Busy Geek Break Down (TL;DR): Updated to include this weeks episode … So far this new season of Strange New Worlds has everything my Queer Trekkie Heart could ask for, and you need to get on the transporter and join the Away Mission to check it out! Haven’t seen season One? Get on it!!!
*** Note, and out of context spoiler *** Leaving a loaded Glock on the bedside table of your adolescent historically reprehensible ancestor is not a great move … will this come back to haunt us, or is it like a Starbucks cup in Westeros, or Jeans on Mandalore ? Who knows!!!
Anyway, for total Star Trek Redshirts ProvisionalEnsignsRed Squad Cadets Back to Redshirts, Yay!!!:
One might not immediately correlate Star Trek’s courtroom episodes with LGBTQ issues. In the expansive universe of Star Trek, has provided poignant narratives that delve into complex societal, political, and ethical themes. In particular, these legal dramas have shed light on issues surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity, boldly going where few mainstream television series have ventured before.
Many grumpy old cishet white dues on the internet keep asking when Star Trek got ‘woke’… uh, 1963, dude!
Yet, in retrospect, they’ve provided the franchise with an ideal narrative platform to tackle the complex discourse surrounding sexual orientation, gender identity, and society’s views. This subtlety, this social commentary woven into captivating narratives, is a part of Star Trek’s enduring appeal.
Perhaps the most memorable of these courtroom episodes is “The Measure Of A Man” from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Here, android officer Data is on trial to determine if he is Starfleet property or an autonomous being with rights and freedoms. Although not directly addressing LGBTQ issues, the episode subtly echoes the struggle for recognition and rights by marginalized communities, including LGBTQ individuals. In the face of misunderstanding and prejudice, Data’s quest for self-determination mirrors the journey many LGBTQ people face in asserting their own identities and rights.
“The Outcast,” another Next Generation episode, also comes to mind. In this episode, Commander Riker falls in love with Soren, a member of an androgynous species known as the J’naii, who secretly identifies as a woman. When her society discovers her preference for gender identity, she goes on trial. While the episode has received criticism (including from me) for its lack of explicitly queer characters, it raises relevant questions about societal pressure, conformity, and the right to determine one’s identity.
Turning to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the episode “Rejoined” presents an engaging tale of a taboo love story between two symbionts in women hosts. In the Trill society, re-association with past lovers is forbidden, turning this once-married couple’s attraction into a controversial matter. Despite not using the usual courtroom setting, it employs a similarly structured debate about societal norms, reinforcing the show’s commitment to discussing gender and sexuality issues.
In Star Trek: Discovery, the franchise made more explicit strides in representing LGBT characters with the relationship between Paul Stamets and Hugh Culber, breaking barriers as one of the first openly gay couples in Star Trek history. (although in the Kelvin timeline, there is a very brief exchange that shows that Sulu has a husband), and of course we have Queer and Non-Binary characters, including some awesome Trill – which we’ll get to in an upcoming Blog.
Star Trek’s courtroom episodes have, thus, offering a canvas for discussing the rights and struggles of LGBT individuals in a metaphorical yet impactful manner. We anticipate further engagement with such themes as we look forward to the unfolding narrative in the new Star Trek series, Strange New Worlds. We are especially eager to see how the show might incorporate and reflect on contemporary discussions around LGBTQ issues.
Another week, another thrilling journey into the Star Trek universe! Season 2 of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds continues to push the envelope with its second episode, “Ad Astra per Aspera.” The series addresses social issues head-on in a standout courtroom drama, channeling echoes of the classic episodes “Measure of a Man” and “Court Martial.” Yet, what sets this apart is its reflection of contemporary societal struggles, most notably the experiences of the LGBT community within the military.
Now, enter stage left, the fabulous Yetide Badaki as Una’s lawyer, Neera. A galactic civil rights powerhouse, she was hellbent on showing everyone that laws aren’t always serving those they’re supposed to protect. Let me tell you, watching her face off against Melanie Scrofano’s Captain Batel was like watching two drag queens in a lip-sync battle: all claws out and no mercy.
Then there was this flash to little Una’s past. Picture it: a little girl with a glowing immune system – part of her genetic modification – a secret that could get her family ostracized faster than a lousy wig at a drag show. Fast forward to grown-up Una facing down a plea deal that would have kept her out of jail but would also put a stain on her shiny Starfleet record. A real conundrum, right? Especially since they wanted to sweep her and the issue of her genetic modification under the rug like last night’s sequins.
Meanwhile, Captain Pike, played by the rugged Anson Mount, was trying to find someone to help Una. After being repeatedly shot down by Neera on an inhospitable planet, he finally convinced her to take on Una’s case. It wasn’t about saving Una but shining a spotlight on Starfleet’s sketchy laws.
Back on the Enterprise, the tension was thick! Batel was all up in arms because Una had the nerve to reject her plea deal. Conversely, Pike stood by his officer, believing that Starfleet’s law was as wrong like Straight Pride Month.
The courtroom drama that followed was as tense as a corset at a drag show. Batel was determined to have Una serve 20 years in prison for daring to challenge Starfleet’s decision. But Neera, the fierce queen that she was, fought back. She knew that to win this case, she’d need more than just a heartfelt monologue. So, she started gathering evidence faster than a queen collects her tips on a Saturday night.
The trial brought up some uncomfortable truths about Starfleet and its laws. Neera compared them to past discriminatory laws, pointing out that in their fear of a repeat of the Eugenics Wars, the Federation had become the persecutor. Can you say, ‘hypocrisy’?
Una’s friends came forward to defend her character, each painting a different but touching picture of her. Meanwhile, Neera discovered that the person who had leaked information about Una stood to gain from doing so. The plot was thicker than my foundation, darlings.
Finally, Una herself took the stand. Her testimony was heartfelt and moving, much like a drag ballad. She revealed her past, fears, regrets, and hopes. She confessed that she had turned herself in to make a point: to show Starfleet that being different didn’t make her any less of a person, any less worthy of acceptance.
Despite a last-ditch effort from the prosecution to drag her down, Neera stepped in with a surprise move. She’d found a loophole, honey!
The writers have woven these contemporary struggles into the very fabric of the episode. Just as service members of the LGBTQ community have often been forced to conceal their true identities, Una’s past reveals a secret genetic enhancement that jeopardizes her career and personal life. Through these parallels, the episode serves as a potent metaphor for the military’s erstwhile policies regarding transgender service members, reinforcing the value of diversity and acceptance within Starfleet and beyond.
In a broader context, the Ilyrian struggle within the episode symbolizes the ongoing fight for acceptance in the face of adversity. As the Ilyrians grapple with their own battles for identity and self-determination, LGBTQ military personnel have also had to contend with societal prejudices and institutional barriers. The parallels to the real-life experiences of the LGBTQ community are impossible to ignore, mainly reflecting the historical burdens placed on Queer military service members and the infamous policies such as “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the trans ban.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds continues to use its platform to promote acceptance and understanding of diversity, offering a powerful social commentary through its narrative. Season 2, Episode 2, is a riveting watch and an insightful exploration which continues the Star Trek tradition of holding up a mirror to our society, reminding us of our collective struggle for acceptance, justice, and equality. Through its artful storytelling, Star Trek reminds us that it is not just our laws but the individuals who uphold them that genuinely define the measure of justice.
The courtroom episodes of Star Trek have, time and again, provided a vessel to tackle thought-provoking issues around LGBTQ rights and identity. They are a testament to Star Trek’s tradition of projecting humanity’s potential futures, imagining societies that embrace diversity and engage in critical ethical debates. As we continue to traverse the Star Trek universe, we can hope it will keep challenging us, prompting us to question and evolve our understandings of identity and equality.
To quote Bizarro Timeline Kirk, who is definitely not a Vampire, “Let me guess, you live in a Utopia”? Well, not 100%, but a far stride closer than where we find ourselves in the early 21st century.
Boldly Representing Rainbow Geeks since Star Date 22766.5 (If you don’t know, now you know)
Disclaimer: This may be the most underrated Star Trek series ever. It was the first to be serial rather than episodic, and it is highly nuanced and political. There were a ridiculous number of episodes I wanted to list, but worked hard to narrow it down.
Busy Geek Breakdown:
Lifelong Trekkie or never seen a single episode? Check out the following:
Also, if you just want to see Captain Sisko being a badass, click here.
If you want to see how DS9 crew deals with Time Travel (or want to see Jadzia Dax in a Skant and updo Stanning Kirk), click here.
If you’re a seasoned Trekkie, or are just one of those people who always clicks ‘Jump to the Recipe’ right away — click here.
For total Star Trek Redshirts Provisional EnsignsRed Squad Cadets (and if you’re thinking ‘but the Red Squad was elite!’ yes, I know. But how did that work out for them. Hmmmm? Exactly Just go with it):
DS9 is a science fiction television series that aired from 1993 to 1999. It is set in the Star Trek universe and takes place on a space station called Deep Space Nine, which is located near a stable wormhole that provides access to a distant part of the galaxy.
