This week the NAACP is announcing the winners of the 52nd Image Awards in a series of virtual events each night this week. The Image Awards honors outstanding performances in film, television, music, and literature and Star Trek came into the week with three nominations and took home one award.
Culpepper wins for Picard
On Tuesday, director Hanelle Culpepper won the Image Award for Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series for her work on the series premiere of Star Trek: Picard “Remembrance.” She beat out competition from Cheryl Dunye (Lovecraft Country – “Strange Case” on HBO), Misha Green (Lovecraft Country – “Jig-a-Bobo” on HBO), Nzingha Stewart (Little Fires Everywhere – “The Uncanny” on Hulu), and Steve McQueen (Small Axe – “Mangrove” on Amazon ).
After the event, CBS Studios sent out a congratulatory Tweet for Culpepper.
— CBS Studios (@CBSTVStudios) March 24, 2021
Culpepper made a bit of Trek history when she was selected to helm the pilot for Picard, but in an essay written for Deadline last month after she was nominated, she says it didn’t occur to her at the time:
Two years ago, right about this time, pre-pandemic and pre-BLM summer, I got the call. Alex Kurtzman loved my vision and was entrusting me to guide the return of a beloved hero – Captain Picard. Today, I’m honored to be nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series for the Star Trek: Picard pilot. When I got the job, I didn’t realize that I was the first Black director and first woman director to launch any Star Trek movie or series. Why? It never crossed my mind; I was too busy thinking about the work.
However, Culpepper also took note of Star Trek’s commitment to diversity and representation:
The Star Trek Universe’s commitment to diversity and representation is much more than a commitment to showcasing Black characters. Regardless of trends, Star Trek shows and movies have also contained characters of Asian, Hispanic and other underrepresented communities; Star Trek: Discovery currently features a prominent gay relationship among its storylines.
Star Trek: Lower Decks was also nominated for two awards, with the winners in animation being announced on Wednesday evening. Lower Decks lost out for Outstanding Animated Series to the Disney Junior series Doc McStuffins. Dawnn Lewis was nominated for her voice work as Captain Freeman, but lost out to Laya DeLeon Hayes from Doc McStuffins on Disney Junior.
A Star Trek Image Awards homecoming
2021 is a bit of a homecoming for Star Trek and the Image Awards. Star Trek: The Original Series won an award at the inaugural event in 1967 for its positive depictions of race relations in the future. It was at that event that Nichelle Nichols was famously convinced to stay on the show by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In her essay on Deadline from last month, Culpepper commented on the connection between Star Trek and the Image Awards:
Like the Star Trek series that came before, diversity and inclusivity were important to me and the producers. In fact, the NAACP Image Awards are an appropriate venue for honoring the Star Trek universe, because the franchise has been speaking to issues of diversity and representation for well over half a century.
Nichelle Nichols was later nominated for her role in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. This year’s three nominations are the first for the franchise since the 90s when Avery Brooks received two nominations for his work on Deep Space Nine and Alfre Woodard was nominated for her supporting role in Star Trek: First Contact.
In the clip below you can see Avery Brooks and Angela Bassett open up the 26th Image Awards in 1994.