The story of how Martin Luther King Jr. convinced Nichelle Nichols to stay on Star Trek as the iconic Lieutenant Uhura is almost legendary to Star Trek fans and now Drunk History is giving the famous anecdote a whole new spin.
On last week's episode of the Comedy Central comedy series entitled "Game Changers," comedian and writer Ashley Nicole Black drunkenly retells the story of how Nichols, who was preparing to leave Star Trek at the end of its first season, was talked into staying by King. Raven-Symoné and Jaleel White play Nichols and King in the segment while Black narrates.
As shown in the segment, Nichols planned to depart the series to pursue a career on Broadway, but a conversation with King changed her mind. King encouraged Nichols to stay on the show because her role as Uhura was giving black children and young women a role model to look up to, a role that would let children see black people and women as equals. After her encounter with King, Nichols chose to stay on the show and continued to play Uhura across not just the original television series but through the sixth Star Trek film as well.
But Nichols' impact on representation, both on television and in science goes even further. Turns out that in addition to the first inter-racial kiss on television, Nichols is responsible for recruiting the first woman to go into space, astronaut Sally Ride, as well as the first black woman to go into space, astronaut Mae Jemison. These legendary accomplishments are part of what led Drunk History creator Derek Waters -- who plays William Shatner in the segment -- to bring the story to the show.
"The genesis of any story is hearing something that sounds familiar, but told in a brand-new way," Waters told Trek Movie. "So, hearing what Nichelle Nichols had done and how Martin Luther King inspired her to stay and the importance of her is just a great moment in history, not just Star Trek, that more people need to know about. And on top of that there is the first inter-racial kiss and recruiting astronauts like Mae Jemison. It's one of those stories like 'yeah, but did you know this? and did you know that?' How did I not know all of that?"
And according to Waters, Nichols herself approved of just how her epic story was told.
"I never met her, but I did send it to her and she said that she loved it and couldn't stop laughing, so that is the seal of approval," Waters said.
As for Nichols' Star Trek legacy, that's still being felt within the Star Trek universe. The newest iteration of the show, Star Trek: Discovery, made history with Sonequa Martin-Green becoming the first black woman to play the lead in a Star Trek series, a move that Nichols herself was happy to see.
"I'm happy to see another generation of actors and actresses leading the charge," Nichols told the Los Angeles Times last year. "And now there are so many fans being a part of it. If it weren't for the fans, there'd be nothing to do."