Uhura was underappreciated: Nichols

Nichols felt the character of Uhura had been underappreciated [in Season 1]. In an article for the July 15, 1967 issue of TV Guide, entitled, ‘Let Me Off at the Next Planet,’ she complained, ‘My problem is being a black woman on top of being a woman.” Elsewhere in the article, she said, ‘The producers admit being very foolish and very lax in the way they’ve used me — or not used me.’

In her book, Beyond Uhura, Nichols told how she was denied respect. Case in point: she recalled discovering that someone in the Desilu mailroom had stopped the delivery of the bulk of her mail. Two workers from the department confided to the actress that most of her mail was being held back and told her, ‘Yours is the only fan mail that matches Shatner and Nimoy’s.’

‘Days later I saw for myself the boxes and bags of mail from all over the country, from adults and children, all colours, all races,’ wrote Nichols for her memoir. ‘To say I was stunned does not even begin to convey how I felt. It was ‘just’ fan mail, but to those who had ensured that I worked without a contract, who seemed at every turn to remind me that I was dispensable, this was the ultimate humiliation.’ (127-2).

From These are the Voyages – TOS Season 2 by Marc Cushman with Susan Osborn.

Cushman also cites an interview Nichols did where she argued NBC was partly responsible for her not having more to do, since they were afraid southern network affiliates would drop the show. Cushman then somewhat calls Nichols’ observations into question, saying, “It could be argued that Nichols was stereotyping NBC the same way she felt NBC was stereotyping her.”

He cites Herb Solow and Bob Justman’s book Inside Star Trek, in which Solow wrote that no one at NBC cared about Nichols’ race and stated: “NBC executives…were unanimous in their desire to feature and protect all minorities, including women.”

I don’t have any way of knowing what really happened in every back room at Desilu and NBC, but I’m inclined to believe that Nichols, as the only woman of colour involved, was more likely to notice and appreciate the meaning of microaggressions and other racial tension. Also worth noting Nichols has a reputation as someone who does not take airing dirty laundry lightly.

I definitely wish Solow hadn’t been given the last word on this.

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