Growing up as a kid, I did not appreciate how good the television series Star Trek was. I remember my brother, however, watching the show. Later, when the Star Trek movies came out, I quickly became a fan of the adventures of James T. Kirk and the crew of the USS Enterprise (often referred as Starship Enterprise).
The sci-fi classic tells the tale of the crew’s five-year mission “to boldly go where no man has gone before.” The original Star Trek television series ran for three seasons, yet, despite low ratings, it caught on with science fiction fans and engineering students. The series eventually found a following and became popular in reruns. Over the years, I came to know who the stars were on the show.
William Shatner played James T. Kirk, the captain of the USS Enterprise. The other hugely popular actors that made up the original cast of Star Trek were Leonard Nimoy as Spock, DeForest Kelley as Dr. McCoy, James Doohan as “Scotty,” Walter Koenig as “Chekov,” George Takei as “Sulu,” and the lone woman prominently featured on the crew, Nichelle Nichols as “Uhura.”
It was on a summer day at Paramount’s Great America theme park that I met and spoke to two of these iconic screen stars, George Takei and Nichelle Nichols. Takei was cast by producer Gene Roddenberry as Mr. Sulu in the second Star Trek pilot and eventually the television series. He also appeared in the first six Star Trek motion pictures. In 1996, in honor of the 30th anniversary of Star Trek, he reprised his role as Captain Hikaru Sulu on an episode of Star Trek: Voyager.
At the Great America event promoting a traveling Star Trek exhibit, Takei was very personable and friendly. He happily agreed to take a photo with me and talk about the new exhibit. Almost ten years later at an event in downtown San Jose’s Tech Museum, I met Takei again at the opening reception for another traveling Star Trek exhibit. At that time, we spoke at length and I reminded him about the Great America event. As a kid, I could never have imagined ever talking to one of the crew members of the Star Trek television series even on one one occasion, let alone twice!
Also present that afternoon was Nichelle Nichols who gained recognition by being one of the first black women featured in a major television series. Her role as a bridge officer was unprecedented. During the first year of the series, Nichols was tempted to leave the show before a conversation with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. changed her mind. She has said that King personally encouraged her to stay on the show. In her role as Lieutenant Uhura, she famously kissed actor William Shatner as Captain Kirk in the Nov. 22, 1968, Star Trek episode. The episode is cited as the first example of an inter-racial kiss on U. S. television.
Nichols was maybe a little bit shy when I met her, at least compared to Takei, but she was also friendly and very agreeable to sharing a photo with me. In the picture I took with her (below), you can also see George Takei to Nichol’s right. It was an exciting day visiting with two of the crew members of the famed USS Enterprise!