When the new Star Trek series was announced late last year, my first thought was excitement. Then nervousness because the writers of Star Trek Into Darkness are producing it. But now I think that I am swinging back around to excitement.
One of the things I am most excited for is new and interesting characters. That has always been one of the best parts of Star Trek. Over the course of my watching the many series, I have fallen in love with the different casts that feel like real people, trying to extend the scope of human knowledge.
What makes the casts so interesting is that Star Trek consistently pushes the frontier of casting. The original series had Uhura who was a groundbreaking moment for African-Americans on TV, culminating in the first interracial kiss on television. The original series also had Chekhov, a Russian man on the bridge in the midst of Cold War paranoia.
Later series also broke new ground. The Next Generation had a disabled man, Geordi LaForge, as a key part of the crew, who also happened to be African American. DS9 had an African-American man as the captain at time when black people were severely underrepresented as main characters on television. DS9 also broke new ground by having a Middle Eastern man as a key part of the crew and even had the first lesbian kiss for the franchise. Of course, Voyager had a female captain who eschewed “traditional” feminine roles throughout the series.
But one thing has been conspicuously missing from Star Trek: a gay character.
Now DS9 did have Garak, who had ambiguous sexuality. Actor Andrew Robinson stated that he played Garak as omnisexual, and the writers of the series played up the ambiguous sexuality between Garak and Dr. Bashir. They even slipped in jokes about it. In one episode Garak gives Bashir a data rod and tells him that if anything bad happens during a coming battle, that Bashir should eat Garak’s [data] rod.
But Garak was always low-key about it. We never actually got to explore his sexuality in any significant way, and in the end he fell in love with a woman (who later died, but still.)
This time around we need a gay character.
For once, Star Trek is behind the times on this, and they need to catch up. Gay people are constantly bombarded by propaganda about how bad they are. Politicians and religious leaders are constantly discussing how gay people are destroying the country, destroying families, destroying law, making things generally worse. That is absolutely disgusting and not true.
One of the main themes of Star Trek is that it does not matter who you are, you can contribute to building the human race. The diverse casts show this. In the future, it is the strength of your character that matters, not your race, or species or sexuality.
So having a gay character would be a positive change for the series and provide a positive message for gay people around the world, including homosexual science fiction fans, whose preferred movies and franchises are woefully absent of gay characters. It’s time to represent everybody, and the new Star Trek is perfect for that.
Now, for this to work, the series should not draw attention to their gay character. What made Uhura so powerful is that nobody called attention to her skin color. She was just there. Everybody accepted her. She was a normal part of the bridge crew. The same thing has to be done with a gay character. The show needs to show him or her as just a normal part of the crew. If he or she has romance, it just needs to be shot and scripted in the same way as a straight romance. That is how it would work.
I hope that this happens. It would make the new series even better.