10 Intriguing Facts About Original ‘Star Trek’ Characters

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The original Star Trek aired from 1966 to 1969. Today, some of its ideas are laughable, such as a computer dedicated entirely to library holdings. Other ideas are downright sexist, such as the miniskirts female officers and enlisted personnel must wear as part of their military “uniforms.” However, the starship’s transporter beam and deflector shields remain futuristic concepts, even by today’s standards.

The regular characters and the actors who played them also make the original series entertaining to watch, as much today as 50 years ago. Here are ten intriguing, little-known facts that make them even more interesting.

10. Captain James T. Kirk

For many years, the kiss between Captain James Tiberius Kirk, of Iowa, and Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, of African descent, was thought to have been the first televised interracial kiss, but research has shown it is, in fact, the third.

Kirk and Uhura kiss in “Plato’s Stepchildren,” the tenth episode of season three, which aired in November 1968. They and several other members of the USS Enterprise‘s crew visit the planet Platonius in answer to a distress call, only to find that its inhabitants, the Platonians, have telepathic powers. For entertainment purposes, the Platonians use their abilities to make Kirk attempt to seduce Uhura. In the process, Kirk and Uhura exchange a passionate kiss.

According to the British Film Institute, doctors Giles Farmer (John White) and Louise Mahler (Joan Hooley), characters in the British prime-time soap opera Emergency Ward 10, exchanged an interracial kiss in 1964. However, their kiss was preceded by one between Lloyd Reckford, who plays a young black Cambridge student, and Elizabeth MacLennan, who portrays a white working-class girl, in the 1962 televised Grenada Play of the Week production You in Your Small Corner.

Unsure how the kiss between Kirk and Uhura might be received at the time, NBC executives ultimately decided to leave it in the episode. Although Kirk and Uhura’s kiss can’t be considered groundbreaking, it’s still seen as a “barrier-breaking moment,” and the Star Trek episode was watched by many more viewers than either of the earlier British productions.[1]

9. Commander Spock

Leonard Nimoy, who portrayed Commander Spock, Kirk’s executive officer and the Enterprise‘s science officer, created Spock’s Vulcan salute, the greeting that accompanies it, and Spock’s Vulcan “nerve pinch.”

In “Amok Time,” Nimoy introduces the Vulcan salute when Spock meets the matriarch of his home planet, Vulcan. The salute is made with the open hand. The palm faces the person being greeted. The forefinger and the middle finger are held together, as are the ring finger and the little finger. However, a space separates the two pairs of fingers. Nimoy said he based the salute on a gesture that Jewish priests (Kohanim) made as they blessed the synagogue’s congregation during an orthodox High Holy Days service he’d attended as a boy.

The gesture represents the Hebrew letter shin, the first letter of Shekinah, the name of the feminine aspect of Divinity, which enters the synagogue during part of the ceremony and is not to be looked upon. Nimoy’s salute is often accompanied by the verbal greeting, “Live long and prosper,” his summary of a Jewish prayer echoing the Hebrew expression Shalom aleichem, meaning “peace be upon you.”

Nimoy also created the Vulcan nerve pinch, a technique in which by simply pinching a nerve in the neck and shoulder, Spock can render a human adversary unconscious. The script for the 1966 episode “The Enemy Within” called for Spock to “lunge out from behind one of the generators” and knock out an opponent. Thinking fisticuffs were more suited to the Old West than the 23rd Century, Nimoy instead employed the famous pinch that would become a trademark of the Vulcan’s fighting style.

He attributes director Leo Penn’s acceptance of the pinch partly to William Shatner’s acting ability. After overhearing Nimoy talking to the director about employing the technique, Shatner volunteered to help Nimoy demonstrate the pinch, and Shatner did such a convincing job of passing out on cue that Penn was convinced of the maneuver’s merit.[2]

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