To Boldly Go opens in the living room of a young Black girl and her family. It’s “TV night,” and they’re preparing to watch a “real treat”: actor Nichelle Nichols in the role of Lieutenant Uhura on “Star Trek.” Author Angela Dalton uses this semi-autobiographical framing device to set up her picture book biography of the trailblazing Black actor.
Following Nichols through a childhood filled with art and music, to her early career in dance, to her time in Hollywood, Dalton effectively communicates how groundbreaking Nichols’ “Star Trek” character was. During an era “when Black actresses played servants on television” and real-life astronauts were exclusively white men, Lieutenant Uhura was a strong, intelligent Black woman, a communications officer aboard the USS Enterprise and a leader among her fellow officers. Black viewers “burst with pride seeing someone who looked like us standing as an equal to make the future better for everyone,” Dalton writes.
Even so, Nichols’ role on “Star Trek” did not insulate her from discrimination, and Dalton conveys how racist treatment, including harassment on the studio lot and reduced screen time, led Nichols to decide to leave the show—until she was approached by a very special fan who convinced her of the positive impact that she and Uhura were having on the world.
Illustrator Lauren Semmer’s vibrant artwork showcases Nichols’ bold sense of style, including her signature earrings. Semmer cleverly incorporates hues reminiscent of the “Star Trek” color palette to highlight Nichols’ influence on the world around her. This is particularly effective in the final spreads, which depict a group of young Black girls dancing, singing, stargazing and watching “Star Trek” in outfits that recall the Enterprise’s multicolor uniforms.
The book’s back matter includes an author’s note in which Dalton explains the mark Nichols left on her and her parents, as well as information about a campaign Nichols led on behalf of NASA to recruit “women and minoritized astronaut candidates.” The effort resulted in a record number of applicants.
Dalton and Semmer’s book is an inspiring read not only for “Star Trek” fans but also for any reader who longs to “boldly go where no one has gone before.”