LOS ANGELES – William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols shared TV’s first interracial kiss on “Star Trek” in the 1960s.
If you haven’t yet seen the new big-screen “Trek” and don’t want to know who actually kissed Nyota Uhura before James T. Kirk, read no further: Zoe Saldana’s update of the comely communications officer has a boyfriend, and it’s not the dashing captain.
It’s Kirk’s future best friend forever, the coldly logical Vulcan Spock (Zachary Quinto), a member of a race whose males supposedly get the itch to mate only once every seven years.
But in J.J. Abrams’ relaunch of “Trek,” Spock and Uhura definitely have a thing going.
“This is one of those changes that obviously we knew was going to incite a lot of potential rioting in the theaters,” said Alex Kurtzman, who co-wrote the screenplay with Roberto Orci.
There’s a hint early on that Spock and Uhura are more than just Starfleet colleagues. Then midway through the film, after Spock has suffered horrible personal loss, Uhura gets him alone and plants consoling kisses and caresses on the pointy-eared Vulcan.
Later, they go public with their romance in front of the abashed Kirk (Chris Pine), who had been pursuing Uhura for himself through the whole movie.
“It provides a tremendous sense of levity between Kirk and Spock and between Kirk and Uhura. But I think between Spock and Uhura, it offers a kind of depth and a complexity to those characters that maybe we didn’t get a chance to see in the same way before,” Quinto said. “I feel like Uhura ultimately represents a kind of canvas onto which Spock is able to project a lot of the emotions that he’s unable to express in a more conventional way.”
There is also a certain logic to Spock falling for a human: Spock is only half-Vulcan, his father having married a human himself. Co-writer Orci, a lifelong “Trek” fan, always felt there was an undercurrent of attraction between Nimoy’s Spock and Nichols’ Uhura.
“There’s some hints in the original series of some flirtations between them,” Orci said.
And Saldana herself figures that for serious, career-minded Uhura, Spock is more her type than an on-the-prowl guy like Kirk.
“I’m pretty sure that Uhura would choose a night in and studying 10 times over going out and partying it up and hooking up with a boy,” Saldana said. “Who other than Spock to come in and sort of possess all the qualities that she sees in herself, that she would like to continue to obtain, and that she would want to see in a man? I almost feel like Kirk would be the opposite and be someone she just wouldn’t go for.”
The filmmakers thought it also might humanize Kirk a bit. Shatner’s Kirk bedded human and alien beauties week after week on the TV show, but Pine’s Kirk winds up humbled when he sees Spock and Uhura lock lips, particularly since he and the Vulcan have gotten off to a contentious start.
“It makes Kirk a little more accessible,” Pine said. “He’s the guy we’ve all been. He wants the chick who doesn’t want you. He’s trying really hard. She just kind of laughs in his face and goes off with the other guy. I relate to that. I’m sure everyone does.”
The original Spock found the romance between Quinto and Saldana’s characters deeply moving.
“Beautiful, beautiful. Wonderful,” said Leonard Nimoy, who reprises his role as the older Spock in the movie. “Both of them played it so well. They were both so available to each other. Very touching, really.”