Today many TV series have gay characters, including William Shatner’s sitcom $#!* My Dad Says and Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica spin-offs. But there has never been a gay character on Star Trek, and in a new interview veteran Star Trek writer/producer Brannon Braga explains why that is and why he thinks things would be different today.
Braga on why no gay Star Trek characters
Over the years Brannon Braga grew from a WGA intern on Star Trek: The Next Generation, to the co-creator and show-runner for Star Trek: Enterprise. In that time he ended up with more writing credits than any other writer. Braga is now working on Steven Spielberg’s new time travel series Terra Nova. At the recent TCA press event, the LBGT site AfterElton talked to Braga about gay characters in science fiction and specifically on Star Trek. Here is an excerpt:
AE: I’m very much a fan of Star Trek but unfortunately none of the series ever included a gay character. You were involved with writing two of the movies and produced or executive produced for The Next Generation, Voyager and Enterprise. Can you speak to why that never happened?
BB: It was a shame for a lot of us that … I’m talking about the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and there was a constant back and forth about well how do we portray the spectrum of sexuality. There were people who felt very strongly that we should be showing casually, you know, just two guys together in the background in Ten Forward. At the time the decision was made not to do that and I think those same people would make a different decision now because I think, you know, that was 1989, well yeah about 89, 90, 91. I have no doubt that those same creative players wouldn’t feel so hesitant to have, you know, have been squeamish about a decision like that.
Braga went on to say that Star Trek did deal with gay issues "metaphorically" noting a Dax episode in Deep Space Nine’s (likely "Rejoined"), and that the issue wasn’t due to science fiction being more male oriented, but due Star Trek being a "syndicated family show".
Read more of Braga’s interview at AfterElton.com.
It is true that there have not been any outright gay characters in Star Trek, but during Braga’s tenure he is right to say that some episodes did venture into some LGBT "metaphors", such as TNG’s "The Host" and "Outcast", DS9’s "Rejoined" and "Profit and Lace". Here is an interesting video compilation for some of these episodes.
POLL: Time for a gay character on Star Trek?
Thanks to Scott Lukas Williams for Youtube compilation
Make all that Kirk/Spock slashfic canon in one scene!
Trek should take a page out of Doctor Who and just display it as a part of life. No big deal, no super emotional story about someone struggling with their lifestyle choice.
Who says there was no gay character in Star Trek? It’s like looking at a bus load of people and declaring there’s no gay people in there because what? Nobody is standing up, raising their hand and saying “I’m Gay!”?
Of course there’s gays in Star Trek, but the great thing about it is, it’s not a big deal. This is the future. Nobody cares if you’re gay, straight, bi, bi species, bi Vulcan or bi Klingon. In the future, all of this is not an issue. So nobody talks about it. It’s a NON issue.
Is Brannon Braga still talking? Last I heard every single sci fi show he touches gets cancelled. Enterprise? Threshold? Flash Forward? And he blames sci fi rot or whatever? Perhaps it’s time he looks at himself and perhaps admit to himself he’s probably better doing something else? I’m just saying.
As a gay Trek fan, to see representation in the spectrum of equality that Star Trek is, would be marvelous. It’s a shame that Star Trek couldn’t have been more inclusive, but understanding reasons why they did so makes sense. Sexuality was still a sensitive subject on television, and few shows were able to tackle it successfully (Will and Grace being one). But, if we had a new Star Trek series today, I believe that there would be gay characters because society has loosened up.
“People can be very frightened of change.”
Sure, Captain Kirk was talking about politics there, but isn’t this just as much a political issue as anything else?
I say try a Sulu/Chekov pairing next film.
Kirk and Spock have been gay for 45 years, depending on which fanzines you were reading.
And let that person be a Captain with a real live spouse.
That would be cool.
The Great Bird of the Galaxy did not rule this out for Kirk and Spock, why should we?
Gene made Kirk and Spock bisexual, so it’s not like there has been no talk about it in ST so far.
I’m disheartened to see that the no’s are at 29%. We have a very long way to go it seems and if Trek fans can’t get there then perhaps we never will.
I totally agree with 3, here. Who’s to say there have never been any gay characters in Trek? Most gay people I know you wouldn’t ever guess they’re gay. People have no frakking idea that I am until I offhandedly mention that I’m going to dinner with my boyfriend.
To define yourself by a single characteristic is simply… illogical. I’m a self-described nerd long before I’m gay. The fact that there is an entire culture centered around one’s sexuality is simply baffling to me.
I don’t know how many “straight-pride parades” there are, but it seems illogical to base an entire way of life around a sexuality.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to see if I can’t score tickets to E3 while I watch Battlestar Galactica.
