Lt. Uhura and MLK, Jr



This is a really cool story, one I’d never seen before now. As a kid I also really enjoyed watching Julia with Diahann Carroll too, but that didn’t start until 1968.

I kind of hate to go there, but it’s probably a sign of sexism that their beauty was a part of what helped them penetrate the race barrier. As a kid I wasn’t aware of that stuff though. I just loved watching both programs.


I think it’s OK to say because you recognize the reality of the situation.
It’s true in the same way that a comic or cartoon can make direct jokes about topics that no sit-com can get anywhere near. It really does matter who the messenger is.

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Why should that be a problem? To use one type of preconceived notion to bash down another just seems slightly ironic.

Besides, the “Uhura” character was never actually sexual. She was pretty, but she was not the “ship bimbo” or anything like that – I do not even remember any references to her character dating anybody. The “Kirk kiss” was as sexual as she ever got – until the the horrible nightmare that was Star Trek V. In fact, the Abrams movies have done more with Uhura’s sexuality in two movies than the original series did in 79 episodes and the first four movies.


Just saw that for the first time in over 20 yrs…


Ugh, I hadn’t remembered that in decades, but I do remember that being very out of character, and not in a good way.


And her not being shown as a a sexual being (as most humans are) while many of the other characters were shown as sexual beings isn’t necessarily a GOOD thing, either. A woman can be written as a complex character with a sexual identity without being a “bimbo”; completely wiping a woman of her sexual identity is perhaps just as bad as making her nothing more than an object – the whole virgin/whore thing.

Capt. Kirk kissing Uhura was a Big Deal (back then) because she is African American, and the way African American sexuality is addressed in American media (and in general) is very complex and often problematic, both for men and women.

Besides, the “ship bimbo” title was already taken – by Captain Kirk.


Unhura was sexual, at least by the standards of 1960s US TV, she kissed Captain Kirk

This was pretty much the first time a white man and a black woman kissed on US TV, part of the apocrypha in ST is that Roddenberry destroyed the non-kiss versions of the episode where to stop some freelance Christian blocking this “obscene” scene.

Seems to me if Christians object to what you’re doing on screen then you’ve made it all the way to sexual.

According to Nichols, Shatner fucked up every take where they don’t kiss intentionally by overacting more than usual. They did one take that seemed okay, but Shatner crossed his eyes during it so it couldn’t be used.

From Nichols autobiography:

'Knowing that Gene was determined to air the real kiss, Bill shook me and hissed menacingly in his best ham-fisted Kirkian staccato delivery, “I! WON’T! KISS! YOU! I! WON’T! KISS! YOU!”

It was absolutely awful, and we were hysterical and ecstatic. The director was beside himself, and still determined to get the kissless shot. So we did it again, and it seemed to be fine. “Cut! Print! That’s a wrap!”

The next day they screened the dailies, and although I rarely attended them, I couldn’t miss this one. Everyone watched as Kirk and Uhura kissed and kissed and kissed. And I’d like to set the record straight: Although Kirk and Uhura fought it, they did kiss in every single scene. When the non-kissing scene came on, everyone in the room cracked up. The last shot, which looked okay on the set, actually had Bill wildly crossing his eyes. It was so corny and just plain bad it was unusable. The only alternative was to cut out the scene altogether, but that was impossible to do without ruining the entire episode. Finally, the guys in charge relented: “To hell with it. Let’s go with the kiss.” I guess they figured we were going to be cancelled in a few months anyway. And so the kiss stayed.’


Actually, no. If you remember the episode, Uhura and Kirk were being forced to kiss by evil aliens having them act out a play as unwilling actors.

I must disagree. Uhura was a minor bridge character. She was never shown (as I recall) dating anybody, but the same could be said of Chekov and Sulu, yet those are not considered to have no sexual identity. It is just that those were 2nd tier characters. Other than Kirk, McCoy, and Scotty, the crew really had no sexuality at all (Spock’s only exception being when his biology forced it upon him – it was never willing). The show simply was not about sex or dating relationships. Kirk did have a lot of “history” but that was probably more of a way to advance the plot – the trite “old girlfriend” twist to add to the plot.

True enough.

You are right about this, but that has NOTHING to do with the show itself or how the characters were written, but is a result of society’s views at the time. The same interracial kiss would be a big yawn today. The show itself or the episode did not change – our culture has. We look at this episode today and wonder what the big deal was.

I bet it wouldn’t. Not because of the interracial thing, but because of the forced aspect. I can just imagine the Boing Boing thread that would result.

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Yes Kirk and Uhura’s minds were taken over by the aliens (as is so often the case on ST), but their bodies were resolutely the same colour, indeed we see quite a lot of Kirk’s caucasian skin, if you like that sort of thing.

But maybe you have a deeper point ?

Instead of the liberal message Roddenberry decided to spin it as later, perhaps the intended message was “a good white man will only kiss a black woman if possessed by evil”

Also, my lawyer has told me to write the following:

“Uhura was actually a telephonist, her job was to place calls for her boss, a low status job that black women could have because no one ever saw them.”

Yes, my lawyer is a woman,

Did you actually read Kevin’s comment? He mentioned that. But that was the only time she was shown as a sexual being. It’s been YEARS since I’ve seen the episode… I should watch it again.

All good points. :slight_smile: And I forgot about the forced aspect. I really need to re-watch the show in full; it’s been a LONG time. I think I may do that this weekend!

I watched every episode last year. Netflix had it streaming then. I presume that they still have it.

Indeed, I think they do!

I’m wondering if people really have forgotten (or just don’t know) that through the 1960s a female telephone switchboard operator was considered one of the “safe” and “smart”, sexy roles to give to women? Similar to librarian or nurse it could be played by a “nice” girl.

Here’s Deanna Durbin in 1948’s For the Love of Mary

Honestly, sexy doesn’t have to be raunchy. They’re two different things. Lt. Uhura was sexy, but not raunchy - at least not until the 1980s came around! She was smart. People who understood her job would know that. Jokes made about the difficulty of running communications in a standard switchboard actually made a person doing that job well look efficient - see Auntie Mame, The Fuller Brush Girl, or Lily Tomlin’s “Ernestine the Operator” character for comedy examples.

Because I was well-exposed to classic movies, I grew up thinking that Uhura had an important, and complicated job. I never thought of her - or anyone else - on the bridge as “minor” to the running of the ship. They might not have had major roles in the show, but they seemed important to me.


I’m surprised no one mentioned the scene where Sulu, under the influence, has been running about the ship bare-chested with a fencing foil, pretending to be D’Artagnan. He bursts onto the bridge and grabs Uhura, yelling “Aha! Fair maiden!” Uhura declaims, “Sorry; neither,” and breaks away from him so Sulu can be restrained. Here we have proof positive that Uhura was simply sensibly discreet in her relationships, and no shrinking violet neither.

My Star Trek geek, let me show it to U. :smiley:


This drawing by M. Steffens seems appropriate.