The main character of the series is Commander Benjamin Sisko (played by Avery Brooks ‘we both went to Indiana University so I guess I’m kind of a big deal by proxy), who is tasked with overseeing the station and maintaining relations with the various alien species that visit it. Sisko is joined by a diverse crew, including his first officer, Major Kira Nerys, the station’s doctor, Julian Bashir, the shapeshifter Odo, the Ferengi bartender Quark, and the human Chief of Operations, Miles O’Brien.
Over the course of the series, the crew of DS9 faces a variety of challenges and conflicts, including battles with the Dominion, a powerful empire from the Gamma Quadrant, and the Cardassians …
no, not them …
These fun folks. An aggressive alien race (that previously tortured the shit out of Picard) that once occupied the station. They also deal with political intrigue, moral dilemmas, and personal struggles, all while exploring the far reaches of the galaxy and encountering new and fascinating alien civilizations.
It’s worth noting that while these episodes were groundbreaking for their time, they may not be considered entirely inclusive by modern standards, and some may find them problematic.
Overall, these episodes are all important contributions to queer representation in popular culture. And the costumes and makeup only add to the symbolism and power of these stories.
Throughout the series, DS9 tackles complex themes and issues, including war, religion, politics, and social justice. It also features a diverse cast of characters and a strong emphasis on character development and relationships.
Overall, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is a rich and engaging science fiction series that explores the depths of the human (and alien) experience, while taking viewers on an unforgettable journey through the final frontier.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) was a trailblazing show in terms of its representation of LGBTQ+ characters. The series tackled themes of identity, acceptance, and love in a way that was ahead of its time. Here are the six best episodes of Star Trek DS9 that feature LGBTQ+ characters, listed in chronological order of air date: (Onward to the numbered list! Yaaass!!!)
6. “Distant Voices” (Season 3, Episode 18)
Aired on April 10, 1995, “Distant Voices” Dr. Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig) is attacked and rendered unconscious in his own infirmary. When he wakes up, he finds himself aging rapidly and experiencing hallucinations of his friends and colleagues turning against him, as the space station appears to be failing and nearly everyone is dead or gone. As he tries to figure out what’s happening to him, he realizes that his mind is trapped in a telepathic matrix created by the Letheans, a species known for their telepathic abilities. He eventually realizes that he can fight back inside his own mind and takes charge.
So first, I felt old watching this episode because Dr. Bashir makes a huge deal about turning 30.
That aside, It’s not only a great episode about the Tao of Dr. Bashir, embodied in different characters (if a little on the nose at times) but it While Julian Bashir and Garak (Andrew J. Robinson) did not share a romantic relationship, their friendship was still significant for its portrayal of intimacy between two men. In the 1990s, when Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was airing, depictions of close male friendships were often limited to stereotypes of toxic masculinity, with emotions and physical touch seen as signs of weakness.
However, Bashir and Garak’s relationship subverted these norms. They shared moments of vulnerability, empathy, and even physical affection, without any implications of romantic or sexual attraction. This representation of a healthy, non-romantic male relationship was rare on television at the time, and it challenged harmful stereotypes of masculinity.
Their relationship also touched on themes of identity and acceptance, as Garak was a Cardassian spy with a complicated past and Bashir struggled with the expectations of being a genetically enhanced human. Their friendship allowed them to navigate their personal challenges and grow as individuals.
Overall, while their relationship may not have been explicitly LGBTQ+, it was still significant for its representation of intimacy and vulnerability between two men, and for subverting harmful stereotypes of masculinity. Of course there’s always Rule 34, so while I haven’t specifically gone searching, I am sure there’s lots of Fan Fiction that imagines their relationship differently . . .
And of course there’s a very surreal surprise party thrown by a lady in a cat suit with huge hair, and imaginary Garak.
Gayest episode ever? No. But it’s definitely a great example of intimacy, self examination, and finding one’s inner truth and value without all the machismo.
5. “Rejoined” (Season 4, Episode 6)
Aired on October 30, 1995, “Rejoined” is considered one of the most groundbreaking LGBTQ+ episodes in television history. In the episode, Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) meets her former wife, Lenara Kahn (Susanna Thompson). The two women had been married in previous host bodies. The episode’s exploration of love, relationships, and gender identity was a groundbreaking moment for LGBTQ+ representation on television.
Trill society frowns upon rekindling past romantic relationships after a host’s symbiont has been transferred to a new host, to the point where it is effectively a death sentence (as the symbiont will only live as long as the current host does) and the two must navigate the societal taboo against their feelings for each other.
This episode is groundbreaking! It’s one of the first times Star Trek has directly dealt with same-sex relationships, and it’s done in a way that’s respectful and nuanced. Jadzia and Lenara’s relationship is so tender and sweet, and you can really feel the love between them. And when they kiss – honey, I got chills! But what’s really powerful is the way the episode deals with the taboo of their relationship. It’s a metaphor for the way society can try to suppress queer love, but it’s also a message of hope that love will always find a way!
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m always here for some queer representation in media, and “Rejoined” delivered. You can really see the tension in Jadzia’s face as she struggles with her feelings for Lenara. We need to see more LGBTQ+ characters on our screens, not just for visibility but to show that love is love, no matter who it’s between.
Now, let’s talk trans rights, because the character of Dax raises some interesting questions about gender and identity. As a Trill, Dax is a symbiont that lives inside a humanoid host. In the episode, she’s reunited with her former female host, Lenara Kahn, and the two rekindle their romantic relationship. The fact that Dax is a symbiont raises interesting questions about the fluidity of gender and identity. The show doesn’t delve too deeply into these themes, but it’s still worth thinking about.
Of course, we can’t forget the forbidden love aspect of the episode. Dax and Lenara’s relationship is forbidden because Trill society frowns upon rekindling a relationship with a former host. It’s a classic Romeo and Juliet story, but with a sci-fi twist. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good forbidden love story? It’s like catnip for drama queens like me!
Now, the sexual tension between Dax and Lenara is thicker than a day time drag queen’s foundation. You can cut it with a knife! And let’s not forget that both Dax and Lenara have had multiple hosts over the years. It’s like an intergalactic version of an ex-spouse reunion! Can you imagine the drama if they got together and started fighting about who gets custody of their former hosts’ memories?
“Rejoined” is a must-watch for any sci-fi or LGBTQ+ fan. It’s a groundbreaking episode that tackled important themes ahead of its time, and it’s still relevant today.
Also, there are some more great moments with CDR Worf in this episode, like when at a cocktail party with a bunch of Trill scientists, they ask what Klingons dream of.
And thanks to a really sweet exchange between Dax and Lanara, we learn a bit about Klingon Fashion.
And let’s not forget about our dear friend Ben Sisko! As the commander of Deep Space Nine, he’s always there for his crew, no matter what kind of intergalactic drama they’re going through. He’s a true friend, and we could all use a friend like him in our lives.
But as Captain Sisko, he’s got to keep his crew in line! I mean, come on, if Dax and Lenara had gotten caught, it could have meant the end of their careers, or worse! Maybe he needs to have a talk with his first officer about following the rules. Or maybe he needs to loosen up a bit himself! He’s apparently already on a first name basis with many of his subordinate officers. Oh Well. After all, life is short, and love is a beautiful thing, even if it’s forbidden.
Unfortunately, it’s not always meant to be. Sometimes the pressures of society are too much even for true love. Just heartbreaking.
In any case, “Rejoined” is a classic episode that shows us the power of love, the importance of friendship, and the beauty of a good, juicy sci-fi storyline. So, grab some popcorn, settle in, and get ready for some intergalactic drama!
4. “Profit and Lace” (Season 6, Episode 23)
Aired on May 13, 1998, “Profit and Lace” is a controversial episode that features the character of Quark (Armin Shimerman) having a gender-reassignment surgery in order to impersonate a female member of his species. While the episode has been criticized for its problematic portrayal of gender identity, it was a significant moment for LGBTQ+ representation on television.
Before we dive into the gender and identity themes of “Profit and Lace,” we have to address the elephant in the room: Quark’s problematic behavior at the beginning of the episode. It’s true that the episode starts with Quark engaging in quid pro quo sexual harassment of his star Dabo girl, Leeta. This behavior is creepy, inappropriate, and not at all okay. It’s important to acknowledge that this kind of behavior is not acceptable, and should not be normalized or trivialized.
Quark apparently skipped every single training that Star Fleet Human Resources had ….
That being said, the episode does not condone Quark’s behavior. In fact, it goes out of its way to show how damaging and hurtful this kind of behavior can be. When Quark is forced to pose as a female, he experiences firsthand the discrimination and harassment that women face in Ferengi society. This experience teaches him empathy and understanding, and he ultimately comes to recognize the harm that his previous behavior has caused.
So, while “Profit and Lace” certainly has its flaws, it’s also a story of growth and redemption. It’s not perfect, but it does offer some interesting commentary on gender and identity, and it’s worth watching for that reason alone.
