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The Batman Character You Likely Didn't Know Nichelle Nichols Played

On Sunday morning, the world of entertainment and science suffered a heavy blow, as news of the death of actress Nichelle Nichols spread across the internet. The actress, best known for her groundbreaking role as Nyota Uhura in "Star Trek: The Original Series," died at the age of 89 in Silver City, New Mexico (via New York Times).

Through her work in various "Star Trek" media, Nichols made major leaps forward in terms of representing both women and African Americans with respect, dignity, and grace on the small screen. Filled with determination, intelligence, and agency, her portrayal of Uhura impacted society in innumerable ways. According to an interview with Nichols, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. even convinced the actress to remain on the show because he considered her part so emblematic of the goals of the civil rights movement.

While the sci-fi franchise was an unquestionably defining moment in her life, Nichols would appear on screen in numerous other shows and films that solidified her stance as not only a game-changing figure, but as an immense talent in her own right. One of these roles saw Nichols provide the voice to not a daring hero, but rather an intimidating threat in another iconic franchise. 

Nichols provided the villainous voice of Thoth Khepera

From Ron Perlman to John Rhys-Davies to Malcolm McDowell, "Batman: The Animated Series" saw a plethora of notable names pop up in its cast list throughout its run from 1992 to 1995. In Season 2, Episode 8 ("Avatar"), the animated series went where no episode had gone before, bringing Nichelle Nichols on board as an iconic villain.

In the episode, Nichols provides the voice of Thoth Khepera, a wise ancient goddess who possesses the secrets of life and death. Early in the episode, Ra's al Ghul (David Warner) manages to locate her tomb to try and gain her secrets. At first appearing as a beautiful young woman, Khepera begins to drain him of his life essence until Batman (Kevin Conroy) and Talia al Ghul (Helen Slater) come in, revealing that the deity is actually a mummy-type being. After an intense skirmish, almost everyone escapes, but Khepera is crushed by her collapsing pit. 

Those more accustomed to Nichols' smooth yet spunky line delivery on "Star Trek" might be surprised by just how much range the actress is able to portray here. As Khepera's younger form, she delivers her lines with the perfect level of sultriness and off-kilter energy. But once she turns more decrepit, Nichols unleashes an unsettling vocal performance, most evident in the final, spine-chilling scream Khepera delivers as she is crushed under the rubble. 

Notably, Nichols wasn't the only Trekkie to show up on the show. LeVar Burton, known as Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge in "Star Trek: The Next Generation," also voiced Hayden Sloane. Similarly, Kate Mulgrew, known as Captain Kathryn Janeway on "Star Trek: Voyager," voiced the villainous Red Claw.