Hailing Frequencies

Strange New Worlds is finally fixing the most neglected character in Star Trek canon

Uhura was a super talented linguist in The Original Series. But now, her skills will finally be showcased.

Uhura is the MVP of the classic Enterprise. But, in the 1960s Star Trek: The Original Series, you might not have known. Although Nichelle Nichols’ character created a pioneering moment for Black representation on mainstream TV, she was often frustrated that Uhura’s role wasn’t bigger. Now, in a new clip from Strange New Worlds, Celia Rose Gooding’s new Uhura is here to set the record straight.

Uhura’s origin story revealed

In a newly released clip from Paramount+, we learn that Strange New Worlds will tell the origin story of Nyota Uhura. While it’s true we saw Zoe Saldaña’s Uhura at the beginning of her career in the 2009 Star Trek reboot, that version of the character is technically from the alternate Kelvin Universe. Celia Rose Gooding’s Uhura is from the Prime Universe, meaning Strange New Worlds is showing us what led to Uhura’s role in TOS.

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And, in giving us her backstory, the character is finally getting the well-rounded skillset she deserves.

Nichelle Nichols in Star Trek: The Original Series. Bettmann/Bettmann/Getty Images

How TOS short-changed Uhura

As revealed in the documentary Woman In Motion (as well as her memoir, Beyond Uhura) Nichelle Nichols got pretty sick of saying “hailing frequencies open” over and over again on the classic Star Trek. Although Roddenberry had imagined her character as the lead linguist and communications officer on the Enterprise, most of that canon exists offscreen. Like George Takei, Walter Koenig, and James Doohan, Nichols was essentially a supporting cast member. And after seeing the various changes made as scripts were developed, Nichols often felt short-changed. In William Shatner’s memoir, Star Trek Memories, she said:

“I’d get the first draft, the white pages, and see what Uhura had to do this week, and maybe it was a halfway-decent scene or two, sometimes more, and then invariably the next draft would come in on blue pages and I’d find that Uhura’s presence in the show had been cut way down...it finally got to the point where I had really had it. I mean, I just decided that I don’t even need to read the f**king script! I mean I know how to say, ‘hailing frequencies open.’”

The J.J. Abrams films did a bit to try and build up Uhura’s actual presence as part of the crew, but in three movies of that continuity, there was only so much space for Saldaña’s Uhura.

Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) sets Captain Pike straight about her language skills. CBS/Paramount

Strange New Worlds is finally giving Uhura her due

In the new Strange New Worlds clip, we see Uhura’s first moments on the USS Enterprise. We also see Captain Pike erroneously thinking she speaks “12 languages.” She quickly corrects him, saying it’s actually “37.”

This is a pretty big deal. Although Uhura’s presence in The Original Series was important for representation, her character was tragically underdeveloped. Her skill and importance to the crew was implied in The Original Series more than it was depicted. The feature films did a bit to mitigate this sense of tokenism, but even in The Undiscovered Country, Uhura was depicted looking up Klingon phrases on the fly, which makes no sense for an expert linguist.

In the new clip, Spock (Ethan Peck) says to Uhura, “Starfleet would be fortunate to have an officer like you.” This doesn’t mean that Spock and Uhura will become a couple like they did in the Kelvinverse, but it does connect to a relationship that Spock and Uhura had in The Original Series. In several episodes, including “The Man Trap” and “Charlie X,” it was clear that of all the people on the Enterprise, Spock often deferred to Uhura.

And now, in Strange New Worlds, it looks like we’re finally going to see why. If this new Trek delivers on its promise, Uhura could end up being an even bigger deal than Spock, which will hopefully raise more than a few eyebrows.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds hits Paramount+ on May 5, 2022.

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