The iconic kiss between Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura happened in 1968. The kiss between the Star Trek characters played by William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols was widely regarded as America’s first interracial kiss on national TV. However, this is a misconception since. But when was the actual first kiss on TV?
Kirk and Uhura’s famous kiss was not the first interracial kiss on television. It was preceded by several others, including one in 1958 in which William Shatner also appeared.
The Star Trek Iconic Kiss
The kiss between the Star Trek characters, played by William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols, is widely regarded as one of the first interracial kisses on American television.
The episode aired during a period in American history when the country was still grappling with issues of racism and civil rights. A year before, the Supreme Court issued a landmark civil rights decision in Loving versus Virginia, which now protects interracial marriage under the 14th amendment.
Concerned that the kiss would enrage Southern TV stations, NBC executives attempted to have Spock, half-Vulcan, an extraterrestrial humanoid species in the series, kiss Uhura instead. According to critical race scholar and filmmaker Daniel Bernardi, who wrote the book Star Trek and History, Shatner insisted on sticking to the original script.
The showrunners filmed two versions of the scene: one with an on-screen kiss and one without. However, according to Nichols’ autobiography, Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories, Nichols and Shatner purposefully flubbed lines so the original shot could be used.
The only alternative was to cut out the scene altogether, but that was impossible to do without ruining the entire episode. Finally, the guys in charge relented: ‘To hell with it. Let’s go with the kiss.’ I guess they figured we were going to be canceled in a few months anyway. And so the kiss stayed.Nichelle Nichols, Actress, Uhura, Star Trek
The Long Lasting Kiss
Despite initial reservations, the episode aired without incident and has since been ranked as one of the top moments in Star Trek.
Even Nichols stated in her book that Plato’s Stepchildren, as the episode was titled, was the most memorable episode of our last season.
The Star Trek series has been praised and sometimes chastised for breaking taboos and pushing the boundaries of what is considered acceptable. Lieutenant Uhura and Christine Chapel, played by white actress Majel Barrett, shared a friendly kiss in a 1966 episode. In 2016, it was revealed that Hikaru Sulu, played by John Cho, is openly gay in in the show.
The whole show was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but to take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms.Gene Roddenberry, Show’s Creator
Star Trek Breaking Barriers and Making History
The TV Series Star Trek was not only famous because of its Sci-Fi theme and compelling plot. It was a show ahead of its time. The show’s multicultural and multiracial cast was planned out well, and the creators truly took risks in sending out a message.
Aside from showcasing one of the first interracial kisses on television, the show also addressed conflicts in Vietnam and offered a positive vision for the future in the middle of the Cold War. (Source: History)
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