I initially thought that this was going to be a Bird Cage situation, but to my surprise, Quark undergoes the fastest medical transition ever thanks to Dr. Bashir – and is now Lumba. The surgery does not change her voice, and she has to learn how to walk in heels. Of course the episode begins with Moogi getting the Grand Nagus to ammend the laws so Ferengi women can now wear clothes in public, challenging the traditional gender roles of Ferengi society.
Now, let’s talk about the costumes and makeup. Lumba serves up nothing but executive Ferengi realness!
But at the same time, it’s like a commentary on how women are expected to conform to certain beauty standards. And when Quark transforms back into a man at the end of the episode, honey, it’s like a symbol of breaking free from those oppressive gender norms.
Oh, honey, where do I even begin with this one? This episode is a wild ride from start to finish! The gender-swapping plot is played for laughs, but there’s also some serious commentary on gender roles and societal norms. It’s a reminder that gender is a social construct, and that there’s no one right way to be a man or a woman. Ultimately Lumba is able to get the Ferengi Commerce Authority to change their sexist policies. It’s a powerful message of activism, truly owning someone’s struggle, and standing up for what’s right. And let’s not forget about the fabulous costumes and set design – those Ferengi outfits and all of the jewels!
And at the end, not only did Lumba save the day, but following another fast medical transition (medicine in the 24th century is awesome!) Quark has gained some perspective and starts speaking respectfully to the Dabo girl from the beginning of the episode, gives her a raise, and even turns down her advances.
Even though parts of this were clearly played for the comic misunderstandings, at the end of the day, there’s very little backlash for Quark – Lumba – Quark, and their Moogi even says “You may not have been much of a son, but you made an amazing daughter”.
3. “The Siege of AR-558” (Season 7, Episode 8)
Aired on November 18, 1998, “The Siege of AR-558” on the surface is not on the surface about LGBT issues, but let me tell you why you’re wrong. (I have opinions!!!!)
This episode is a perfect example of the darkest days of the Dominion Wars, as a few survivors are protecting a communications relay from the Jem’Hadar
The events of “The Siege of AR-558” remind us that the struggle for equality and justice is ongoing and often painful. The queer community knows all too well what it means to fight against overwhelming odds and suffer profound loss. We have faced violence, oppression, and discrimination throughout our history, from Stonewall to the HIV pandemic, Drag bans, assaults on trans rights and beyond.
But this episode also shows us that change is possible, and that we are stronger when we have co-conspirators rather than passive allies. The crew of Deep Space Nine learned this the hard way, as they were thrust into the front lines of a brutal war and forced to confront the realities of combat. They came to realize that the struggle for justice is not a distant abstract concept, but something that affects real people on the front lines.
This lesson is especially important for allies of the queer community. It’s not enough to simply say that you support us or that you are against discrimination. Real change requires action, and it requires a willingness to fight alongside us. We need co-conspirators who are willing to put themselves on the line and take risks for the sake of justice.
On a brighter note, Raymond Cruz makes an appearance who you might know as Tuco from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.
2.”Field of Fire” (Season 7, Episode 13)
Aired on February 17, 1999, “Field of Fire” In “Field of Fire,” a murder mystery unfolds on Deep Space Nine when a series of crew members are killed by a seemingly random attacker. Lieutenant Ezri Dax assists in the investigation, which leads to the discovery of a Vulcan officer who survives the slaughter of his crew, and becomes a logic extremist, dealing death to folks who find joy and laughter as he struggles with survivor guilt.
Also, Dax’s old forgotten host is super creepy …
The episode touches on issues of trust, betrayal, and trauma as the characters grapple with the consequences of one’s actions. It also highlights the importance of seeking help and support when dealing with difficult emotions and experiences.
In terms of its relation to the LGBT community, the episode does not have any overt references to LGBT themes or characters. However, the underlying themes of identity, repression, and acceptance could be seen as resonating with the struggles faced by many members of the Queer community. For example, the idea of feeling forced to hide one’s true identity or desires due to societal pressures or expectations is a common experience for many in the Queer community.
The episode’s message of the importance of being true to oneself and seeking help when needed could therefore be seen as relevant and empowering. And ultimately Dax has to rely on multiple aspects of themselves and trust their instincts to solve the murder, while keeping a cool head to ensure that justice is done.
1. “Chimera” (Season 7, Episode 14)
This standout episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine explores themes of identity, belonging, and acceptance. The episode follows the character Odo, a shapeshifter who has always struggled with his place in the galaxy. When Odo is visited by another shapeshifter named Laas, he is excited to meet someone like himself but soon discovers that Laas has a much more militant view of their kind.
Laas believes that shapeshifters should distance themselves from “solids” and not take on their form, which he sees as an act of subservience. Laas also challenges Odo’s decision to remain on Deep Space Nine and serve as a security officer for Starfleet.
As Odo and Laas spend more time together, their relationship becomes increasingly complex. Laas represents a different perspective on what it means to be a shapeshifter, and Odo is forced to confront his beliefs about his identity and place in the galaxy. The episode touches on themes that resonate with the LGBTQ community, particularly the struggle to balance the desire to make others comfortable with the need to be true to oneself, as many on the station are notionally alright with shapeshifters as long as it stays behind closed doors. Quark says this bluntly to Odo.
Wait, wrong shape shifter ….
Wait, not that one either….
There we go. Anyway, they attack him, and he retaliates by transforming his arm into a sharp blade to kill one of the Klingons. This sequence adds tension and action to the episode and highlights the complex relationships between different species in the Star Trek universe.
As for the other themes in the episode, it does explore the LGBT community through the relationship between Odo and Laas. Kira initially struggles with jealousy when Odo and Laas join in a link (unique to metamorphs and incredibly intimate), but she ultimately supports him in his journey of self-discovery.
The performances in the episode are excellent, particularly by Rene Auberjonois as Odo and J.G. Hertzler as Laas. The episode raises important questions about the use of violence in political movements and the consequences of such actions, including how the justice system may not be fair to those who defend themselves from violence while the violence itself is ignored. It also explores the theme of acceptance and the importance of embracing diversity. Overall, “Chimera” is a well-crafted and thought-provoking episode worth watching.
She eventually even puts her career at risk to help Odo, but he decides to stay with her and share his whole self with her, surrounding her with fog and brilliant lights in a lovely moment of vulnerability.
Star Trek DS9 was a groundbreaking show when it came to LGBTQ+ representation on television. These six episodes explored themes of identity, acceptance, and love in a way that was ahead of its time. They are a testament to the power of storytelling to break down barriers and promote understanding and acceptance. By listing these episodes in chronological order of air date, we can see how the series gradually evolved and pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable for LGBTQ+ representation on television.
If you’re a fan of Star Trek DS9, these episodes are a must-watch, not only for their historical significance but also for their powerful storytelling and complex characters. And if you’re not a fan yet, give them a chance and see how this groundbreaking show tackled issues of diversity and inclusion decades before it became mainstream.
Remember, representation matters, and shows like Star Trek DS9 paved the way for a more diverse and inclusive media landscape. We still have a long way to go, but by celebrating and highlighting these important moments in television history, we can continue to move forward and make progress towards a more accepting and compassionate world.
Lifelong Trekkie or never seen a single episode? Check out the following:
Season 3; Episode 16. Season 4; Episodes 4, 23. Season 5, Episodes 6, 14, 17.
Also, if you just want to see the Riker Maneuver click here.
If you’re a seasoned Trekkie, or don’t want context, skip ahead — here.
For the Total Star Trek Red Shirts Provisional Ensigns (Red Shirts are important now!!!):
Star Trek: The Next Generation (often abbreviated as TNG) is an American science fiction television series that aired from 1987 to 1994. It is the second Star Trek television series and a sequel to the original Star Trek series TOS that aired from 1966 to 1969.
The show is set in the 24th century, about 100 years after the original series, and follows the crew of the USS Enterprise-D, led by Captain Jean-Luc Picard, (aka Gunshow circa 1994)
… as they explore the galaxy and encounter new civilizations and technologies. The Enterprise-D is a massive starship that is capable of traveling faster than the speed of light and is equipped with a variety of advanced technologies, including a holodeck, which can create realistic virtual environments.
The show has a large ensemble cast, with notable characters including Commander William Riker (galactic thirst trap) . . .
Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge (Take a look, It’s in a book!) , Lieutenant Commander Data (an android), Counselor Deanna Troi (a betazoid empath counselor), and Lieutenant Worf (a Klingon).
The show also features several recurring characters, such as Q, a powerful and mischievous being who challenges the crew with his god-like abilities.
TNG is known for its thought-provoking stories and themes, such as exploring the nature of humanity, the ethics of scientific experimentation, and the consequences of interfering with other cultures. It was also notable for its impressive special effects, which were state-of-the-art for its time.
