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As Star Trek's First Black Female Captain, Discovery's Sonequa Martin-Green Reflects On Inspirational Words From Franchise Vet Nichelle Nichols

Michael Burnham on Star Trek: Discovery
(Image credit: Paramount+)

Star Trek actress Nichelle Nichols is retiring from the convention circuit, which is bittersweet but nonetheless a milestone worth celebrating. Fans at L.A. Comic-Con 2021 did precisely that for Nichols’ final convention appearance, and celebrities were full of reverential praise as well. Many were quick to credit Nichols as a factor in their careers, and Star Trek: Discovery's lead actress Sonequa Martin-Green was definitely part of that crowd.

For a video tribute that was recorded and played during Nichelle Nichols final panel, Sonequa Martin-Green shared memories of meeting Nichols at the premiere for Star Trek: Discovery. As the star of the diversity-driven sci-fi series, Martin-Green was anxious about meeting the actress who broke barriers so many years ago as Uhura on the original series. And here's how that meeting played out:

I remember the great ball of nervousness that was in my stomach as I was approaching her, but she whispered to me in my ear so delicately she said, ‘Take care. It’s yours now.’ And I melted. And I needed that. I needed that blessing. She made me feel welcomed. She made me feel justified, and she made me feel empowered.

Now a few years later, Sonequa Martin-Green is well into her run on Star Trek: Discovery and made history as the franchise’s first Black female to lead a Trek series as a Starfleet captain. Not that either one of the actresses was likely aware of that in the moment, making it all the sweeter an encounter. 

Nichelle Nichols knows a little something about history herself, of course, as she had the honor of one of television’s first interracial on-camera kisses, smack dab in the middle of the Civil Rights movement in the United States. With her key role within the Star Trek universe in the 1960s, Nichols served as an inspiration to many, and was proof that racial equality wasn't so unthinkable a scenario in the future. At least the fictionalized kind.

Sonequa Martin-Green continued on with her praise and championed Nichelle Nichols’ impact not just on the Black community, but other people of color and women in general. In a kind and humble statement, Martin-Green explained that had it not been for Nichols, she might not be in the position she’s in today.

Nichelle's legacy can be described as that of sacrificial, heroic contribution. She decided to stay and ultimately devoted her entire self to the progression of Black people, people of color, and women. And she gave everything. She gave her time, her energy. She gave her intelligence, her wisdom, her leadership, and her heart for the betterment of the world and the future. I am only here because of her. I also owe it to Nichelle to continue her legacy of heroism through sacrifice. And that is what she has taught me.

It’s a beautiful sentiment that honors Nichelle Nichols in quite the fitting way to mark the icon's potential retirement from public life. She’ll be missed at future Star Trek and sci-fi events, I’m sure, but after the time she spent giving to fans, she certainly deserves to take some time off amidst her health and conservatorship issues.

Nichelle Nichols may soon be mostly gone from the public eye, but fans can still re-live her greatest moments in Star Trek with a Paramount+ subscription. They can also catch new episodes of Star Trek: Discovery, which streams on Thursdays.

Mick Joest

Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.