek in 1967 after its first season, wanting to return to musical theater.[6] She changed her mind after talking to Martin Luther King, Jr.,[7] who was a fan of the show. King explained that her character signified a future of greater racial harmony and cooperation.[8] As Nichols recounted, "Star Trek was one of the only shows that [King] and his wife Coretta would allow their little children to watch. And I thanked him and I told him I was leaving the show. All the smile came off his face. And he said, don't you understand for the first time, we're seen as we should be seen. You don't have a black role. You have an equal role."[6]


Uhura, from the United States of Africa, speaks Swahili[9] and was born January 19, 2233.[10] James Blish's non-canon novels identify her as Bantu, as does Gene Roddenberry's novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Uhura first appears in the episode "The Man Trap," joining the crew of the USS Enterprise as a lieutenant, and serves as chief communications officer under Captain Kirk. She is later promoted to lieutenant commander in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and to full commander in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock sees Uhura take an assignment in the transporter room as part of a plot to steal the Enterprise. After locking a colleague in a closet, Uhura uses the transporter station to beam Kirk, Leonard McCoy and Hikaru Sulu to the Enterprise so they can use it to rescue Spock from the Genesis Planet. As planned, Uhura later meets up with her crewmates on Vulcan and witnesses Spock's successful renewal.

Following these events and the destruction of the Enterprise, Uhura joins her crewmates on a stolen Klingon ship amid a crisis on Earth in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Traveling to the 20th century, they attempt to save a pair of humpback whales in order to repopulate the species. During a trip to San Francisco, Uhura and Pavel Chekov infiltrate the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise and use emissions from the carrier's nuclear reactor to recharge the Klingon vessel's power supply. Kirk and Spock then procure the whales so the crew can return to the 23rd century and save Earth.

In light of their heroics, Starfleet Command exonerates Uhura and the rest of Kirk's crew for their illegal activities. Kirk is demoted to the rank of captain after a prior promotion to admiral, but is assigned to command the USS Enterprise-A. Uhura joins Kirk's crew, and once again serves as chief communications officer throughout the events of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. In The Final Frontier, a romantic interest between Uhura and Montgomery Scott is briefly implied while Uhura seemingly is under the influence of Sybok, but the subplot is never fully developed in the following movies and we're to assume that they remain just friends.


Main article: Star Trek (film)

In the 2009 film Star Trek, Zoe Saldana plays a young Uhura who is introduced as a cadet at the academy, but is promoted to a communications officer as the movie unfolds. The film is also notable for officially establishing the character's given name, Nyota. This Uhura is initially cold towards Kirk after he attempts to flirt with her while intoxicated. However, by the end of film, she comes to respect Kirk as Captain of the Enterprise. Although Nichols was not consulted over the character's casting, Saldana contacted Nichols personally, who in turn helped her prepare for the role. Saldana's African Diaspora ancestry is reflected in her mother and father coming from Puerto Rico and Dominica respectively.

A former student of Spock's, Uhura is also romantically involved with him. In Star Trek the ongoing comic book series by IDW Publishing, they are shown going on a date when they were at the Academy.[11] When she is initially assigned to the Farragut in an attempt by Spock to avoid the appearance of favoritism. She demands he assign her to the Enterprise. Uhura persists in her complaints until Spock relents and makes the change with no further argument. Had she remained on the Farragut, she would have been killed since that vessel is subsequently destroyed by the villain, Nero.

In the sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness, Uhura has been serving on the Enterprise for a year and is still in a relationship with Spock. She and Kirk have a good working relationship and share their frustrations with Spock's emotional distance. Uhura is called upon several times to act as a field officer, assisting in the hunt for the fugitive John Harrison.

In a 2012 poll conducted by SFX Magazine to find the 100 sexiest female characters in science fiction and fantasy, Uhura, as portrayed by Saldana in the 2009 film, was voted number one.[12]

Cultural impact

Role model

Whoopi Goldberg, who later played Guinan on Star Trek: The Next Generation, described Uhura as a role model for her, recalling that she told her family, "I just saw a black woman on television; and she ain't no maid!"[7][13] NASA later employed Nichols in a campaign to encourage African Americans to join the service. NASA Astronaut Group 8 yielded the first recruits composed of women and ethnic minorities — three were African-American (Guion Bluford, Ronald McNair and Dr. Frederick D. Gregory). Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to fly aboard the Space Shuttle, cited Star Trek as an influence in her decision to join. Jemison herself had a minor role on an episode of The Next Generation called "Second Chances," playing a transporter operator named Lieutenant Palmer. Jemison was the first, but not the last, real-life astronaut to appear on Star Trek.[14][15]


In the 1968 episode "Plato's Stepchildren", Uhura and Captain Kirk kiss. The episode is popularly cited as the first example of a scripted inter-racial kiss on United States television.[16][17][18] Originally, the scene was meant to be filmed with and without the kiss, so that the network could later decide whether to air the kiss. However, Shatner and Nichols deliberately flubbed every take of the shot without the kiss so that the shot could not be used.[19]


External links

Star Trek portal
  • wiki)

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