Overall, TNG is widely regarded as one of the most successful and influential science fiction television shows of all time and has spawned numerous spin-off series and feature films.
Before we get into individual episodes, let’s talk about Q . . . .
The character Q in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” is often portrayed as being fascinated and intrigued by Captain Jean-Luc Picard.
Q, played by actor John de Lancie, is an omnipotent being who serves as a recurring character throughout the series. He often tests the crew of the USS Enterprise-D and challenges their beliefs and values. Q has a playful and mischievous personality, and he enjoys manipulating the crew and testing their limits.
Some would argue that while Q is often seen interacting with Picard and the two characters have a somewhat adversarial relationship, there is no indication in the show that Q has romantic feelings for Picard. That Q’s interest in Picard seems to stem more from his fascination with humanity and his desire to explore and understand human behavior.
It’s worth noting that the relationship between Q and Picard is deliberately ambiguous, and the show’s writers have left their interactions open to interpretation. While some fans may see hints of romantic interest in Q’s behavior towards Picard, the show itself does not provide any explicit confirmation of this.
If you’re not convinced though and believe I’m just shipping Q-Card out of wishful thinking, wait until I post my blog about a later series. Anyway, Nerdist agrees with me (some spoilers).
Tasha Yar while not Canonically gay, has often been embraced as a gay icon and even made #1 on the AutoStraddle Star Trek lesbian character list.
Tasha Yar, played by Denise Crosby, was the chief of security aboard the USS Enterprise-D and appeared in the first season of the show.
One reason for Tasha Yar’s appeal to the LGBTQ+ community may be her status as a strong, independent woman. In the world of “Star Trek,” women are often shown in positions of power and authority, and Tasha Yar is no exception. She is a skilled fighter and a competent leader, and she is not afraid to stand up for herself and her beliefs. Unfortunately, due to the actors desire to go elsewhere in her career, she ends up perpetuating the “Bury your gays” stereotype by getting killed off at the end of Season 1.
Ch . Ch. Ch. Changes … in uniforms over 100 years. It’s easiest to explain using the infographic from Costumesupercenter.com below. (get the full infographic here)
The most important costume revelation for TNG is the Skant! The Star Trek skant is a type of uniform worn by some characters in the Star Trek franchise. It is a unisex garment that resembles a dress or tunic and was first introduced in the original Star Trek series in the late 1960s.
The skant was intended to be a futuristic, gender-neutral uniform that would reflect the show’s optimistic vision of a society without gender-based distinctions. The skant was worn by both male and female crew members and was meant to signify that everyone in the Star Trek universe was equal and could perform any job regardless of gender.
The skant was worn by several characters, although most of the men sporting it in TNG were in the background.
The skant reappeared in later Star Trek series, including Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, where it was worn by both male and female crew members. However, the skant was eventually phased out in favor of more traditional uniforms.
In recent years, the skant has become a popular item among Star Trek fans and cosplayers, who often create their own versions of the garment. The skant is seen as a unique and iconic part of the Star Trek universe and a symbol of the franchise’s progressive values.
Alright. Now on to my favorite part … the numbered list!
6. “The Offspring” (Season 3, Episode 16):
*CW: Mental Health, Death*
In this episode, the character of Data creates an android “daughter” named Lal. While the episode does not explicitly address LGBTQ issues, the themes of identity and acceptance resonate with many LGBTQ individuals.
Honey, let me tell you, as a fierce Star Trek fan and a proud member of the LGBTQ community, this episode that spoke to my heart on so many levels. In fact, after watching this episode I had to take a break and watch several episodes of RuPauls Drag Race, before I could resume my Trek re-watch.
Firstly, I was struck by Data. This android struggles with his identity as a non-human being and the prejudice and discrimination he faces from others because of it. Many of us in the Queer community can relate to feeling marginalized and ostracized for simply being who we are. Watching Data grapple with these issues was both emotional and empowering, as it reminded me of the importance of standing up for oneself in the face of discrimination.
But the real heart of The Offspring lies in the creation of Lal, a child-like android that Data creates as his own offspring. Many of us know all too well the balance required to prioritize found family and the importance of finding people who reflect our identities and experiences. Lal represents that desire for a family and the struggles that come with it as she navigates her identity as a non-human being and grapples with the discrimination she faces from others.
Data allow Lal to choose her own gender and appearance, and while this idea was executed in s somewhat binary way, still Star Trek saying Trans Rights in the early 1990’s was amazing! There are several remarks about how your gender is how other’s perceive you and impact how folks interact with you.
And there are absolutely some wonderful, memorable moments in this episode, like when Lal first learns from her job in Ten Forward as a cocktail waitress for Guinan (working at 3 weeks old – wow, nobody want to work these days!!!) and she first learns that people touch hands and then touch lips when they like each other. And of course Riker’s very first time meeting her, she picks him up by the collar to kiss him – right as Data walks in and says “Commander, what are your intentions with my daughter?” It’s just *chef’s kiss* one of those moments where my spouse had to ask why I was cackling so loud.
Watching Data’s relationship with Lal develop throughout the episode is beautiful as he learns how to care for and love his new creation. The performances by the cast, particularly Brent Spiner as Data and Hallie Todd as Lal, were simply outstanding, capturing the complex emotions and struggles of their characters with real depth and sensitivity.
But what impressed me about The Offspring was its relevance to LGBTQ issues today. The episode tackles themes of prejudice, discrimination, and the importance of individual rights and freedoms, which are still relevant to our community. It’s a reminder that the fight for acceptance and equality is ongoing and that it’s essential to stand up for ourselves and our loved ones in the face of discrimination.
Overall, The Offspring was a profoundly moving and empowering episode that speaks to the struggles and joys of the LGBTQ community in a significant way. I highly recommend it to any queer person or ally who wants to see themselves reflected in a powerful and poignant story. Live long and prosper, honey.
But what caught my eye were the costumes worn by the android characters. Data, in particular, wore his normal sleek and form-fitting uniform that accentuated his non-human features, with metallic accents and a bold black and gold color scheme. On the other hand, Lal wore a simple dress with a flowing skirt, contrasting beautifully with her pale (and much more human like) skin, and conveying a sense of innocence of youth. Of course, she did have to wear this giant bob type wig, to allow for a scene later in the episode where they opened up her positronic brain on camera.
Of course the villain of the story, the Admiral who initially wanted to separate Lal from Data (and there were owe so many brilliant points in this episode about why Data was being questioned and second guessed on creating a life, when other’s weren’t questioned about procreating). Ultimately, Lal begins to feel actual emotions, beginning when she realizes some strange man who doesn’t care for her wants to take her away from her family and ensure she grows up ‘the right way’. She effectively has a breakdown and dies as a result of the intense feelings, which is of course heartbreaking, and the Admiral finally feels for Data as a father.
The crew is generally very compassionate, and Data mentions a heartwarming note about all of Lal’s memories will live inside him. But then Captain ‘Prick-ard’ basically says, “Oh, you’re not crying? Get back on watch!’ and Data does. Come on Jean Luc – you couldn’t give him a day off to contemplate existence? Or at least ask if he would prefer to mourn or get back to work? Well, we all know that for all his wisdom, Picard never did well with feelings. Or children. On that note, on to the next episode!!!!
5. “Suddenly Human” (Season 4, Episode 4):
*CW: Mental Health, Death
In this episode the crew encounters a human boy who was raised by an alien race after his parents died. As they attempt to reunite him with his biological family, they must navigate the complex issues of identity, belonging, and cultural differences.
These poor abandoned kids add to the confusion and chaos with the Mourning, a sound they make when separated from their Captain, until Picard charges in and orders them to be quiet.
Now, this is a powerful message for our community, my loves. It reminds us of the importance of family and belonging, and how our sense of identity can be shaped by the culture and community we grow up in. It’s a message that resonates deeply with the LGBT community, as we too have often struggled to find acceptance and belonging in a world that can be hostile to our identities.
And speaking of cultural differences, my darlings, let’s not forget the LGBT issues at play here. The crew’s attempts to reunite the boy with his biological family echo the struggles faced by LGBT individuals in reconciling their identities with their cultural and familial backgrounds.
Now we have to talk about Captain Picard’s attempts to connect with the boy. Bless his heart, he’s not exactly the most skilled at dealing with children, is he? But it’s also a reminder that we all have our awkward moments, and that even the most stoic and composed among us can struggle to connect with others at times.
But let’s talk about Captain Picard’s attempts to connect with the boy, my darlings. Bless his heart, he tells Counselor Troi that he’s not great with kids – a fact that is abundantly clear throughout the episode. But we can’t fault him for trying, can we? It’s a reminder that even the most seasoned leaders among us can struggle when it comes to parenting and connecting with younger generations.
And speaking of Picard, my loves, let’s not forget about Picard Day – an annual celebration of the captain that was established by the children on the Enterprise. It’s a playful moment in the series, but also a reminder of the importance of honoring those who inspire us and bring us together.
