Star Trek

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Star Trek is a popular science fiction franchise that includes films, television shows, novels, comics, and other types of media.

The Franchise

The main focus of the franchise is the television shows and films, which include:

TV Shows



There are also numerous tie-in novels, comics, and other media.

LGBT Representation

Star Trek is rather unusual, especially among large media franchises, in its commitment to progressive ideals and social justice. As writes:

In the future, [creator Gene Roddenberry] envisioned race and gender as non-issues. He put Japanese-American George Takei, as Lt. Hikaru Sulu, at the helm; African-American Nichelle Nichols, as Lt. Nyota Uhura, in the communications chair; and even attempted to make the Enterprise's first officer a woman (studio executives rejected that unsavory idea, so the alien Spock took the job). The equality on the U.S.S. Enterprise's bridge was a watershed moment, both in television history and in Americans' understanding of social equality.
"Most television shows, at best, follow cultural trends. Star Trek had clear-cut ideals of its own," wrote Joan Winston, Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Sondra Marshak in their 1975 book Star Trek Lives!, the first and most definitive chronicle of the early years of Trek fandom. "No one would claim that Star Trek was the cause of all the improvement [we've made with problems like racism and sexism]. But it is still harder to believe that it had no effect, when twenty million people tuned in to Star Trek and saw Mr. Spock being treated as friend and brother by Captain Kirk, saw the black and the Russian and the Oriental [sic] and the Southerner and the others treating each other with respect and love."

In particular, African-American figures as diverse as Whoopi Goldberg[1] and Mae Jemison[2] have spoken out on the powerful impact of seeing an African-American woman treated with respect and equality onscreen.

Sadly, this progressiveness did not extend to portrayals of LGBT characters for many years. The first Star Trek film or television series to have any human characters openly identify as LGBT was Star Trek: Beyond in 2016.

In a 1991 interview with The Humanist, Roddenberry spoke of overcoming his own homophobia:

My attitude toward homosexuality has changed. I came to the conclusion that I was wrong. I was never someone who hunted down 'fags' as we used to call them on the street. I would, sometimes, say something anti-homosexual off the top of my head because it was thought, in those days, to be funny. I never really deeply believed those comments, but I gave the impression of being thoughtless in these areas. I have, over many years, changed my attitude about gay men and women.[3]

Roddenberry announced plans to add an LGBT character in the upcoming season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and actor Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock, also expressed support for the idea, stating in a letter to the Los Angeles Times that "It is entirely fitting that gays and lesbians will appear unobtrusively aboard the Enterprise—neither objects of pity nor melodramatic attention.[4]"

However, Roddenberry died before the plans could be realized and control of the Star Trek franchise was given to Rick Berman.

In a 2008 interview, Ronald D. Moore responded to the question of why there were few gay characters in science fiction in general and none on Star Trek as follows:

We've just failed at it. It's not been something we've successfully done. At Star Trek we used to have all these stock answers for why we didn't do it. The truth is it was not really a priority for any of us on the staff so it wasn't really something that was strong on anybody's radar. And then I think there's a certain inertia that you're not used to writing those characters into these dramas and then you just don't. And somebody has to decide that it's important before you do it and I think we're still at the place where that's not yet a common – yeah, we have to include this and this is an important thing to include in the shows. Sci fi for whatever reason is just sort of behind the curve on all this.[5]

In 2002, Kate Mulgrew (who played Captain Janeway) stated in an August 2002 interview for Out in America:

Well, one would think that Hollywood would be more open-minded at this point, since essentially the whole town is run by the gay community. It makes very little sense if you think about it. No, Star Trek is very strangely by the book in this regard. Rick Berman, who is a very sagacious man, has been very firm about certain things. I've approached him many, many times over the years about getting a gay character on the show — one whom we could really love, not just a guest star. Y'know, we had blacks, Asians, we even had a handicapped character — and so I thought, this is now beginning to look a bit absurd. And he said, "In due time." And so, I'm suspecting that on Enterprise they will do something to this effect. I couldn't get it done on mine. And I am sorry for that.[6]

In a 2011 interview, J. J. Abrams, who rebooted the franchise with 2009's Star Trek film, said that he was "frankly shocked that in the history of Star Trek there have never been gay characters in all the series" and added that including a gay character in the next film "was not in the list of my priorities to try to figure out how to make this movie in the best possible way. But it will now be in the hopper."[7] However, the next film, Star Trek: Into Darkness did not include an identifiably LGBT character and Abrams then left Star Trek to take over the Star Wars franchise.

In a 2014 interview with PrideSource, actor George Takei, who is openly gay, stated that he had tried to convince Roddenberry to include one or more LGBT characters in the Star Trek films, but was unsuccessful[8].

In a 2014 interview, Roberto Orci, one of the writers of the upcoming film Star Trek: Beyond, said "I would like to see that" when asked about the possibility of a gay character in the film.[9]

On August 10, 2016, showrunner Bryan Fuller confirmed that the upcoming television show Star Trek: Discovery would "absolutely" have a gay character[10].

Sexuality of Hikaru Sulu

John Cho as Hikaru Sulu in a promotional poster for Star Trek:Beyond.

In July 2016, actor John Cho announced that in the upcoming film Star Trek: Beyond, his character of Hikaru Sulu would be portrayed as gay in a tribute to George Takei. The Melbourne Herald Sun broke the news, reporting:

Helmsman of the USS Enterprise, Hikaru Sulu, played by John Cho, is shown in Star Trek Beyond as the loving father of a daughter with a same sex partner. And in typical trailblazing Trek fashion — it’s just not a big deal. [...]

