Whoopee for Whoopi

It is so funny how a simple fun evening with a group of friends can inspire thoughts to re-emerge in your head. I have gotten almost totally out of touch with Star Trek. Tonight, I was reminded that Academy Award winning actress Whoopi Goldberg was indeed a member of the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation beginning in the series’ second season. Although she did not receive a screen credit, she also appeared in the movies Generations, First Contact, and Nemesis. Whoopi played the enigmatic hostess of the Enterprise’s lounge Ten Forward. Perhaps more than any other person to have a role on the phenomenon, her history goes back to the original series.

In 1967 following the premiere season of Star Trek, Nichelle Nichols opted not to return to the show. Her character of communications officer Lt. Uhura was not being developed to its full potential. Upon learning of her departure, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. approached Nichelle and told her that she must not leave the show. The role of Uhura was not only one of the rare good female characters on television but also one of the first important roles for a woman of color. During the shows three year run, Nichelle had the distinction of sharing the first interacial kiss on television. This was shared with William Shatner in the episode “Plato’s Stepchildren.”

Twenty years later, Whoopi approached Trek creator Gene Roddenberry about being on the new television series. She cited the incident between Ms. Nichols and Dr. King as the inspiration behind her fascination with the franchise.

The character of Guinan has always been clouded in mystery. Like any good bartender, she is a good listener. She is extremely long-lived and very little is known about her alien race, the El Aurian. However, Guinan does share some history with Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) that has never been fully explained. Not even during the two-part episode in which members of the Enterprise crew travel back in time to the 19th century where they meet Mark Twain.

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