But beyond the jokes and playful moments, my darlings, this episode is a powerful reminder of the importance of empathy and understanding. As the crew attempts to navigate the complex dynamics between the boy and his biological family, they must confront their own biases and assumptions about what it means to be human.
And speaking of connections, my darlings, let’s not forget the playful reference to daddy issues in this episode. As the crew attempts to navigate the complex dynamics between the boy and his biological father, it’s hard not to laugh at the irony of Picard – a man with his own complicated relationship with his father – trying to play the role of mentor and father figure.
Ah, my darlings, wouldn’t it be lovely if every lost child in the galaxy could be a Mandalorian foundling, with the handsome Pedro Pascal as their daddy? Alas, in this episode, we are dealing with a Talarian foundling instead, and the crew of the Enterprise must navigate the complex issues of identity and belonging that arise when a human boy is raised by an alien race.
Now, we’ve all been there. Who hasn’t had a rebellious phase as a teenager, blasting rock music and acting out against authority? Maybe not as far as stabbing someone in their sleep, but otherwise it’s a universal experience, and a reminder that even in the future, some things never change. “Stop that noise!”
But the real message here is about empathy and understanding. As the crew comes to understand the boy’s experience and perspective, they are able to bridge the gap between their two cultures and find a way to reunite him with his family while still honoring his identity and experiences.
Now, my loves, can we talk about those Talarian uniforms? They would be so fashionable if they weren’t wearing those turtlenecks underneath! It’s a good thing we have our very own fashion icons on the crew to provide some much-needed style inspiration. Data – does he have ANY pores? His skin is flawless! And Troi, are we sure that low cut v-neck jumpsuit is regulation Star Fleet?
But the journey to reunite Jono with his Talarian family is not without its challenges, my loves. Jono’s experience as a hostage has left him with deep-seated trauma and a desire for revenge, leading him to effectively try to commit suicide by cop in a dramatic confrontation with his Talarian captors. It’s a poignant reminder of the ongoing impact of trauma on our loved ones and the need for compassion and support in their healing journeys.
Despite the serious nature of this episode, my loves, we can always rely on the charming Captain Picard and his aversion to young people to bring some levity to the Enterprise. Don’t miss it!
So let’s raise a glass of (vegan) Blood Wine to the crew of the Enterprise, my darlings, and to the power of empathy, understanding, and acceptance. We must never forget that we are all connected by our humanity, and that our differences should be celebrated, not feared. Remember, love knows no boundaries – even if we have a few heart wrenching and even awkward moments along the way!”
4. “The Host” (Season 4, Episode 23):
In this episode, Dr. Crusher falls in love with a Trill ambassador named Odan. Now, the Trill are a fascinating species, honey. They can transfer their consciousness between hosts, and Odan’s current host is a fine-looking man. But when that man is injured, Odan is transferred into a new host, temporarily Commander Will Riker – and that’s where the drama begins.
Let me take a moment to say – How in the hell did I not know there was a nail salon on the Enterprise? Is Picard secretly rocking hot pink toenail polish under that very regulation exterior? In the 24th century, along with the skant, are hair and nail uniform regulations finally equal?
Anyway, back to the drama. Now, the symbolism here is strong, my loves. The Trill’s gender-neutral culture challenges our preconceived notions of gender and identity. It reminds us that gender is not binary and that love can transcend labels. But Dr. Crusher struggles with this concept, as many in our community still do today.
Also, I would like to take a moment to appreciate Deanna Troi. Although the onscreen romance between her and Riker doesn’t happen until later, and they don’t marry until the film Insurrection, they are friends and former lovers while serving together during the events of TNG. If not exactly kitchen table poly, it’s at least super enlightened of Troi when comforting ‘Dr. Beverly’ to tell her that if she can find love and comfort in Odan in the form of Riker, then she should.
Anyway, Riker realizes it’s beyond physical, and that she is attracted to the person she knew as a man – at the end, after averting a war (because of global warming caused by overdependency on an energy source – interesting) but she finds it difficult to accept that Odan is now in new woman host, but admits that she still loves Odan, and understands that it is her own failing to accept the new form.
Another great line from this episode, which I definitely did not catch when I was younger. When Crusher confronts Odan about not telling her he was a symbiote, he say’s “Did you ever have to tell someone you were only a single being? Of course not!” Wonderful echos of the double standard of being expected to come out as Queer, but not as cis-het. Ok, I see you Starfleet. All this in 1990! Boom!
Is there a deeper metaphor with Dr. Crusher being the one to transplant her lover into Riker? Who knows, but it’s a great chance for some Special Effect!!!
Anyway, as usual the real kicker is the costumes. The Trill’s signature spots are a bold fashion statement, representing their connection to their hosts. However, when Odan is transferred to the new host, those spots disappear, leaving us with a blank slate. It’s a powerful visual representation of the struggle to maintain identity through change.
And let’s not forget the LGBT issues at play here. The Trill’s fluidity challenges traditional gender roles, and their love can transcend bodies and lifetimes. It’s a beautiful message for our community, reminding us to celebrate our differences and embrace the complexity of our identities.
So there you have it, my darlings. Another powerful episode that challenges us to think beyond the binary and embrace the diversity of our world. Let’s all raise a glass of Saurian Brandy to love in all its forms! No Synthehol for us!
3. “The Game” (Season 5, Episode 6):
In this episode, the crew is faced with a new game that has taken over the minds of everyone on board, including Cadet Crusher’s new love interest, Ensign Robin Lefler. The game represents addiction and how easily we can be controlled by outside forces.
So the beginning of this episode as inspired me to amend what I said about Troi and Riker. By this time, she definitely knew how freaking thirsty he was and so also knew what she was getting herself into. The episode opens with Riker hooking up on Risa and then getting introduced to this super addictive, very easy to win, brainwashing game where you mentally push a disk into a cone, then get a euphoric/orgasmic rush.
But the real message here, my loves, is about control. The game takes over the crew’s minds, leading them to act in ways they usually wouldn’t. It’s a reminder that we must always be vigilant against outside forces that seek to control us and our actions. That we can be ourselves and do what we know is right, despite what the rest of society tries to tell us.
But, ultimately, Wesley puts his faith in a trustworthy adult (in this case Data) to safe him from his own mother among everyone else on board. While Data formulates a plan, Cadet crusher runs around the Enterprise Home Alone style, distracting everyone to buy time.
So let’s raise a glass of Altair Water to Ensign Lefler and Cadet Crusher, my darlings, and to the power of individuality and self-determination. We must never let anyone or anything control our minds or our hearts. Remember, we are the captains of our own destiny, and as we all know geeks always save the day!
2. “Conundrum” (Season 5, Episode 14):
In this episode my fellow LGBT-rekkies, the crew wakes up without memory of their identities or mission. They must work together to uncover the truth and prevent a war between two alien races.
Who is this new guy? He’s now the Executive Officer? Why does Picard still call Riker ‘Numbah Won’ if he’s third in command now? Oh right, it’s a mind controlling alien. Why didn’t he just make himself the Captain? Or a Commodore? Ah well …
Now, this is a powerful message for our community. It reminds us of the importance of memory and identity and how easily they can be manipulated or erased. It’s a message that resonates deeply with the Queer community, as we have faced challenges in asserting our identity and having our history recognized and celebrated. Even if it turns out we’re a space faring Trombone Player.
But let’s talk about the way everyone acts when they forget who they are. Worf believes he is in charge, apparently because of his confidence and fancy sash.
Data thinks he is a robot bar tender.
… and there is a very awkward love triangle between Ro Loren, Riker, and Troi but as their memories return and they discover their individual roles on the ship, they begin to adjust and change their behavior to reflect their unique identities and personalities, albeit with most of their inhibitions restored.
And speaking of identity let’s not forget the LGBT issues at play here. The crew’s struggle to regain their memories and assert their individual identities echoes the struggles faced by LGBT individuals in maintaining their identities in a society that often seeks to erase or marginalize them.
But the real message here, my loves, is about unity and collaboration. The crew must work together and trust each other to uncover the truth and prevent a war. It’s a reminder that we must come together and support each other even in the face of adversity and uncertainty.
So let’s raise a glass of Romulan Ale to the crew of the Enterprise, my darlings, and to the power of memory, identity, and collaboration. We must always remember who we are and where we come from and work together to create a better future for ourselves and our community. Remember, together, we are unstoppable!
1. “The Outcast” (Season 5, Episode 17):
*CW: Conversion Therapy, anti-trans rhetoric
In this episode, the Enterprise crew encounters the J’naii, a society where gender neutrality is strictly enforced, and the character of Soren, a member of this society, begins questioning her gender identity. This episode is often considered the most prominent LGBTQ episode in the series.
The J’naii are gender-neutral and reject any concept of male or female, reminding us that gender is a construct and that we can be whoever we want, regardless of societal norms. Despite a clunky conversation about gender-neutral pronouns, which is somewhat unsatisfying (especially since the singular “they” has been used since the 1300s), this episode further explores gender and sexuality than any others in the series.
