Character of the Day: Nyota Uhura

NYOTA UHURA
Zoe Saldana (2009) & Nichelle Nichols (1966-1969)


Strong, self-assured, knows what she wants and willing to go for it: all attributes that are portrayed as positive. This is unfortunately rare and Uhura has been been doing all of this since the 1960s, a dinosaur age when it comes to female portrayals in the mainstream. Played by the fantastic Nichelle Nichols in the original series, she was one of the first characters of African descent on American television and part of the first interracial kiss (something that caused huge furore at the time). Though the constraints of broadcasting in the 1960s meant that she might not have reached her full potential (though it was a great start), the reboot of the original series into 2009′s Star Trek helped to push Uhura into a new century with character traits that had been seeded almost fifty years previously.

Strong without being humourless, intelligent and beautiful (yes, it happens), Uhura is fantastic in her chosen career field. “Lieutenant Uhura is unmatched in xenolinguistics, we’re told; she earns her place on the bridge of the Enterprise through her own intelligence, talent and skill, and it’s this which drives her story and her contribution to the narrative. She revokes Kirk’s numerous advances with wit and self-assurance, and unlike a majority of female representation in film and television the fact that she’s in a relationship isn’t even revealed until halfway through the film’s running time, and nor does it (completely) define her role. It’s not perfect, of course – she is constantly viewed through the male gaze and she’s used very much as a point of contention and differentiation between Kirk and Spock, but even then she shines through it. Nyota Uhura is the kind of character I’d be happy to see on my television every day, and it’s good to have her back.