Gays in trek? Sure. I have no problem with that.
BUT, do not over do it!
I’m sorry, but a lot of times, the character becomes like a stereotypical gay, and then seems more like they are making fun of gays.
I watched one webispode that had a gay, and it was just too painful to watch because it was too overdone…
Well it’s not technically “canon”, but in the Titan novels we come to find out Lt. Hawk from First Contact had a relationship with Keru, a male member of of Titan’s crew. Keru is deeply affected by Hawk’s assimilation and death, and we see that play out in the development of his character.
Also, we’ve had T’Prynn from the Vanguard novels who had a relationship with the female Klingon double agent.
A good start, to be sure, but we do have a little ways to go. I agree with the above poster who said they should take the Doctor Who approach and just treat it as part of every day life, without turning into an existential quest about someone struggling with their identity.
Before anything else Star Trek was a TV show and had to think of its ratings. They have to consider how many viewers will not want to watch if there are gay characters vs. how many will be more likely to watch if there are. Also, like mentioned before, most of Star Trek was on TV when society was a good deal less accepting of gays. I think its a difficult task to have gay characters in a show, especially Scifi, and not have it be off-putting to a chunk of your audience. So far the only show I’ve seen to pull it off was Galactica. You had two guys that had feelings for each-other, that were together, but it wasn’t in your face. They were both human, both flawed, so it worked. I don’t think they should be pushing gay makeout sessions, though. Just being realistic that wouldn’t go over too well with a lot of the TV audience. Nothing wrong with having a gay character or couple, as long as they’re not just thrown in there as gay characters. It shouldn’t define them.
10: How enlightened of you to embrace those whom you disagree with.
I like the idea of a gay community being casually seen in the back ground, as described in the above article.
although I myself am a young gay male I cannot say adding it directly into a story line would sit well with me. my fear is the subject matter would seem forced. we’ve got over forty years of trek and then *BAM* gays everywhere! lol
i know there is a sensitivity factor involving homosexuals, and being that i am directly affected i can understand the yearning others in the LGBT community must feel for equality in all facets of life, but come on guys its star trek! if we want gay t.v. watch Queer as Folk.
Well, I’m a gay man and I cast in the background of the episode of “Deep Space Nine” called “Trials and Tribble-ations” as Enterprise ensign #4 (and yes, I was a gold shirt, so i got to live) so I can assure you that there has been at least one gay crew member on the Enterprise!
16. – I was just trying to make a point but you helped better than anything I typed. LLAP
That’s the one thing that always bugged me about the Mirror Universe episodes… the only time you saw any gay / bi / whatever stuff was when you had eeeeevil skanky counterparts like Intendant Kira.
Not that watching Nana Visitor vamp it up wasn’t fun, but if you think it through, the unfortunate implications become pretty unpleasant.
I really think that the gay community freaks out a little too much when TV shows don’t include openly gay characters. They gave SyFy a low rating on their scale because they didn’t include gay characters on most of their scripted shows. I just don’t really think its a big deal either way. If a show has gay characters, great, good for them. If not, its just as good of a show. I don’t want shows to start having “token” gay characters just to appease some people. And we have to realize that its going to be years before America becomes comfortable with gay characters showing lots of affection on TV. So I really don’t think that an openly gay character is needed in Star Trek outside of passing reference. But I wouldn’t have a problem with it.
Forget the gay main character. How about just a minor character…or a guest star? How about an episode where a married couple come onboard (maybe scientists or something) and they just happen to be two men? Or two women? Then it would be understood that homosexual relationships just aren’t a big deal in the future.
I mean, that’s all they really had to do, yet they refused to even go that far. They refused to do it for TNG, DS9, VOY, and they refused even for Enterprise. By the mid-2000s homosexuality wasn’t a controversial topic for TV, and yet they STILL refused. The furthest they ever dared go was a bit of girl-girl titillation for the fanboys.
Really pathetic, Trek.
@18: Really? That must have been awesome! :)
Actually, that makes two — David Gerrold also cameoed in “Trials and Tribble-ations”:
And even wearing a red shirt, he survived until the TMP era ;) :
People cringe at the “space hippies” on their way to Eden or the “Black on the left side” racism of “Last Battlefield”. If there had been “gays” on any of those series it might make the shows almost unwatchable today because those characters would have been the stereotypes from that given time. As I recall, the 1960’s era gay stereotype would be offensive by today’s standards, and the stereotype from the 1980’s was not much better! I agree that there were probably many gays in Trek, it’s just that in the future, it will be such a non issue! It will be an understood and accepted part of sexuality.