But of course, the crew faces a challenge as Soren expresses romantic feelings for Commander Riker. There are some funny and awkward moments along the way. I did appreciate how we find a way to use words like ‘Micro-Cochrans’ to describe engine output to someone from a species which likely has never heard of Zephram Cochran (a lot like the U.S. still refusing to use metric)
But this is where the drama begins. The J’naii don’t believe in gender or romantic love. Soren’s attraction to Riker is seen as a violation of their societal norms. She is forced to undergo a mind-altering procedure to conform to the J’naii way of life.
The symbolism here is deep, if a bit on the nose. Soren’s desire to love who she wants challenges the J’naii’s strict adherence to their cultural norms. It reminds us of the struggle we face in our community, where we are often told that our love is invalid. But Soren’s bravery in standing up for her true self inspires us all.
As a devoted fan and an advocate for LGBTQ rights, this was one of my favorite episodes to re-watch. I remembered it differently, as growing up in the Midwest USA, I had little exposure to anything outside CIS-Hetero-Normative ideas. And in the 1990s, on analog network television, seeing Queer representation felt a lot like Lily and Zefram seeing visitors from the future in the TNG Film, First Contact.
The costume choices in this episode were fascinating, as they played a role in highlighting the differences between Soren’s society and the Federation. Soren’s people wore gender-neutral clothing, which was a sharp contrast to the bold and colorful uniforms of the Enterprise crew. The neutral tones and simple dress designs in Soren’s society reflected their strict adherence to gender neutrality and conformity. At the same time, the bright and varied uniforms of the Enterprise crew conveyed a sense of individuality and diversity.
Another interesting costume choice was using makeup and hair styling to convey gender. Soren’s people had identical haircuts and minimal makeup, again highlighting their adherence to strict gender neutrality. In contrast, the crew of the Enterprise had varied hairstyles and makeup choices that reflected their individuality.
But what struck me about The Outcast was how it highlighted the struggles of LGBTQ people we still face today. Soren’s journey to embrace her gender identity, despite the disapproval of her society, was a powerful metaphor for the struggles of many LGBTQ people who face discrimination and persecution for simply being who they are. And, it gave us this fantastic monologue – there’s a cut down version with captions available here.
But in the end, it’s about love. Soren’s love for Riker transcends gender and societal norms, reminding us that love knows no bounds. It’s a message we need to hear today more than ever as we continue fighting for our rights and identities.
Despite Worf very excitedly accompanying Riker to the surface to mess some folks up, and Picard very specifically not giving Riker permission to act, but also staying in orbit just long enough. Sadly, the episode ends with Soren telling Riker it was a mistake- it appears the conversion therapy was a success.
Overall, The Outcast was a powerful and thought-provoking episode that used costume and makeup choices to explore issues of gender identity and LGBTQ rights in a truly impactful way. I highly recommend this episode to anyone who wants to see themselves reflected in a powerful and poignant story.
So let’s raise a cup of “Earl Gray, Hot” to the J’naii, my darling Queer Geeks, and as always, Live Long, and Prosper.
These episodes, among others, are shining examples of good science fiction exploring issues of gender identity and sexual orientation in a nuanced and thought-provoking way. While the series may not have always been at the forefront of LGBTQ representation, these episodes show that it was willing to push boundaries and challenge societal norms.
Are there any other favorites I missed, or should I cover them in the next post? Let me know!
Pay special attention to the balance creators and actors held between pushing cultural issues and the FCC Rules on Obscenity (more closely regulated prior to 1984). It featured storylines that addressed controversial issues, such as racism, war, and politics, and depicted violence and sexuality in a more frank and realistic manner than was typical for the era.
If you just want to see a young George Takei shirtless, oiled up, and wielding a sword, not to mention a savage comeback by Nichelle Nichols, watch Season 1; Episode 4 “The Naked Time”. (that’s the actual title) Or just go here.
Note: If you watch the show on Paramount Plus, the original Pilot is listed as Season 1; Episode 1. This throws the episode count off for Season 1.
For seasoned Trekkies, or people who just like numbered lists, skip ahead here.
For the Total Star Trek Red Shirts (read: Noobs)read below:
The first Star Trek series, known as The Original Series (TOS), was created by Gene Roddenberry and premiered on CTV in Canada on September 6th, 1966. It later aired on NBC in America on September 8th, 1966. The show followed the voyages of the USS Enterprise under Captain James T. Kirk and was set in the 23rd century, presenting themes of a Utopian society and racial equality. It was originally referred to simply as Star Trek prior to the release of spin-offs.
Despite performing well in its time slot when it first aired, the show was cancelled after three seasons due to budget issues resulting in lower quality episodes and a shift to a Friday night time slot. However, after entering syndication, the show’s popularity skyrocketed. It was notable for featuring the first African-American officer in a recurring role, as well as a Japanese-American in an intelligent and capable role rather than the racist farce many other shows used. They even has a Russian officer, as this was the height of the Cold War, and Roddenberry’s vision of the future meant that such things were far behind us.
A decade later, the original cast reunited for the movie Star Trek: The Motion Picture aboard a refurbished USS Enterprise. They went on to appear in five more films, culminating in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country in 1991, which was produced during the spin-off series Star Trek: The Next Generation and shortly before Gene Roddenberry’s passing. Characters from the original series also appeared in later Star Trek productions, including the seventh movie, Star Trek Generations. Of course Leonard Nimoy also played a role in the Kelvin timeline films later, where all of the characters were re-cast with modern actors.
Alright, now that we’re all on the same page, let’s Dive in!
A few years ago, I began a re-watch of Star Trek, starting with TOS, and posted out-of-context Tweets of my reactions. I’ve recently re-watched some of my favorite episodes to discuss LGBTQ+ stories, including Queer Coding and allegory. Disclaimer, while working on writing up my notes for my Star Trek TOS re-watch, I’ve been catching up on several years of RuPaul’s Drag Race. This may or may not have impacted which details I notice and my narrative style.
The Original Series of Star Trek featured several episodes with queer-coded subtext and some moments that fans have interpreted as having LGBTQ+ themes. However, it’s worth noting that because the show aired in the 1960s, overtly LGBTQ+ representation was impossible due to the time’s social and cultural context. In addition, the original series aired just four years after Illinois became the first state to decriminalize homosexuality and went off the air a few weeks before the Stone Wall Riots in June 1969.
Lucille Ball and Gene Roddenberry played a significant role in balancing queer coding and pushing issues of LGBTQ and racial equality in Star Trek The Original Series while keeping the show on the air in a less tolerant time.
Lucille Ball was instrumental in getting Star Trek on the air, as she owned Desilu Studios, the production company that produced the show. She was a well-known trailblazer in the industry and was committed to promoting diversity and inclusivity in her productions. It was because of her support that Gene Roddenberry was able to push the boundaries of what was acceptable on television at the time, including addressing issues of LGBTQ and racial equality.
Gene Roddenberry was a visionary who believed that science fiction could be a tool for promoting social justice and progressive values. He used the genre to explore complex social issues, including gender, race, and sexuality, in a way impossible in more traditional programming. He recognized the potential of science fiction to push the boundaries of what was acceptable on television and in society.
One way Roddenberry pushed the envelope was through queer coding, which refers to the subtle ways in which character or situation portrayal suggests same-sex attraction or non-conforming gender identities without explicitly stating them. This allowed Roddenberry to address LGBTQ issues in a way that was less likely to attract backlash from conservative viewers and censors.
Overall, Lucille Ball and Gene Roddenberry were instrumental in balancing queer coding and pushing issues of LGBTQ and racial equality in Star Trek The Original Series while keeping the show on the air in a less tolerant time. They were pioneers in the industry and used their positions of power to promote diversity and inclusivity on television. Their legacy continues to inspire and influence future generations of creators and viewers alike.
Now that you’re all briefed, On To The List!!!!!!
6. “The Enemy Within” (Season 1; Episode 5):
One episode often cited as having queer-coded themes is “The Enemy Within” from the first season. And not just because you get to see this adorably grumpy ‘Unicorn Dog”.
In this episode, Captain Kirk is split into two separate beings by a transporter malfunction, with one half embodying his “good” qualities and the other half his “bad” qualities. The “bad” half is more aggressive and sexually assertive, and at one point, he attempts to assault Yeoman Rand, one of the few prominent women on the show (you can tell he’s a bad boy because of his demand for Saurian Brandy, his eye makeup, the attempted Sexual Assault, and the manic yelling “I’m Captain Kirk!”.)
This split allows the writers to explore the duality of human nature in a unique and thought-provoking way.Some have interpreted this scene as a metaphor for sexual violence against women. However, others argue it has homoerotic undertones, with the aggressive Kirk representing a repressed homosexual desire. Ultimately, he realizes that embracing his more primal nature makes him a good Captain, as without it, he’s too meek and mild to make any of the difficult decisions he’s called upon to make.
