Trek historian says myth about why Nichelle Nichols got hired is wrong

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Dec 17, 2012, 3:16 PM EST

When Star Trek TOS first aired in 1966, the sci-fi series had one of the most racially diverse casts ever seen on TV. And judging from the stories that were passed on for years, everyone thought it was Gene Roddenberry himself who pushed for the idea. Now a historian is saying that's not what really happened.

Star Trek historian Mark Clark has been digging up clues and truths for his book Star Trek FAQ. And boy, these truths are about to turn every Trekkies'/Trekkers' universe upside down, because Clark is claiming that what made Star Trek so ethnically diverse—with the hirings of Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Uhura, George Takei as Mr. Sulu and later Walter Koenig as Chekov—was championed not just by the Great Bird of the Galaxy himself, but by NBC, which was, back then, making an effort to reach out to minorities.

Mark Clark says:

"The idea that Gene Roddenberry faced massive resistance from NBC into putting an African-American woman on the bridge of the Enterprise, or an Asian-American man, when in fact, NBC was encouraging Roddenberry to hire minorities," Clark recently told Alpha Waves Radio. "Especially at that time, NBC was the first network to become all-color. And in tandem to that, it was presenting itself as the 'Network of Color,' so to speak."

Clark then proceeds with an intriguing but interesting argument: He wants us to take a good look at the original, and back then unaired, 1965 TV pilot "The Cage."

"Look at "The Cage," the original pilot for the series," Clark said. "If you look at the crew on the bridge of that starship, it's Majel Barrett and a bunch of white guys."

Still, Clark is not saying that Gene Roddenberry didn't play an important role in ensuring that the USS starship Enterprise crew was devoid of those pesky racial stereotypes, nor that the Great Bird himself didn't fight for more than what NBC originally wanted. The historian just wants to put the record a little bit straighter.

What do you guys think of this rather startling revelation?

(via Airlock Alpha)