News broke this week that a group of LGBTQ Star Trek fans had targeted CBS and Paramount Pictures with an online petition for the next captain in the franchise to be queer. That should come as no surprise given the gains by lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and queer people in terms of representation in the entertainment medium.
Sadly, it’s still “news” whenever some celebrity comes out, and all too often a topic of promotion when a Hollywood producer can boast he’s hired a token member of the LGBTQ community, “to promote diversity.”
Of course Star Trek should not be excluded from our far more fabulous universe, by any means. And it’s not, not by a parsec.
But at this vantage point, what the 50-year-old saga should be famous for isn’t the Starship Enterprise’s phaser battles, or its crew’s “five year mission, to explore strange new worlds and new civilizations” — most of whom look like us, but with ridges on their noses and foreheads, more often than not.
No, its real claim to fame should be its reliability in providing viewers with a weekly morality tale, barely concealing the controversial issues of the 1960’s. And the complex genius who was the show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, centered each episode on a team led by a white guy from Iowa, his friend the old country southern doctor, a female African American linguist, an Asian pilot who fancied himself a swashbuckler, a Russian Beatles-lookalike, and a Scotsman, all of them working alongside a green-blooded, pointy-eared devil dude, who rejected emotion and favored logic. Oh, and in outer space.
So why not someone LGBTQ? Is that a “no win scenario?”
The petition writers complain how often Star Trek, in its many incarnations, danced around the topic of AIDS and sexuality, only to stop before it got hot. No, captain, she canna take much more of this!
Out actor and social media maven George Takei recalled last year that he did in fact, question Roddenberry on the omission during the series run on NBC from 1966 to 1969, and was told that was a line he just couldn’t cross.
“I’m treading a fine tight wire here. I’m dealing with issues of the time. I’m dealing with the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, and I need to be able to make that statement by staying on the air. If I dealt with that issue I wouldn’t be able to deal with any issue because I would be canceled.”
And it turns out, a writer of one of Star Trek’s most popular episodes, “The Trouble with Tribbles,” wrote a script involving gay characters for Roddenberry’s second series, Star Trek: the Next Generation. David Gerrold, who himself is gay, reportedly had the support of the executive producer but Paramount suits balked. According to an article from 2008 on io9, they told him they worried advertisers would flee the fledgling syndicated program because “mommies” would call in to complain that they’d seen gay people on Star Trek.
Not wanting to waste a great script, Gerrold rewrote it — twice: once for a 2008 fanfilm set in the original series timeline, and also as a novel with all new characters beyond the Star Trek universe.
The filmed version of “Blood and Fire” tells the story of Peter Kirk, the bold captain’s nephew, who is revealed to be gay when he and his boyfriend make out in his quarters. He asks Uncle Jim to marry them aboard the Enterprise, but before the nuptials, Peter and his beau are sent on a dangerous mission involving bloodworms and evil scientists and Klingons, and there is more kissing. That’s just scratching the surface, of course; no spoilers here.
A fan named Bernd Schneider compiled an exhaustive examination of “homosexuality in Star Trek” on a website called Ex Astris Scientia. There, he draws a dividing line between what’s come to be known as “Slash Fiction” and the movement to get Star Trek producers to be inclusive. The name “slash” comes from fan fiction devoted to exploring what some see as a sexual tension or even full-blown relationship between Kirk and Spock, written in shorthand as Kirk/Spock or K/S. You’ll find more than you ever imagined was possible about that angle, here.
What is clear, however, is that CBS and Paramount recognize the influence and importance of diehard Star Trek fans, and their significant value. Paramount is reportedly preparing to drop a lawsuit against the producers of another fan film after pressure from two big Star Trek fans: producer J.J. Abrams and Star Trek Beyond director Justin Lin, as well as thousands of lesser known fans.
So perhaps all LGBTQ fans need do is apply the right pressure to pull those Hollywood suits away from the dark side — oooh, darn, sorry! Wrong franchise! I mean, perhaps all fans need do is find a way to reprogram the next series so it’s possible to save Star Trek and rescue the LGBTQ community at the same time. This is our queer Kobayashi Maru. You can sign that Queer Frontier petition here.
Because, after winning marriage equality and in the midst of the fight to secure our civil rights, you know… we don’t like to lose.