As the episode unfolds, the crew must grapple with the consequences of their captain’s split personality and work together to reunite the two halves of his being. The scenes between the two versions of Kirk are compelling, highlighting our internal struggle to reconcile conflicting aspects of our personalities.
Now, while this episode may not explicitly include the LGBTQ community, its themes of identity and acceptance are universal and can resonate with all viewers, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. And that’s something we can all appreciate, right, my loves?
So, while, “The Enemy Within” may not be the most groundbreaking episode of Star Trek regarding LGBTQ representation, its exploration of human duality and the power of acceptance is universal and timeless. The costume choices and character interactions are on point, and the episode is engaging and thought-provoking. Let’s all remember that we all have light and darkness within us and that acceptance and understanding can help us find peace and wholeness in ourselves and the world around us.
5. “Mirror, Mirror” (Season 2; Episode 4):
Another episode with queer-coded subtext is “Mirror, Mirror” from the second season, which features an alternate universe where the crew of the Enterprise is all ruthless and power-hungry. In this universe, the Tehran Empire (vary much Nazi type ideals of extreme xenophobia and subjugation, mixed with a slight Klingon aesthetic) has expanded instead of the Federation. (You can tell that Spock is evil because he has a goatee )
Let’s dive into “Mirror, Mirror.”
“Mirror, Mirror” is an iconic episode of Star Trek, exploring the concept of parallel universes and the darker sides of human nature. While the episode doesn’t specifically address LGBTQ issues, its themes of power and domination certainly have relevance to the experiences of many in the LGBTQ community.
One aspect of this episode that caught my eye was the costume choices. The uniforms worn by the crew of the USS Enterprise in the mirror universe are noticeably different from their counterparts in the regular universe, featuring more revealing cuts and darker colors. These costume choices help to emphasize the mirror universe’s more aggressive and dominant nature and create a distinct contrast with the regular universe’s more formal and modest uniforms.
Spock is fascinating in this episode, as he must confront the darker aspects of his nature in the mirror universe. As a Vulcan, Spock prides himself on his logical and rational approach to life, but in the mirror universe, he is more aggressive and emotional to survive. This exploration of internal conflict and the struggle between reason and emotion is something that many in the LGBTQ community can undoubtedly relate to.
Throughout the episode, the crew must navigate the unfamiliar and dangerous mirror universe while grappling with the consequences of their actions in that world. The power dynamics and struggles for dominance are starkly evident. The episode serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of unchecked ambition and the importance of recognizing the humanity in others.
While “Mirror, Mirror” may not be explicitly LGBTQ-inclusive, its themes of power, domination, and the darker aspects of human nature are undoubtedly relevant to the experiences of many in the LGBTQ community. In addition, the costume choices are striking and help to emphasize the contrast between the regular and mirror universes. At the same time, exploring internal conflict and the struggle between reason and emotion is thought-provoking and engaging. Overall, “Mirror, Mirror” is a classic episode of Star Trek that resonates with viewers today.
4. “The Enterprise Incident” (Season 3, Episode 2):
“The Enterprise Incident” is a thrilling episode of Star Trek that sees the crew of the USS Enterprise embark on a dangerous mission to steal a Romulan cloaking device. While the episode doesn’t address LGBTQ issues directly, its exploration of power dynamics, secrecy, and the blurred lines between truth and deception resonate with many in the LGBTQ community.
In this episode, Captain Kirk fakes his own death and disguises himself as a Romulan to steal a cloaking device.
During their time on the Romulan ship, Spock very nearly seduces an incredibly thirsty Romulan commander to gain her trust. Do you see a trend yet? Riker isn’t the only First Officer who can get it, as he navigates the complex political landscape of the Romulan Empire to carry out the mission. Spock’s Vulcan stoicism and ability to think logically under pressure are critical to the mission’s success. In addition, his interactions with the Romulan commander provide a fascinating exploration of the tensions between different cultures and worldviews. While the scene was controversial then, it is often cited as an example of queer coding in the series.
One aspect of this episode that I found particularly interesting was the costume choices. The standard Romulan guards look pretty dorky. The Centurions look a bit cooler, and the Commander has this amazing two color 1960’s go-go dress and boot combo that really makes her stand out. However, the uniforms also blur the lines between friend and foe, highlighting the episode’s themes of secrecy and deception.
Overall, “The Enterprise Incident” is a tense and exciting episode that explores the complexities of power dynamics and the blurred lines between truth and deception. While it may not directly address LGBTQ issues, its themes of secrecy and the struggle for acceptance and understanding are undoubtedly relevant to the experiences of many in the LGBTQ community. In addition, the costume choices are striking and help to emphasize the episode’s themes, while the character interactions are engaging and thought-provoking. Overall, “The Enterprise Incident” is a classic episode of Star Trek that is definitely worth watching.
3. “Plato’s Stepchildren” (Season 3, Episode 10):
In this episode, the Enterprise crew encounters a group of telekinetic aliens who force Kirk and his crew to perform for their amusement. During the episode, Kirk is forced to kiss his crewmate Uhura, and Spock dances and nearly face stomps Kirk. While the episode was controversial then, it is now considered a landmark moment in LGBTQ representation on television.
Let’s dive into “Plato’s Stepchildren.”
“Plato’s Stepchildren” is an iconic episode of Star Trek that has become well-known for its groundbreaking portrayal of an interracial kiss between Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura. However, the episode’s exploration of power dynamics, control, and the use of force is also highly relevant to LGBTQ issues.
The episode occurs on Platonius, where a group of powerful telekinetic beings known as the Platonians have enslaved anyone who doesn’t have powers and forced them to do their bidding. The Platonians delight in exercising their power over the humans, subjecting them to various forms of humiliation and torture.
One aspect of this episode that caught my eye was the costume choices. The Platonians wear flamboyant, brightly-colored outfits that emphasize their power and status serving up some greek god, Olympus type realness, while the humans wear drab, gray clothing that symbolizes their oppression and lack of agency. These costume choices highlight the power dynamics at play on Platonius and the struggle for freedom and self-determination.
Of course, this episode is a classic example of Bill Shatner’s ‘AAAAAAACTING!!!!!’ – as the away team is psycho-kinetically compelled into degrading and dangerous shenanigans for the entertainment of a power-drunk psychopathic god figure.
Also, I realize that most folks likely watched this on an old clunky Black and White Television set, not digitally remastered on a big screen HDTV.
However, during Mr. Spock’s forced dance scene, they could have picked a dancer closer in height or build to Leanard Nemoy, or at least not had him look directly at the camera. Ah well. That’s one of the great things about Star Trek, all the random things you can catch on a re-watch.
Dr. McCoy is also fascinating in this episode, as he battles with the ethical implications of saving the life of a monster. This exploration of power dynamics and the use of force to control and subjugate others is highly relevant to the experiences of many in the LGBTQ community, who have faced similar forms of oppression and humiliation throughout history.
Of course, the most memorable scene in this episode is the interracial kiss between Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura, which was groundbreaking for its time and remains a powerful symbol. Also, stick it to the racists and haters, NBC executives initially tried to film a different version without the kiss to air in the deep south, but the actors purposely messed up every single take in which they didn’t kiss.
While this wasn’t technically the first interracial kiss on television, it was undoubtedly one of the most talked about. For perspective, remember that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a huge Star Trek fan. So he actually talked Nechelle Nichols into continuing as Ohura instead of leaving to pursue her stage career.
In conclusion, while “Plato’s Stepchildren” may not address LGBTQ issues directly, its exploration of power dynamics, control, and the use of force is highly relevant to the experiences of many in the LGBTQ community. In addition, the costume choices help to emphasize the power dynamics at play in Platonius. At the same time, the interracial kiss between Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura remains a powerful symbol of love and acceptance. Overall, “Plato’s Stepchildren” is a classic episode of Star Trek that resonates with viewers today.
2.”Requiem for Methuselah” (Season 3, Episode 19):
In this episode, the Enterprise crew encounters a reclusive immortal who becomes jealous of his android girlfriend/daughter who falls in love with Kirk. There are a lot of dynamics here, and this episode could definitely be considered an allegory for coming out and awakened sexual desire/ gender identity.
Let’s dive into “Requiem for Methuselah.”
“Requiem for Methuselah” is a thought-provoking episode of Star Trek that explores themes of love, mortality, and the pursuit of knowledge. While the episode doesn’t address LGBTQ issues directly, its exploration of these themes is highly relevant to the experiences of many in the LGBTQ community.
So, the costumes: Rayna wears a stunning, flowing gown emphasizing her otherworldly beauty and grace. In contrast, Flint wears a more practical, utilitarian outfit that reflects his scientific pursuits. These costume choices highlight the distinction between the two characters and their different approaches to life and love.
Kirk plays a significant role in this episode, as he is forced to confront his emotions and desires when he falls in love with Rayna, and somewhat creepily stirs the first ever feelings of desire in her (She is an android who has heretofore had no emotions). This exploration of the complexities of forbidden love and passion is highly relevant and tragically, as Rayna finally starts gaining her own agency, saying “I choose. You do not command me!” she is torn apart by her own conflicted emotions and identity and dies.
