The title of the documentary about Nichelle Nichols,
Woman in Motion (2021)
Is also the name of the company she formed to work with NASA on women and minority recruitment back in the 70’s. This fan of Star Trek never took the time to find out why Nichelle didn’t do a lot more film and TV work than she did following her time on Star Trek. What she did was recruit the largest group of astronauts that NASA had ever trained up to that point, and she successfully saw the astronaut corps integrated for the first time. The first women and minorities in space were people that she convinced to apply to NASA. That was Nichelle’s impact on the future of manned space travel.
It was a little depressing to witness the progression of Alzheimer’s that was visible in the documentary. There were three distinct sets of video recordings that were sampled and included in the footage for the documentary. Two from previous short films and/or family video about her and a final video shoot made just for the documentary. It was clear that she was having some difficulty speaking towards the end of her life. The kinds of problems that young Nichelle and even older Nichelle did not have.
This made the way they ended the documentary that much more touching.
Whatever was affecting her speech centers was not affecting her singing at all. Her rendition of this song brought me to tears. I couldn’t escape the image of Tommy Lee Jones’ character lying stranded on the moon in his spacesuit as the very same song played over the final scenes of Space Cowboys.
I’ll never forget meeting her at that convention in Tulsa, Oklahoma and getting the artwork that still hangs in my daughter’s bedroom signed by her. Hers is still the first memory I have of Star Trek. As much as she hated saying that line, that’s what I hear. “Hailing frequencies open, Captain.”
The world is a poorer place without you Nichelle.
All I can do is think of Nichelle Nichols as a force of nature unto herself.Neil DeGrasse Tyson