I read somewhere… I believe it was Roddenberry’s biography… that when TNG was first starting out, one of the writers, who was gay, wanted to write a gay character into the show. Roddenberry was at first happy with this idea. Then he read the treatment and hated it. This was after all the mid ’80s and it was difficult, even for a gay writer to not have what it was like to be a gay man in the ’70s and ’80s still in his head. Gene said he didn’t like it because it was too over the top and had the characters speaking in “code.”
When he was addressed personally on this subject, he said that in the 24th century, no one would care about who’s gay and who’s not. He mentioned that any one of the characters could have been gay… it didn’t matter.
Now of course, we’ve seen almost all of our staple characters in Trek in relationships. With the exception of what’s mentioned above (skirting the issue), those characters have always had relationships with members of the opposite sex. The only real exception I can think of here would be Sulu… who, was mentioned to have a daughter. Of course, that does not necessarily mean that he is not gay. Dax, also could have been considered bisexual.
…and that’s it. There have been some books, I believe that have some content. Jeri Taylor’s “Pathways” comes to mind… but even then, it didn’t feel right. It still seemed like homosexuality was this closeted taboo in the 24th century.
One of the things Caprica did really well was both address and accept homosexuality in a way that didn’t make it a big deal. I had no idea that Sam, Joseph’s brother, was gay until he brought his husband home for a family dinner, and everyone was perfectly okay with it. That’s what I’d like to see in trek. Gay characters in relationships that are true with no special attention brought to them because of society’s evolution
I was really happy when gay-mariages were legalized up here in Canada. Hopefully the star trek sequel might introduce us to a gay character on the Enterprise. I think boborci is a Executive Producer of the movie. He’s the creative control. So he should try his best to include a gay character.
Gay characters seems to be insulting to gays in most cases. Those in the gay community may disagree but it seems to come off as patronizing to me.
Did you link the wrong YouTube video by mistake?
TNG’s “Outcast” was about a sexually ambiguous relationship, which was a more subtle and sophisticated approach to the issue in that it allowed the audience to more easily identify with Will Riker becoming enamored with a personality without regard to the gender of the person to whom it belonged. This was a much more enlightening and thought-provoking treatment than simply having an relationship between two people of the same sex.
But, in any case, I just don’t think that most of the TNG viewers were sitting at home wishing for more gay characters just for the sake of diversity, and that’s why there weren’t more gay characters. It’s as simple as that.
And these days, there are so many gay characters on TV and in movies that if Star Trek were to do it, it would just seem like a fashionable decision.
If they come up with a great character that happens to be gay, sure run with it. Otherwise, it’s just throwing a gay into the mix to placate the gay fans.
The lack of inclusion of gays in Star Trek has been the series’ biggest failure in my mind. Some posters mentioned that there could have been many gay characters in the background or in scenes, and just because they didn’t say they were gay didn’t mean they weren’t. That would be a believable argument if it weren’t for the overwhelming number of episodes featuring romantic and/or sexual relationships in the Star Trek universe, and in every single one of them, it was a male/female relationship (whenever they stretched those limits it was by making one of the characters gender-neutral, or saying the character was a different gender in another life such as with Trills) so really there were no same-sex relationships seen on screen in however many hundreds of hours of Star Trek that’s been made. With such a well established pattern it ceases to be a coincidence that “no gays were seen on screen” and becomes a rule that they simply don’t exist in this universe. I don’t see how you can watch the entire Star Trek series and not reach that conclusion. The absence of any evidence of a single gay character highly conspicuous in a franchise of this magnitude.
If you combine the overwhelming lack of evidence of any gays with some of the more heterosexist episodes like TNG’s “Justice,” or, multiple TOS episodes, you have a pretty well-established notion that male-female relationships are the only ones that exist in the future. There’s a reason it would be startling and distracting to add a gay character into Trek now after so many years, as some posters have noted. It would clearly work against the fictional social order that has been established over the last 40 years.
Oh, and thanks to CarlG above for pointing out Intendant Kira’s sexuality. She’d make a great counterexample, except… it’s the mirror universe, where everything that’s right is wrong and vice-versa.
At best, gay people don’t exist in the Star Trek universe (through the miracle of futuristic technology and medicine I’m sure). At worst, they’re closeted and shamed into silence to an even greater degree than they are today.
I really like the idea, that in the 23/24th century homosexuallity is not an issue. I would really like that. I also like what someone else said here: There MIGHT be such relationships in the background, and no-ones talking about it because it is not an issue.
