Jan 25 2011 5:27pm

Brannon Braga Talks Gay Star Trek

Brannon Braga on homosexuality in Star TrekFormer Star Trek writer/producer Brannon Braga was recently interviewed by After Elton on the subject of the lack of homosexual characters in the Trek universe. Speaking as to what would happen today if given an opportunity to be more inclusive he asserted, “…I think those same people [Trek producers] would make a different decision now…” Like many other comments from Trek officials over the years, this seems to translates to a big “oops, we’re sorry!”

So just when will the enlightened Star Trek universe get around to embracing infinite diversity in infinite combinations?

The initial of the exclusion of gays from Trek may be linked to the death of The Great Bird of the Galaxy himself. In a 1991 interview with The Humanist magazine, Gene Roddenberry admitted to making homophobic comments in his past, which he openly regretted. “I never really deeply believed those comments, but I gave the impression of being thoughtless in those areas.” Later that same year, Roddenberry told The Advocate that, “In the 5th season [of Star Trek: The Next Generation] viewers will see more of shipboard life including gay crew members in day-to-day circumstances.” Gene Roddenberry died in 1991, and since then in the officially licensed on-screen Star Trek universe stories, an actual homosexual person has yet to be depicted.

Addressing homosexuality on Star Trek

However, Star Trek has made some obvious attempts to address this issue on numerous occasions. The TNG episode “The Outcast” featured an androgynous species of aliens who were forbidden from choosing a preferred gender by a draconian government. After falling in love with one of the aliens, Riker becomes an advocate of their right to choose their own gender. The Deep Space Nine episode “Rejoined” featured a same sex kiss between Jadzia Dax and Lenara Kahn, a former paramour of an earlier host of Dax's. DS9 also featured numerous mirror-universe versions of the main cast who exhibited bisexual tendencies, specifically the alternate version of Kira.

But, as many fan advocacy groups have pointed out, most of this is simply not enough. The kiss featured between Jadiza and Lenara was not a lesbian kiss, because of the fact that the symbiont inside of Lenara had previously inhabited the body of a man. The aliens in “The Outcast” were all played by female actors, a casting decision Jonathan Frakes (Riker) was against. The bisexual Kira from the mirror universe is an evil character who seems completely insane, and by no means a symbol of enlightened sensibilities about sexuality in the future.

In 1995, a group of fans started the Voyager Visibility Project, a petition to Rick Berman and Paramount calling for the inclusion of GLBT characters in Trek, and though there was a brief rumor that Seven of Nine would indeed be a lesbian, this turned out to be false and the matter was never addressed by the show or showrunners.

Blood and Fire episode of Star Trek Phase II

In the non-canonical corners of the Trek universe, there have been some notable strides. In 2008, James Cawley's fan-run web series Star Trek: Phase II eventually filmed and aired the episode “Blood & Fire.” The episode, written by David Gerrold originally for The Next Generation featured not only a 24th century version of HIV/AIDS, but also a gay couple as its central protagonists. The Phase II folks adapted this into the 23rd century version of Trek for their web series, receiving a considerable amount of praise for the finished episode.

Lieutenant Hawk from Star Trek: First ContactAdditionally, the character of Lt. Hawk, the short-lived helmsman of the Enterprise-E from First Contact is also purportedly gay. In the Trek novel Rogue, Hawk has a committed relationship with a character named Keru, which is met with natural and casual acceptance by the other members of the crew. Naturally! This makes it a shame that Hawk was nothing more than a footnote redshirt character in the film in which he appeared. Incidentally, Rogue was the bestselling Star Trek book title of 2001, the year it was released.

So, with the newly popular Star Trek film series firmly in place, will we finally see gay characters aboard the Starship Enterprise? The interview from Braga seems to indicate one shouldn’t hold one’s breath. Though not affiliated with the J.J. Abrams reboot in any way, Braga was asked if fans should be upset if the new film doesn’t feature gay characters and had this to say:

Well, I mean, the movie is such a different bird. If there were a TV series, I would agree with you. But for a movie, I personally wouldn’t.

With openly gay/bi/omni-sexual characters on shows like Caprica, Doctor Who, and Torchwood, it seems time for Trek to step up.

Here’s hoping Braga’s prediction is wrong.

Ryan’s writing has appeared here, on Nerve.com, Clarkesworld Magazine and elswhere. He lives in Brooklyn.

Noneo Yourbusiness
1. Longtimefan
Here is to hoping that Trek can be a bit more modern for a show set in the future.

