My Feminist Idol: Lieutenant Nyota Uhura

Written by Rios de la Luz

uhura 4eva

Nyota Uhura

Mirror, Mirror (Star Trek TOS) was the very first episode of Star Trek I was exposed to. I fell in love and watched it over and over. I am not sure how many times I have seen it now, but it is always a pleasure to re-watch. It is also a fave episode of mine because Uhura kicks so much ass in this episode and plays a pivotal role in getting the crew home safely.

The episode begins with the crew (consisting of Captain Kirk, Lt. Uhura, Dr. McCoy and Mr. Scott) attempting to negotiate with the Halkan Council for permission to mine dilithium crystals on their planet. The Halkan Council is a culture of pacifists and the leader of the council makes it very clear to Kirk, the federation could use force in order to mine the crystals. The Halkan Council is willing to die in order to keep their perfect record of peace. Kirk acknowledges this and responds: “But we won’t. Consider that.” Thunder roars in the background. After the failed negotiation, it is time for the crew to beam up. An aggressive ion storm causes the crew to transport into a parallel universe where their counterparts are evil. We figure this out quickly: Aboard the ISS Enterprise, Mister Spock has a sweet evil goatee and he punishes the crew member who was in charge of the transporter when it malfunctioned. Spock uses an “agonizer” on the crew member and it looks like it definitely sucks. Our beloved crew is on high alert. How do they survive amongst these grim crew members?

confused crew 2

                                                    They are obviously baffled.

Of course, the crew is incredibly clever so they impersonate their evil counterparts to survive. Spock asks Kirk if he feels any abnormal effects. Kirk says yes and uses the opportunity to get his crew to Sickbay so they can discuss the situation alone. Kirk orders Scotty to sabotage the ship’s phasers to give the Halkans more time to live. Then, he orders Lt. Uhura to go to her post and run that day’s communication from Starfleet Command. Uhura hesitates and Kirk tells her “Uhura, you’re the only one who can do it.”

Uhura enters the Bridge and all eyes focus on her. Sulu approaches Uhura and asks “Still no interest, Uhura?” She tells him he is away from his post. Sulu becomes even creepier and says “when the cats away…” Uhura slaps the shit out of him before he can spit out another word. Captain Kirk comes in seconds after and asks for communications status.

mm st crew 3

Other plot points: 1. We find out that Sulu is Security Chief. 2. Kirk gets attacked by evil Chekov. Power is earned via killing in this alternate universe. 3. Kirk meets a woman in his quarters named Marlena who tells him she’s the “Captain’s Woman” and she shows him the Tantalus Field (alien weaponry hidden in Kirk’s quarters used to wipe out his opponents)  4. Scotty and McCoy are on a secret mission to rig the warp engines and transporter to get the crew home. 5. Evil Spock grows more and more suspicious of the landing party.

Back to Uhura: While Scotty and McCoy rig the warp engines and transporter, Uhura is placed on a mission to distract Sulu so he cannot see his security board as they change it. Uhura understands that she is an simply an object of desire to Sulu. She uses that to her advantage. “You aren’t very persistent, Mister Sulu. The game has rules. You’re ignoring them. I protest and you come back. You didn’t come back.” Sulu, of course is into this and gets mega creepy again and is all about them making out on the bridge, but once Uhura sees the security board go back to normal she tells Sulu she’s changed her mind and draws her dagger at him.

uhura w knife 2

                            Creepy onlookers plus creepy Sulu and brave Uhura.

The predatory situation initiated by Sulu is not something strange to women of earth (2015). Women are told to smile, to be quiet, to shrink, to be polite, to feel “special” when a man pays attention to them as though this attention is worth gold. The list of unwanted interactions at us is endless.

Men of earth (2015), try to understand this: there are situations in which women have to be nice (such as the workplace, especially in customer service so don’t be a creep), there are certain situations which may not seem threatening to you, but we know better (example: the daily routines women make themselves go through in order to feel safe). These are our survival mechanisms. Women do not step out into public for your gaze. The end.

Uhura is in a familiar space but with men who behave as though she is an object. She figures out very quickly what she needs to do in order to survive. On the USS Enterprise, Lt. Uhura is respected and her value to the crew is understood. In the parallel universe, on the ISS Enterprise she is subject to harassment and unwanted attention. The ISS Enterprise is part of a backwards and barbaric universe. Fortunately, Lt. Uhura was able to defend herself against Sulu’s predatory behavior without any harm. She stood her ground, but that shit would never fly on the USS Enterprise.

Men of earth (2015), do you want to be part of the ISS Enterprise or part of the USS Enterprise?

Moving on: So, Spock figures out that the landing party is not who they say they are. There is a mega fight scene between the USS crew and Spock. Everyone attempts to fight Spock, including Uhura. Kirk Knocks Spock out and McCoy stays behind (he is convinced Spock will die if he doesn’t treat him) as the other three run for the transporter room. In the transporter room, Marlena is waiting for the crew. She wants to go with them. Kirk explains that she cannot go so she pulls out a phaser on him, threatening to kill him. Uhura steps in and fights Marlena for the phaser. She disarms Marlena and saves Kirk. SHE SAVES THE CAPTAIN BECAUSE SHE IS A BADASS.

uhura saves kirk 2

Lieutenant Nyota Uhura is my feminist idol because she is not a damsel in distress. She is fucking powerful. She can defend herself. She does not underestimate herself. She is essential to the USS Enterprise. Her role is just as important as Kirk or Spock or Scotty. Fight me about it.

In Mirror, Mirror, without Uhura the situation for the landing party could have taken a turn for the worse. Uhura stepped up and aided the crew in getting home, she even saved Captain Kirk (NBD). The USS Enterprise is blessed to have Lt. Nyota Uhura onboard.

******

My Feminist Idol is a series that deals with powerful women, legends, fictional beings, anyone who I connect with in pop culture in whatever form I am consuming it. Uhura is a legend and Nichelle Nichols is a pioneer for being in that role. She showed black women and brown women everywhere that we are indeed a part of the future. We play pivotal roles on this planet and we will continue to do so. 

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