When it came to answering her fan mail on ‘Star Trek’, actress Nichelle Nichols reportedly gave some fans a special gift, but only certain fans were in the know. Here’s what we know about the story from the original series set.
Nichelle Nichols Gave ‘Star Trek’ Fans in the Military Something Extra
On #StarTrekDay watch @UnitedWeFanDoc and see how fans fought to save #StarTrek from cancellation in 1968! If not for their efforts, there would be no #StarTrekDiscovery, no #Picard, no #LowerDecks, no #StrangeNewWorlds!
— United We Fan (@UnitedWeFanDoc) September 8, 2020
In a piece for StarTrek.com, legendary Trek Superfan Bjo Trimble shared a story from her time on set with Nichelle Nichols.
Bjo and her husband had ample opportunity to interact with Nichols and other members of the Star Trek cast. Bjo, born Betty Jo, went by “Bjo” among friends and fellow Trek fans. At first just a fan of the series, she and her husband eventually worked behind the scenes of Star Trek, thanks to Gene Roddenberry. The Star Trek creator hired the Trimbles to answer fan mail sent to Star Trek actors, and to work for Roddenberry’s mail order business, Lincoln Enterprises.
When it came to Nichelle Nichols, however, there was a special procedure for organizing the incoming fan mail.
“She left it to us to answer the standard ‘please send me a phaser’ requests with photos of her in Starfleet uniform,” Bjo Trimble recounted, before noting that fan mail coming from members of the military was to be given directly to Nichols.
“She wanted all her mail with a military return address,” Trimble stated. “She had photos of her in her sexy, skimpy singer’s costumes, which she sent to ‘her boys overseas.’ From the military fan reaction, those photos were very much appreciated!”
Nichols is a singer of some note, having released several albums. Years after Star Trek ended, Nichols would speak on camera about the Trimble’s campaign to save Star Trek, as part of the documentary United We Fan, which explored the letter-writing campaign and its effects.
Sending “fan mail” to an actor you admire is a time-honored tradition among fans of TV and film. Often, actors (or their PR people) will send headshots or a form letter in response to a fan letter. However, some celebs like Nichols, go the extra mile for certain fans.
Even today, fan mail has sparked some interesting headlines. Good Housekeeping reports that Tom Hanks once answered a fan’s letter just to help her win a bet, while Bryan Cranston reportedly has a habit of sending headshots to fans with ominous messages written on them.
Bjo Trimble Is a Legend Among ‘Star Trek’ Fans
Happy birthday to the talented, always-delightful, ever-peripatetic Bjo Trimble, who (with her husband, John) spearheaded the original Save Star Trek letter-writing campaign, without which Trek would only be a distant memory today. I took this photo at the Discovery premiere. pic.twitter.com/br330U08aO
— Michael Okuda (@MikeOkuda) August 15, 2019
The story Trimble shared about Nichelle Nichols was just one of many stories she collected in her time as a fan and Roddenberry employee. Bjo, along with husband John Trimble, were instrumental in coordinating a fan letter-writing campaign that saved Star Trek.
In an interview with StarTrek.com, Trimble recalled just how effective the fan campaign was.
“Fans decided to take action, and we did it very well, thank you very much! So well that NBC came on, in prime time, and made a voice-over announcement that Star Trek was not canceled…so please stop writing letters.”
In fact, iO9 has referred to the Trimble’s campaign as one of a handful of such fan campaigns that were ultimately successful, alongside “save our show” campaigns for series like Quantum Leap and Roswell.