Star Trek Actress Nichelle Nichols in a NASA recruitment photo. She was instrumental in the space agency’s recruitment of women and minority astronauts during the 1970s and 80s.
By Curtis Bataille
David Teek, an employee in the Florida A&M University (FAMU) Office of Technology Transfer and Export Control, grew up a major Star Trek fan on the Space Coast of Florida. He even started a fan club in high school on Merritt Island.
Now, Teek’s fandom has come full circle. He is living out the ultimate Star Trek fan’s dream by co-producing a documentary “Woman in Motion,” about African American actress Nichelle Nichols, one of the stars of the critically acclaimed series.
“Woman in Motion” centers around Nichols’ pioneering NASA campaign to recruit the first women and minority astronauts in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. It also addresses her groundbreaking role on Star Trek as “Uhura,” one of the first starring depictions of a Black woman on television.
“My role was to be kind of the Star Trek guy. I grew up on the Space Coast, and actually started a Star Trek fan club when I was in high school,” said Teek, an export control coordinator in the FAMU Office of Technology Transfer and Export Control. In his spare time, he’s also a partner in Stars North production company alongside Todd Thompson and Tim Franta. “I wrote most of the original story treatment, did research, helped identify archived footage to be used, and got the chance to interview several people,” he said.
Teek believes it was important for the documentary to be made now, in order to allow Nichols to continue to inspire new generations with her iconic career.
“The importance of this film is that it shows how one person can make a difference by committing themselves to making positive change,” said Teek. “Nichols was able to leverage her television celebrity to influence change at NASA and to open the door for a wider array of people.”
The film will feature commentary from Star Trek actors, civil rights activists, astronauts, and scientists, including Neil deGrasse Tyson, George Takei, Pharrell Williams, Martin Luther King III, Al Sharpton, Vivica A. Fox, Walter Koenig, Rod Roddenberry, and Benjamin Crump. Shout! Studios has acquired all North American rights to feature the documentary.
“Nichelle Nichols not only was a trailblazer in Hollywood, she was a trailblazer for the future of our society,” Crump told Deadline, a movie industry publication. “She took the fight for civil rights, diversity and inclusion and gender equality to new frontiers with NASA which continue to serve America’s space program today. She was ahead of her time.”
When work began five years ago, the documentary was intended to be used as merely a piece of a science center exhibit centered around Star Trek and the space agency. After director and producer Todd Thompson heard the story, he decided it would be better suited as a film. Their production company has reserved the right to use the film for not- for-profit science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education purposes.
Now that production on the film, which is planned to be released in 2021, has ended, Teek looks back fondly on the opportunity to tell this story to a wide audience.
“We had a fantastic team, so that made it an especially great experience,” said Teek. “It was important for me to tell Nichelle’s story. I thought I knew the contours of it, but after everything was over, I found out I didn’t know even 10 percent of what she’s done.
“Aside from that, it’s just an extremely fascinating story. We wanted to tell a good and enlightening story that would hold people’s attention and educate them on the amazing accomplishments of Nichelle Nichols.”