But this is just my opinion: I for myself do not want to watch a male couple making out on TV. That just creeps me out, sorry…
A female couple on the other hand….. ;-) wow I really loved “rejoined”…;-)
I have no problem with Gays or Lesbians or Transgendered or Crossdressers in Trek. But it should not or ever be a main focus. The main Focus should be on a great story and the Enterprise and the friendships of the Crew. Weather it be a Ship or Station. LGBT should be there but not in a big way. In the future it is just Accepted that Terrans and Aliens have Gay People.
I don’t mind if current social issues are included in Trek, just as long as they don’t hit us over the head with them. Just find the right balance between gung-ho, strange new worlds action/space exploration and social commentary and… well, everything will be fine.
But please don’t let Trek devolve into “a very special Blossom.”
Captain Jack Harkness seems work very well.
Sometimes on Doctor Who and Torchwood, jokes are made about his promiscuity and it works because the rest of his characterisation is honest and truthful. If this happens in ST, it may be seen as undermining the purpose of reflecting modern life truthfully.
There has to be a balance, it cant always be depicted in a quiet, respectful sombre way which is certainly what any of the Trek shows would have done in the past. It needs to be depited kindly brightly happy and outragously.
knowing him he would have screwed it up somehow like he did with alot of other things so its a good thing they didnt let him do it.
and I agree commodore it shouldnt be the main focus for the most part otherwise it would just seem like gaysploitation for the sake of gaysplotation,
there are exceptions of couse based on my opinion but I wont state them here for fear of a rebuttal seeing as of now its still a hot topic in the press with the military policy towards it.
This obsession with the gay community demanding that they be represented in every venue possible drives me nuts. There are plenty of shows featuring gays, either for drama or comic relief. When I find shows that I like (Caprica for instance) that try to shoehorn in a homosexual subplot, it usually is executed in a clumsy and disjointed fashion that detracts from the quality of the show. It seems like it is done more to placate fringe groups or show off to the world how “open-minded” and “progressive” they are compared to the rest of us apes.
I support the idea that the captain, of perhaps a new series, is gay and has his partner living on board with him.
But yes, Kirk and Spock had an ambiguous relationship.
I guess I should revise my above comment to say gay *humans* don’t exist in Star Trek. Shortly after I posted, I remembered Pel from the DS9 episode “Rules of Acquisition.” Dax suspects she is in love with Quark, but is surprised upon learning she’s female. (Dax had clearly had a positive attitude toward her when she thought Pel was a male and still in love with Quark.) I think that moment was generally overlooked by most people (myself included!) as the subtlest hints that maybe it’s okay to be gay in Star Trek…
at least if you’re wearing putty on your face and have pointed teeth.
[I would have posted this earlier but my Internet went dead on me for several hours.]
Generally speaking, I find depictions of sexuality pretty stilted on Star Trek, from TOS to Enterprise. It’s like there’s a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy about all matters sexual (except for some episodes of TOS, where it was sometimes sophomorically overt). In that light, it’s not really surprising that homosexuality, while undoubtedly present behind closed doors, never gets shown.
In contrast, Star Trek XI seems to have a more comfortable, natural approach to sexuality, so maybe we’ll get something simple and easy thrown in down the line — two men or two women sitting together in a way that looks “close” (and yet still “proper”) in the mess hall or whatnot.
Where are the Cuban-refugee characters on Star Trek that the Cuban-exile community can relate to? Huh? There’s even a half-Cuban writer now in Bob Orci, and we STILL don’t have a single Cuban-refugee character. It must be a sign of the oppressive Paramount regime.
A Cuban-refugee character in the next Trek film!!
And not some Desi Arnaz, “Cuban Pete” stereotype!!
And after that, they should have a character with dwarfism and another with gigantism. And then they should have one with Multiple Personality Disorder. And then a hermaphroditic character. Oh, wait, they already did that. But they haven’t had a Mormon yet. They need to get a Mormon in there, even though Big Love already beat them to it, or else the Mormon Trek fans won’t feel accepted and understood. And then….
@41: Well, if there was ever a PHD for missing the point, you certainly would ace the course. Never mind the fact that being gay is more of a human factor than a political one, it’s also not limited to one country.
Also, have you not seen the episode Season 2 episode of Deep Space Nine titles Sanctuary? That deals with refugees.
We don’t know that there weren’t gay characters in Star Trek. For all we know, Sulu and Chekov were at it like rabbits off duty! Fact is, it wasn’t relevant to the story and the story comes first! I get fed up of mawkish ‘relationship’ scenes in shows just being there to add supposed character depth when it’s little more than token soap opera!
What does a gay character have to do with the story telling?
Why can homosexuals just be happy that they are being accepted instead of persecuted?