I think one thing that may be holding some writers back from including characters in relationships with someone of the same gender is that they are mistakenly thinking that the subject of the relationship has to be driven by the plot (or vise versa)

It will never be natural until it is included because that is who the characters are not what the plot needs them to be.
Captain Jack
3. Captain Jack
Put Russell T. Davies in charge of the next Star Trek TV reboot. LOL!
Captain Jack
4. VegasDude
I still think it is unnecessary to have a total story driven by a LGBT setup. This is a utropic universe set thousands of years in the future. If they are STILL arguing for rights of people like this than The federation has far grater problems than an outside enemy. I personally, am not a big supporter of Gay marriage, but does that mean that I am going to shun people who CHOOSE same sex relationships? Not at all. I believe that this is the attitude we need to take towards it with Star Trek. Its accepted, people can live how they like, no matter what. There is no "Don't ask Don't Tell" law in Starfleet. Stop hammering this.

I suppose for a final thought, I would say this: There is ALWAYS going to be a group of people who are disliked/disrespected/hated for their life choices. Star Trek has ALWAYS handled that well, and I think that it is enough to do that.

my $.02
Jon Sprunk
5. JonSprunk1
The original series broke a lot of TV taboos, but homosexuality was not one of them. For the poorer, as seen in retrospect.
Captain Jack
6. micky dood
r hw bt tht thr s n gy rltnshps n th ftr. Bcs ppl rlzd th rrr f thr wys.

j p
7. sps49
Brannon Braga has nothing to say that I will ever be interested in hearing.

Why does LGBT have to be a front-and-center issue? It's apparent that this is just part of life in the future- big surprise- and worthy of no more notice than whether a character likes fried okra or not.

And when has anything prevented anyone from perceiving various characters as hetero-, homo-, or non-sexual? Did we see an episode with Sulu's girlfriend? Did a same-sex couple ever get caught midway throug a five-year or continuing mission pantsless while on watch? Have we forgotten how "slash" originated, even?
Captain Jack
8. jere7my
sps49, we saw many many many heterosexual relationships in the various Trek incarnations, from Kirk's alien flings to the Troi/Riker/Worf triangle to Sisko's wife to Janeway's old lover wossname to Trip/T'pol on Enterprise. If homosexuality were, as you suggest, "just part of life in the future," some of those endless long- and short-term pairings would have been same-sex. There have been plenty of "front-and-center" straight romances, and plenty of background romances; it would be no bigger or smaller a deal to show a gay couple.
Captain Jack
9. jere7my
VegasDude, there are plenty of possible queer storylines that aren't about the struggle for LGBT rights. Imagine a straight romantic storyline. Now imagine it with two men or two women. Voilà!
j p
10. sps49
Kirk's alien flings? Cite one that isn't named Deela.
Fake Name
11. wilco
Bolians practice polygamy and often have co-husbands or co-wives.
Noneo Yourbusiness
12. Longtimefan
@ 7 sps49,

Even though we never have an episode where Sulu has a girlfriend, boyfriend or relationship of any kind the sexual neutrality of a character is not the same thing as having a character with an identified sexual interest.

And in Naked Time he may not make a serious pass at Uhura but in his fencing madness he takes her under his protection which indicates heterosexual chivalry, madness induced to be fair but it is not like the stripping of his inhibitions made him take a pass at a man on the crew.

As I said in my post above it is a misconception that I think may be holding a lot of writers back that the same sex relationship issue has to drive the plot. It does not. It just has to be the way a character exists. Not in an unspoken director's note leaked to the fans on the internet and not in slash fiction which is not cannon and by its nature divergent in relationship standards based on the writer's intent changing the characters to suit the writer.

Kiko and O'Brien are an excellent example of a relationship in the storyline but not driving the plot. It takes place over several episodes and two different series. The relationship existed adjunct to their roles in the story not as the driving point of their existence in the Star Trek universe.

When Worf married Dax he married a woman body and mind. When Dax was tranfered to a male host the mind was the same but the body was different. Not an easy situation for any couple but in a future where same sex relationships were just an ordinary part of life the drama could have been different.

Not that I am saying Worf would have to be interested but the gender change could have been something addressed as an understood complicaton not a deal breaking situation.

It is just an example of when they did have an episode that had to deal with the possibility of a same sex relationship between to main characters who had cared about eachother the show went heteronormative becuase the sexuality drove the plot.

I am not upset that there are no representations of ordinary same sex relationships in Trek but I have noticed that there have been times when they have gone out of their way to make sure they did not happen which is different than not having them at all.

(Garak and Bashir springs to mind and it is not just because of the slash fiction)
Captain Jack
13. jere7my
sps49 @ 10:

1) You seem to have mistaken quibbling over one example for actually addressing the point I was making.

2) That green-haired chick from the Triskelion episode.
Michael Burke
14. Ludon
@ Longtimefan #12

Be careful about confusing the actor with the role. Straight actors can - and do - play gay characters so I see nothing worng with a gay actor playing a straight character. On the other hand, if you want to think of Sulu as being gay that scene in The Naked Time should not stand in your way. Just as not all straight men are gay bashers, not all gay men are women haters. Sulu and Uhura work and live on the same ship and it is easy to accept that a friendship has formed between them. That friendship might be strong enough that he'd feel protective toward her without there being a desire for sexual contact.

