Takei Talks LGBT and Star Trek
Star Trek introduced the concept of “Infinite Diversity In Infinite Combinations” and was lauded for breaking barriers in terms of gender and race from it’s beginnings in the 1960s, but to date it still has not introduced a LGBT character. In a new interview with PrideSource, Star Trek’s original Sulu, George Takei, says he thinks the time is right, and he went on to say that he tried to convince Gene Roddenberry to do it decades ago. Here is the exchange…
PrideSource: Do you think we’ll ever see an out LGBT human on “Star Trek”?
Takei: I think now it’s high time. I did very quietly bring up the subject to Gene Roddenberry when we were starting our movie series – our feature film series – and he said with television he had to walk a very tight rope. You know, we were dealing with issues at that time – the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the Cold War – and that episode where Kirk kissed Uhura, a white man kissing a black woman, that was blacked out in all of the Southern states: Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Our ratings plummeted!
(Gene) said he knows that the LGBT issue is a civil rights issue, but he had to keep the show on the air as a television series, and if he pushed the envelope too far he wouldn’t be able to address any of the issues. He’d be canceled. Same thing with feature films now: bigger budget, higher risk. And he had said he’s predicating a 23rd century when the LGBT issue would not be an issue, but it is an issue of our times that we’re dealing with metaphorically in terms of science fiction and he wants to deal with it and still be able to make movies. He had said he hopes for the time that he will be able to do it.
Alas, Gene passed. It was in ’91 that he passed, and we’re 20 years-plus from that time. We’ve advanced with unimagined speed, and I think now it is high time “Star Trek” deal with the issue of LGBT equality. Now there are “Star Trek” actors who are out. Zachary Quinto, who plays Spock in the reboot, came out, and I am out. With the two of us out, it is now safe for “Star Trek” to deal with LGBT equality.
Takei at Seattle Pride Parade July 10, 2014 – actor says time is now for LGBT character in “Star Trek”
The issue of introducing an LGBT character into Trek been debated for a long time. In 1987 “Trouble With Tribbles” writer David Gerrold tried to break the barrier with an episode titled “Blood and Fire” for the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation but it was rejected due to the controversial nature – leading to Gerrold leaving the show (he would eventually use a reworked version the script for the fan series Star Trek Phase II). The possibility came up again a decade later during the later seasons of Star Trek Voyager, but again it never made it to air. By the time the franchise went off the air in 2005, gay characters had become common on network TV, which may be why writer/producer Brannon Braga has since expressed regret over how Trek was not “forward thinking” on this issue.
As for the new movie era, director/producer JJ Abrams actually expressed surprise that Trek never had a gay character and said he was open to it, but it didn’t happen in either Star Trek or Into Darkness. For his part writer and expected director of the next Star Trek film has also said he would like to see it happen.
Trekking Around The Issue
While Star Trek has not had an explicitly gay character (in filmed canon), the franchise has skirted around LGBT and gender issues in a number of episodes. For example, TNG’s “The Outcast” had an androgynous race that shunned anyone who expressed one gender of the other. The below scene shows the allegorical nature of plot, dealing with acceptance of gender identity.
And the symbiotic Trill race has offered the opportunity to explore the issue. In the TNG episode “The Host,” Beverly Crusher falls in love with a male Trill, but after he dies and the symbiont is transplanted into a female host, Beverly ends the relationships because she felt her ability to love was was too “limited.” A similar situation happened in the reverse in the Deep Space Nine episode “Rejoined” when Jadzia Dax was re-united with an ex-lover who was now in a female host. The show portrays rekindling relationships with new hosts as taboo in Trill society, but Jadzia and the now female Lenara can’t fight it and kiss.
There are more examples, including the bi-sexual version of Kira Nerys in Deep Space Nine’s mirror universe. And of course DS9’s Quark had some experience with gender re-assignment surgery in the light-hearted episode “Profit and Lace.” Enterprise also ventured into LGBT territory with a more serious approach, with the allegory storyline about the 22nd century Vulcan taboo on mind-melders and how some contract a fatal (AIDS-like) disease.
So Star Trek has got close, but has yet to cross that line.
POLL: Is it time?