[Cho] said the decision by writer Simon Pegg and director Justin Lin to make Sulu gay was a nod to George Takei, who played the character in the original 1960s series, and was a sign of what he hoped were changing times.

"I liked the approach, which was not to make a big thing out it, which is where I hope we are going as a species, to not politicise one's personal orientations," said Cho.[11]

Takei was not happy with the decision to make Sulu gay, however. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he stated "I'm delighted that there's a gay character. Unfortunately, it's a twisting of Gene's creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it's really unfortunate."[12]

Both actor Zachary Quinto (who is also openly gay and who plays Spock in the reboot series) and writer/actor Simon Pegg responded to Takei's comments.

Quinto stated:

I get it. [Takei] has had his own personal journey and has his own personal relationship with this character but, you know, as we established in the first ‘Star Trek’ film in 2009, we’ve created an alternate universe, and my hope is that eventually George can be strengthened by the enormously positive response from especially young people who are heartened by and inspired by this really tasteful and beautiful portrayal of something that I think is gaining acceptance and inclusion in our societies across the world, and should be.[13]

Pegg added:

I have huge love and respect for George Takei, his heart, courage and humour are an inspiration. However, with regards to his thoughts on our Sulu, I must respectfully disagree with him.”

He’s right, it is unfortunate, it’s unfortunate that the screen version of the most inclusive, tolerant universe in science fiction hasn’t featured an LGBT character until now. We could have introduced a new gay character, but he or she would have been primarily defined by their sexuality, seen as the ‘gay character’, rather than simply for who they are, and isn’t that tokenism?

Justin Lin, Doug Jung and I loved the idea of it being someone we already knew because the audience have a pre-existing opinion of that character as a human being, unaffected by any prejudice. Their sexual orientation is just one of many personal aspects, not the defining characteristic.

Also, the audience would infer that there has been an LGBT presence in the Trek Universe from the beginning (at least in the Kelvin timeline), that a gay hero isn’t something new or strange. It’s also important to note that at no point do we suggest that our Sulu was ever closeted, why would he need to be? It’s just hasn’t come up before.

Our Trek is an alternate timeline with alternate details. Whatever magic ingredient determines our sexuality was different for Sulu in our timeline. I like this idea because it suggests that in a hypothetical multiverse, across an infinite matrix of alternate realities, we are all LGBT somewhere.

Whatever dimension we inhabit, we all just want to be loved by those we love (and I love George Takei). I can’t speak for every reality but that must surely true of this one. Live long and prosper.[14]

Sexuality of James T. Kirk

During the discussion of Hikaru Sulu's sexuality in Star Trek: Beyond, Simon Pegg also described Kirk as a "pansexual fun seeker."[15]

LGBT Themes

Despite the lack of openly LGBT characters in the films and television shows prior to Star Trek: Beyond, a number of episodes dealt with themes related to LGBT issues. Several episodes involved alien species with non-binary concepts of gender, for example, while others have dealt metaphorically with such issues as the stigma of AIDS. Notable episodes include:

  • The Next Generation: "The Outcast", "The Offspring"
  • Deep Space Nine: "Rejoined" (which included a same sex kiss between two alien females, one of the first lesbian kisses aired on television)
  • Enterprise: "Stigma"

Tie-in Novels

A number of the tie-in novels contain openly LGBT characters, including Pathways, Section 31: Rogue, The Best and the Brightest, and the Vanguard series, among others.

Related Links

LGBT Cast and Crew

In addition to George Takei, who famously came out as gay in 2005, Zachary Quinto, who plays Spock in the reboot film series, came out as gay in 2011. Bryan Fuller, who received writing credits of various types for 22 episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager and was recently named showrunner of the upcoming Star Trek television series expected to premiere in 2017, is also openly gay, as is David Gerrold, best known among Star Trek fans as author of the popular episode "The Trouble With Tribbles".


One of the first, the largest, and the most active media fandoms, the Star Trek fandom had enormous influence on nearly every fandom that came after it and was the originator of many fandom elements that modern fans take for granted. For example, the creation of fanvids is also believed to have begun with the Star Trek fandom when fan Kandy Fong began setting slideshows to music in the mid-70s[16].

The Star Trek fandom also contains the granddaddy of slash ships: Kirk/Spock. In fact, the term "slash" itself is believed to have originated with the Kirk/Spock fandom when fans began using the "/" symbol to designate a romantic/sexual relationship between the two men rather than one of platonic friendship in fanworks.

Slash fanworks remain extremely popular in the Star Trek fandom today, with Kirk/Spock still being the most popular pairing. However, following the release of the 2009 film Star Trek, there was also an upsurge in Kirk/McCoy. Smaller slash pairings in the fandom include Spock/McCoy and Sulu/Chekov.

Star Trek does not have a particularly active femslash fandom. The most popular femslash ship, Kathryn Janeway/Seven of Nine, has less than 200 works tagged with the pairing on fanfiction archive An Archive of Our Own (AO3).

Blood and Fire Fan Film

During the '90s, writer David Gerrold wrote an episode for Star Trek: The Next Generation entitled "Blood and Fire" that featured a gay couple. However, the episode was never filmed. Years later, the script was resurrected by fans who took Gerrold's script, adapted it to The Original Series, and produced the episode, directed by Gerrold himself.

"Blood and Fire" episode

Related Links

Related Links



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