Star Trek legend Nichelle Nichols dies aged 89

31 July 2022, 20:42 | Updated: 31 July 2022, 22:37

Nichelle Nichols has died
Nichelle Nichols has died. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Star Trek legend Nichelle Nichols has died aged 89.

Ms Nichols rose to fame when she was cast for the 1966 space adventure series as Lieutenant Nyota Uhura - the ship's communications officer.

She became one of the nation's first black women to star in a primetime show.

Like other original cast members, Ms Nichols also appeared in six big-screen spinoffs, starting in 1979 with Star Trek: The Motion Picture and at Star Trek fan conventions.

She also served for many years as a Nasa recruiter, helping bring minorities and women into the astronaut corps.

Her death was confirmed on Instagram on Sunday by her son Kyle.

He said: "I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years.

"Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away.

"Her light however, like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and draw inspiration.

"Hers was a life well lived and as such a model for us all.

"I, and the rest of our family, would appreciate your patience and forbearance as we grieve her loss until we can recover sufficiently to speak further.

"Her services will be for family members and the closest of her friends and we request that her and our privacy be respected."

He signed off the tribute with the iconic Star Trek slogan: "Live long and prosper."

Nichelle Nichols as Lieutenant Nyota Uhura
Nichelle Nichols as Lieutenant Nyota Uhura. Picture: Alamy

Ms Nichols entered showbusiness at 16, singing with Duke Ellington before later switching to acting.

She had a career spanning over 60 years, with her latest work being Star Trek Renegades: Ominara.

The actress was also due to appear in The Order and Moment of Impact - both of which are in pre-production.

Her contribution to the film industry earned her a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1992 and she also received a life career award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films in 2016.

She made history by becoming the first woman to be honoured with the award.

Ms Nichols appeared in Truck Turner
Ms Nichols appeared in Truck Turner. Picture: Alamy

Aside from Star Trek, Ms Nichols also appeared in Truck Turner, The Supernaturals, Are We There Yet? and Heroes.

Tributes have since poured in for Ms Nichols, with her fellow Star Trek co-star, George Takei saying: "I shall have more to say about the trailblazing, incomparable Nichelle Nichols, who shared the bridge with us as Lt. Uhura of the USS Enterprise, and who passed today at age 89.

"For today, my heart is heavy, my eyes shining like the stars you now rest among, my dearest friend."

Kate Mulgrew, who portrayed Captain Kathryn Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager, praised Nichols for pathing the way for female actresses.

Sharing a photo of Nichols in her Lt Uhura role to Twitter, Mulgrew wrote: "Nichelle Nichols was The First.

"She was a trailblazer who navigated a very challenging trail with grit, grace, and a gorgeous fire we are not likely to see again. May she Rest In Peace."

Comedian Ashley Nicole Black said: "Nichelle Nichols left behind such a beautiful legacy of what it really means to use the platform you have to make the world a better place.

"I think of her example often and I hope others will too. Rest well, Lt."

Writer Stephen King tweeted: "Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura on the original STAR TREK series--and broke new ground--has passed away at 89."

Wonder Woman actress Lynda Carter said: "Many actors become stars, but few stars can move a nation.

"Nichelle Nichols showed us the extraordinary power of Black women and paved the way for a better future for all women in media.

"Thank you, Nichelle. We will miss you."

The official Star Trek account said: "We’re deeply saddened to report the passing of Nichelle Nichols - a trailblazer, an inspiration, and so much more.

"She will be deeply missed."