Commander Nyota Uhura is a character from the fictional Star Trek universe and was played by Nichelle Nichols on Star Trek: The Original Series and the first six Star Trek movies. She was the Chief Communications Officer on the Starship Enterprise (NCC-1701 and NCC-1701-A).
Uhura joined the crew of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 in 2266. She served, with the rank of Lieutenant, as Chief Communications Officer under the command of Captain James T. Kirk. She retained this post throughout the Enterprise's five-year mission and returned to it with a promotion to Lieutenant Commander in 2271 under the command of Willard Decker after the ship's refit and again under Kirk (at that time an Admiral) during the V'Ger crisis of the same year.
In 2284, while the Enterprise was reassigned for cadet training, Uhura was assigned to Starfleet Command Communications and Starfleet Academy where she lectured. Her assignment to the transporter room at Old City Station enabled her to play an instrumental role in the attempt to rescue Spock as she illegally transported Kirk and his crew to the Enterprise which they then stole to carry out this unauthorized mission.
Following the destruction of the Enterprise, Uhura joined the rest of the crew on the highjacked Klingon Bird-of-Prey on a mission to save Earth by travelling back in time to the 20th century in search of whales (see Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home). She and Chekov successfully obtained enough photons from the nuclear reactor of the U.S.S. Enterprise CVN 65 aircraft carrier to recharge the ship's power after damage from the time-travel manoeuvre.
With their mission successfully completed, they returned to Earth where, with the rest of the crew, Uhura was put on trial for her part in the theft and destruction of the Enterprise. They were instead praised for saving Earth and Uhura returned to her original post as Chief Communications Officer under Kirk on the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-A.
By 2293, Uhura had been promoted to the rank of Commander and had again taken up a position at Starfleet Academy. Her career following the decommissioning of the NCC-1701-A that year has yet to be officially chronicled.
In the non-canon novels "Vulcan's Heart" and "Catalyst of Sorrows", Admiral Uhura is head of Starfleet Intelligence in 2360.
The name "Uhura" comes from the Swahili word Uhuru, which means "freedom". This is probably an allusion on Roddenberry's part to the Uhuru African Socialist movement founded by Tanzanian leader Julius Nyerere, which attracted the attention of U.S. leftists during the 1960's. Unfortunately, "Uhura" is apparently not really a possible Kenyan girl's name.
"Nyota", Swahili for "star", is sometimes quoted as Uhura's first name, although this name is not official Star Trek lore or canon. It does appear in a Star Trek script from the 1960s, and was also later mentioned by William Shatner in his book Star Trek Memories. However, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry stated that she only had one name, Uhura. The existence of Uhura's first name has been the subject of much debate among fans for years. One publication, The Best of Trek suggested that her first name is "Penda" (the verb -penda has the meaning "to love" or "to like" in Swahili).
Nichelle Nichols has said on the DVD release of The Original Series that a writer had asked Gene Roddenberry about Uhura's first name, and was told that one was never decided. The writer then suggested the name "Nyota". Roddenberry liked it, but said to ask Nichols before he gave permission for the name to be used. Nichols had thought of the name as beautiful. (Source: Interview - Star Trek: TOS Season 2 DVD)
In the movie Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, it seems that Kirk may murmur "Nyota" when speaking to Uhura at one point.