Now on to my other comment. Were there to be a new Star Trek series being produced for Sy-Fi (selecting them because of the freedoms in Caprica and Battlestar Galactica) then I might expect to see such characters. However, I find it difficult to fault the decisions made on the earlier series because of the times they had been made and the markets they were being made for. If I remember correctly, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager were all produced for syndication. Those shows ran late (after the 10PM news) Saturday nights on KMOV in St. Louis. KMOV regularly pre-empted prime-time network shows to run the Billy Grham and Jerry Falwell specials. They had been known to pre-empt network episodes that had content or views contrasting with the mindset of the station management or contrasting with what they precieved as the views of their financial backers or sponsors. I have no doubt that Next Gen, Deep Space or Voyager would have been quickly dropped had it become clear that gay characters were being treated in ways more favorable than as being sick, criminals or stereotyped stooges. Additionally, I'm sure that KMOV would not have been alone in making that move. The producers and the studios had to keep factors like this in mind when reviewing story and character ideas. We can argue all we want that it was not right but that is the way that it was.
Dovile Petrasiunaite
15. dova113
I vaguely remember reading somewhere that Lt. Reed's character in Enterprise was supposed to be gay when they started the series, but later they reconsidered and 'straightened' him.
Paul Lewandowski
16. Snowkestrel
I had been under the impression that Ensign Rho Laren (sp?) was intended to be gay. I don't know if they ever specifically did anything with the character that would contradict that, whether actually intended or not.
Noneo Yourbusiness
17. Longtimefan
@ 14 Ludon,

I did not mean to suggest confusing the actor with the role. I was responding to sps49 @ 7 when it was pondered if Sulu ever had a girlfriend. I was using the same charcter to point out that while no romantic entanglements has been presented when anything that could be shown was shown it was still in the traditional man/woman sense even if it was plutonic. (and even if it was not, Uhura is a beatuiful woman and with the prevaling attitudes of the late '60s it would be reasonable to suspect that a man defending her honor may also find her attractive) (using character names because it is about the characters not the actors)

I really need vocal inflections with these posts. I probably do not sound as contentious when I speak as when I write althought it is not my intention to write that way either.

then again I may sound just as annoying. I have no idea, personal perspective and all. :)
Captain Jack
18. Andersowski
Ironically, the actor portraying Lt. Hawk, Neal McDonough, is a crazy christ-lover who is very hung up on sex in general and homosexuality in particular.

So making Lt. Hawk gay is a very nice F.U to Mr. McDonough.
Captain Jack
19. mark trevino
Have any seen a restroom or spoke that mentral monthlys on any episodes. if so I missed TGN and voyerger. I have friends and relatives who are gay. It's not a such a issue with me. I think personal sexuality should stay behind close doors. or slinding living quarters for this matter. in time I beleive providing lives on a another 100 years the will more with our human behavor. Scotty once said in a enterview with a star trek fan chapter ; he loves all sci-fi moveis or tv shows. star trek is always be my number one.so no matter what I always watch and star trek TV and movies. end of transmission
Captain Jack
20. emilyfrommars
i think brannon braga may be gay. After all he is 46 and has never been married.
Captain Jack
21. PJLL
I know it may not count, since it was never directly said, though Roddenberry did talk about it. However there is a reason why Kirk and Spock are the fathers of slash, when asked about
it Roddenberry said that the relationship the two had could have also been sexual in nature, if the 23d century were to be even more open about the subject than we are now. In many occasions the subject was brought to light and was never given a direct answer about the real sexuality of both characters,
regardless of Kirk's endless list of female lovers. We do have to consider that the original series were aired in a time when homosexuality was not accepted at all, but it cannot be denied the many subtext scenes between the two that suggest their relationship was much deeper than just friends.

I know this is a delicate topic and that subtext or not, even if was suggested by its creator himself, it still doesn't cover the subject directly as many want it to, but at least is something. To be honest one of the things that bothered me the most about the new movie was that they tried to diminish this connection between captain and first officer by giving Spock, of all people, a girlfriend and the fact that it was Uhura irked me even more, since I consider it to have murdered her character. I mean, Gene Roddenberry invented a word to describe Spock’s and Kirk’s relationship, t’hy’la, which means friend, brother and lover, that tells you pretty much about how deep their relationship was, whether it was shown or not.
Captain Jack
22. Whatdoesitmean
PJLL: I was gonna write a comment like yours almost to the letter. Thanks for saving me the trouble, it's like you could read my thoughts ;)
Captain Jack
23. PJLL
Whatdoesitmean: You're welcome :) About reading your mind, well, who knows... Maybe I'm part deltan, or Betazoid :D Anyway, I'm glad someone else supports this idea, thanks!

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