Published Jun 19, 2023
The Zen of Zoe Saldana's Nyota Uhura
Saldana, in her three turns so far in the Star Trek universe, has crafted a unique take on Nyota Uhura, a role pioneered by the illustrious Nichelle Nichols.
By Jay Stobie
Zoe Saldana is known as a driving force behind several mega-franchises, including Guardians of the Galaxy and Avatar, as well as Star Trek.
Saldana, in her three turns so far in the Star Trek universe, has crafted a unique take on Nyota Uhura, a role pioneered by the illustrious Nichelle Nichols. Given that fans probably knew less about Uhura than they did Star Trek's other original characters (not even a first name!) prior to the first Kelvin Timeline movie, Saldana has truly made the role her own by simultaneously infusing Uhura's persona with new traits and honoring Nichols' previous work.
In celebration of Zoe Saldana's birthday, let's take a look at some of her finest Uhura moments!
"No, I'm assigned to the Enterprise."
Despite her superb record as a cadet, Uhura's assignment to the U.S.S. Farragut prior to the fleet's departure for Vulcan clearly irritated the communications officer. Uhura confronted Spock about the matter, displaying confidence in her qualifications and a willingness to fight for a position she had earned.
The validity of Uhura's argument and her unwavering stance left Spock with no choice but to assign her to the flagship U.S.S. Enterprise.
"Sir, I intercepted and translated the message myself."
Uhura vouched for her expertise as James T. Kirk emphatically explained to Captain Pike that the Klingon transmission intercepted by Uhura, combined with the details of the U.S.S. Kelvin's destruction by Romulans, and reports of a lightning storm in space near Vulcan, strongly indicated that the Federation fleet was warping into a trap.
Spock quickly acknowledged Kirk's logic and Uhura's aptitude, leading Pike to order an early exit from warp and saving the ship. The teamwork between the three young officers foreshadowed their trusting bond that would form in the coming years.
"Good thing you don't care about dying."
Uhura's frustration with Spock's actions on Nibiru came to a head during their daring excursion to nab John Harrison (aka Khan Noonien Singh) from Qo'noS. Uhura's inclination to stand up to Spock evoked her fearless nature and demonstrated a flair for getting Spock to express his true feelings.
The verbal skirmish led to a rare emotional moment for Spock, as the science officer articulated the esteem in which he held Uhura.
"You brought me here because I speak Klingon. Let me speak Klingon."
Uhura's words professed a confidence in her own work and a readiness to volunteer for a perilous confrontation with a squad of heavily armed Klingons. Valuing their mission and her crew's safety above all, Uhura put herself in harm's way to diffuse the situation. While her plea for peace fell on deaf ears, the communications officer went above and beyond to try and protect her friends.
"Commander, I have that transmission as requested."
Saldana's Uhura exhibited numerous skills during her tenure in Starfleet, but her post as the ship's communications officer also came in handy.
By restoring the Enterprise's comm systems and reaching Spock Prime on New Vulcan, Uhura permitted her own Spock to gather advice on how to defeat Khan. The interaction between the two Spocks led to the ingenious ruse of beaming armed torpedoes rather than ones containing cryotubes to Khan on the U.S.S. Vengeance.
"Can you beam someone down?"
Unable to beam Khan back to the Enterprise, Uhura once more chose to place an additional burden on her own shoulders. Informing Spock that the crew needed Khan alive served as Uhura's primary goal, and her appearance with a phaser distracted Khan enough to give Spock the upper hand in the brawl.
Uhura's bravery prevented Spock from killing Khan, thus supplying Dr. McCoy with enough “super blood” to resurrect Kirk.
"He would've done the same."
As the Enterprise slowly perished, Uhura took it upon herself to assist Captain Kirk in his endeavor to separate the ship's saucer and restore impulse power. After single-handedly dispatching two Swarm Soldiers, the communications officer risked her life and successfully completed her mission.
In the process, Uhura sacrificed her own freedom and saved Kirk from Krall's grasp, as the separation sequence left her trapped with their alien foe in the disconnected engineering section. The sequence of events once again demonstrated Uhura's courageous and resourceful nature.
"Spock, what are you doing here?"
Although Spock set out with Kirk, McCoy, and Jaylah on a mission to free Uhura and the Enterprise survivors from Krall's compound, Saldana's Uhura ended up rescuing the wounded science officer from a Swarm Soldier's deadly wrath. Spock sardonically observed that he had intended to come to Uhura's aid, yet his tone offered a hint of resignation at his former paramour's knack for resolving situations on her own terms.
During the search for Krall aboard the scuttled U.S.S. Franklin, Uhura keenly noticed a recording of the vessel's original crew on a viewing screen. As a master of languages and someone who dealt with Krall face-to-face on Altamid, Uhura observed the similarities between words spoken by Krall and the Franklin's Captain Balthazar Edison, ultimately realizing that the two people were one and the same.
This crucial revelation provided insight into Krall's intentions and a general description of his current appearance, allowing Kirk to prevent Edison from decimating Starbase Yorktown's population.
"You old romantic."
Offered in response to Spock's awkward attempt at displaying his fondness for Uhura's company, this comment conveyed the amusement Uhura felt and her appreciation for Spock's sentiment. The exchange indicated their relationship's revival and a renewed effort by Spock to make their pairing a focal point in his life.
This article was originally published on January 4, 2019.