I was raised in a strict christian home and star trek would have made the no-watch list if there was an openly gay character in any of the series.
Why does star trek need to stop and point out a characters sexuality? How does this improve the story? How does separating and elevating one group of people over another represent what star trek is?
Those of you complaining and saying shame on Trek for now including a gay yet, give your head a shake. It’s a TV show, to entertain you, if you’re that bothered there isn’t someone exclaiming their sexuality… change the channel.
The trouble with gay characters on TV is you never see a shy one do you? They always conform to the endlessly confident, musical-theatre loving, dare-I-say-it promiscuous stereotype. All straight characters aren’t constantly behaving like rampant sex-o-holics. Doctor Who and Torchwood’s Jack Harkness is like that. Always switched on for an inappropriate remark like Roger Moore’s James Bond, if he were played by a out-and-proud gay guy.
Louis Spence in a spandex Starfleet uniform would probably the worst thing ever. Gay characters becoming the comic relief. I think that’s what a certain section of fandom are afraid of. I don’t think that constitutes homophobia per say. Just preferring it to be less in your face and a representation that has some degree of dignity.
If that poll is any indication, we have a long way to go from acceptance.
Thanks for crediting me for that YouTube compilation but the video you’ve linked is actually not one of mine. Mine is at:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lX8MwpsZI6U
Hmmm….Looking back on TOS, I wonder if the writers managed to slip in a few deeply closeted GLBT characters, for example:
2. The very masculine chick with the deep voice in “Gamesters of Triskelian”
3. The Andoran ambassador in “Elan of Troyus” might be gay or bi, although it’s kind of hard to tell with Andorans
4. What about those bickering tall dark-skinned guys and the gold-dust twins in “Journey to Babel?” We assume that they are fellow diplomats or aides, but could they be couples? Sarek of course is accompanied by his wife so…who knows?
Maybe because it’s a brain disfunction and ST future is free of any human diseases? Why they don’t suffer from cancer? Why they don’t smoke cigarettes? Istn’t ST about showing our bright future?
I agree with 44 & 45
I know a lot of gays that dont act like they’re in a broadway play all the time, and you wouldn’t know it unless they did something deliberately gay or had a rainbow flag key ring or something.
Star Trek is literally “gay enough” with gay writers (like Tribbles writer David Gerrold) casually inserting their point of view into the show WITHOUT being deliberately obvious or insulting to anyone.
David Marcus was played by a gay man, and no one cared. Merritt R. Butrick played David as an average man. David could have been gay. He wasn’t married, had no kids, lived with his mother on a space station with a severe lack of women on it, etc.
Perhaps David, son of Kirk really was gay? Would that have been bad?Does it change the story at all?
NO. Neither Wrath nor Search changes its meaning at all if we accept David as gay.
William Ware Thesis was very very gay. Gene makes reference of learning to accept gays through WWT in his authorized bio. He says it in ONE sentence and never says anything about gays again.
That’s what gay acceptance really is. When no one ever notices it.
Think about how stupid it would be if everytime you saw a black person you made a big deal about it. Eventually you’d get your ass kicked.
You make people feel happy and loved and accepted by NOT mentioning what makes them a little bit different.
Of course homosexuality would be no big deal in the 24th century world that Roddenberry created but we’re watching it now; in the 21st century. We’re thinking of gay characters in the same way that having multicultural crews and positions of power for women on Star Trek helped audiences to overcome certain misconceptions and find acceptance.
I think what *some* heterosexual viewers take for granted is that we see representations of straight sexuality literally everywhere we look: TV commercials, films, print ads, literature, everywhere. As a counterpoint to that, when gay characters finally started to emerge as regulars or guest stars on TV, they were often way over the top so they couldn’t fail to be noticed. They often pandered to the worst stereotypes and, frankly, only represent a fraction of the LGBT community. I would never want that for Star Trek.
I was a Star Trek fan long before I realized I was gay and it was because of the amazing storytelling! I would never want a story to suffer because a writer tried to shoehorn in a gay character or subplot. As I’ve said many times, I’d be thrilled to see two women or two men walk down a corridor holding hands! That’s all! It would just be wonderful to have some indication that LGBT people have survived the trials of 20th and 21st centuries to finally gain a measure of equality.
I think this is especially important for young people. It’s difficult enough for kids to figure out that they’re gay when we’re all socialized to believe everyone must be heterosexual. Genuine, loving representations of same-sex couples in media can make worlds of difference to those kids. Think about how seeing Uhura on the bridge of the Enterprise must have felt for young African-Americans in the 60s. It did what Star Trek does best; gave them hope for the future.