In addition, Flint provides an exciting exploration of the pursuit of knowledge and the quest for immortality. His desire to live forever and accumulate knowledge and power is highly relevant to the human experience, as many people strive to leave a lasting impact on the world.
Overall, “Requiem for Methuselah” is a poignant and thought-provoking episode of Star Trek that explores themes of love, mortality, and the pursuit of knowledge. While it may not address LGBTQ issues directly, its exploration of these themes is highly relevant to the experiences of many in the LGBTQ community. Additionally, the costume choices highlight the contrast between the characters, while the character interactions are engaging and thought-provoking. Overall, “Requiem for Methuselah” is a classic episode of Star Trek that is definitely worth watching. Also, at the very end, Spock very questionably intrudes Kirk’s mind with an uninvited mind meld but instead of going through the very well know, “My mind to your mind, your thoughts to my thoughts” bit, he just puts his hand on Kirk’s sleeping head and says, “Forget”.
1.”The Cloud Minders” (Season 3, Episode 21):
In this episode, the Enterprise crew visits a planet where the ruling class lives in a city in the clouds while the working class lives on the surface. During the episode, Spock engages in a romantic relationship with a woman from the ruling class (who is super thirsty for him, and has amazing eye makeup. We also get to hear some great line as she learns about the ‘7 year itch’ that Vulcans get *see Season 2; Episode 1), challenging the societal norms of the planet. This episode is also a great reminder that it’s pretty easy to have a utopia in the clouds when you completely subjugate and enslave people. This episode echos many of the racist arguments used to enslave people in our own history (but in Spaaaaace!) This episode was especially on the nose in 1969, and an example of when Star Trek didn’t pull any punches.
(Disclaimer: They use the r-word in the episode when discussing the effects of the gas)
Let’s dive into “The Cloud Minders.”
“The Cloud Minders” is a fascinating episode of Star Trek that deals with themes of class inequality and social justice. While the episode doesn’t address LGBTQ issues directly, its exploration of these themes is highly relevant to the experiences of many in the LGBTQ community.
The characters from the planet Stratos wear ornate, flowing robes that reflect their privileged status, while the Troglytes wear more utilitarian outfits that reflect their oppressed status. These costume choices highlight the stark contrast between the two groups and their different social standings. Also, the guards have super fun hats.
Droxine also plays a significant role in this episode, as she is initially dismissive of Kirk and Spock due to her prejudices against them as outsiders. This exploration of prejudice and bias is highly relevant and is unfortunately all too familiar to the LGBTQ community, who have faced discrimination and stigma due to their identities.
In addition, the episode raises important questions about social justice and the distribution of resources. The Troglytes are forced to work in harsh conditions to mine the valuable mineral zenite (which it turns out impact brain function, and a simple respiratory renders the caste system toothless), while the Stratos inhabitants enjoy a life of luxury and privilege. This exploration of class inequality is highly relevant to the experiences of many in the LGBTQ community who have faced discrimination and barriers to accessing resources and opportunities.
Overall, “The Cloud Minders” is a thought-provoking episode of Star Trek that deals with class inequality and social justice themes. While it may not address LGBTQ issues directly, its exploration of these themes is highly relevant to the experiences of many in the LGBTQ community. The costume choices highlight the stark contrast between the two groups, while the character interactions are engaging and thought-provoking. Overall, “The Cloud Minders” is a classic episode of Star Trek that is definitely worth watching.
It’s important to note that the queer coding of these scenes and episodes is a matter of interpretation and is not explicitly stated in the show. However, they offer a glimpse into how LGBTQ+ themes and characters were explored in media during a time when overt representation was impossible.
These episodes and others demonstrate Star Trek: The Original Series’ willingness to explore themes of gender and sexual identity in a groundbreaking and provocative way. While the series may not have always been overtly LGBTQ-inclusive, it pushed the boundaries of what was considered acceptable on television. It paved the way for future series to explore these themes more deeply.
If you enjoyed this, please let us know, and check back soon for The Next Generation!
In this week’s episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by Teri Yoshiuchi, as they discuss their thoughts on Peacemaker, get excited about all the Star Trek shows getting renewed & coming soon, and celebrate all the nominees for GLAAD Media Awards in This Week in Queer.
From the very beginning, Star Trek has garnered a reputation for being a trailblazer on minority representation. Each of its series has featured a diverse cast and strong female characters that stood out from it’s contemporaries. Whoopi Goldberg is perhaps one of the more prominent Star Trek fans to have been inspired by Nichelle Nichols role as Lieutenant Uhura in The Original Series. The same role has inspired a few actual astronauts as well. It is for this reason that the lack of LGBT representation across nearly two decades of Star Trek television (1987-2005) was such a disappointment.
The one honest attempt to take on LGBT issues came in the form of the 1992 Next Generation episode “The Outcast.” While it has some truly great moments that clearly depict the writer’s intentions, it ultimately falls short of having any true representation. I’m not the first person to do a present day analysis of this episode, and I doubt I will be the last. The fact that it is the one episode out of roughly 700 (and 12 movies) to honestly tackle LGBT issues head on, it stands out. With a new series set to launch in 2017, it’s worth taking a closer look at one of the franchise’s more unfortunate shortcomings.
“The Outcast” opens with the USS Enterprise assisting the J’naii (an androgynous race) with locating one of their missing shuttle craft. In their search they come across what appears to be a pocket of null space–a theoretical concept which had never been encountered before this discovery. Null space is described in Memory Alpha as “a pocket of space filled with the bright light of condensed turbulent magnetic and gravitational fields, absorbing all electromagnetic energy from anything that enters the phenomenon. The fields also bend all outside energy around the pocket, making it essentially invisible.”
After the crew is briefed on the abnormality they are dealing with, Commander Riker teams up with the J’naii pilot Soren in order to attempt a rescue mission. In doing so, the two begin to talk about their respective culture’s views on gender. Here we learn the J’naii once had two genders like humans, but they evolved to a higher form and now share a single gender. When Soren asks Riker about what attracts males to females, he gives a coy response filled with his winning Riker charm, but fails to mention the existence of homosexuality among humans. This is repeated later on when Soren questions Dr. Crusher about the female perspective. On both occasions the conversations lent themselves perfectly to both Riker and Crusher including the alternatives to heterosexual relationships in their answers to Soren. It is as though same sex attraction is something neither character has ever heard of.
I stress this point because I believe it is the most telling flaw in the entire episode. Even in a story that uses an allegory to represent modern day LGBT issues, there is no acknowledgement of queer humans ever existing. Even in our own episode we are invisible. Null space feels like an an unfortunate and unintentionally fitting metaphor.
All of this undercuts the episode’s stronger moments. When Soren “comes out” to Riker as being different and professes her attraction to him as a male, it is a powerful scene. She touches on the bullying she’s seen her peers go through and the constant fear of being discovered. She minces no words describing the evil and abusive practice of forced “curing” those who are outed are forced to go through. The scene can easily resonate with anyone who’s ever dealt with any of those things. In Soren’s particular case, she identifies as female (hence the use of the she/her pronouns). This is considered a perversion in J’naii society.
Soren’s character is nothing if not brave, and not just for “coming out” as female. “Commander, tell me about your sexual organs” might be the best pickup line ever used in the history of Star Trek. It certainly worked for Soren, as it wasn’t long before she and Riker were kissing. This too has been a point of criticism (the kiss, not the pickup line). Jonathan Frakes (the actor who plays Riker) said himself that he thought the scene (and episode) would have been more powerful if Soren were played by a man. If that had been the case, it could have born parallels to the Original Series episode “Plato’s Stepchildren,” which featured the first interracial kiss ever aired on television. Instead, like numerous other parts of the episode, it fell short.
The episode ends with Picard asking Riker if his business with the J’naii is done before moving on to their next mission. Riker confirms that it is, and Picard gives the command to go to warp speed. The one criticism I have here is not that it was an unhappy ending. It rightly portrayed the “curing” of Soren’s so-called perversions in a negative light. What is unfortunate is that the “cure” worked, and it set in quickly. It a difficult thing to stomach when science has shown us repeatedly that so-called conversion therapy does not work. I don’t know how sound or well-researched the science was on this in the early 90’s, so I would give them a pass here. They at least did the part of portraying it as abusive and unjust.
All in all, “The Outcast” is a mixed bag. There are reviews that have praised it, and others that have torn it apart. I don’t think it would be this heavily scrutinized if it weren’t the only real offering of queer issues in the franchise’s long history. The criticism on this front is valid because Star Trek had established itself as a progressive, forward thinking series right from the very beginning. We know it could have done better because it had done better. With a new series coming in 2017, fifty years after the first Star Trek episode aired, should we have hope that the show will once again embrace its progressive roots? Only time will tell.
Further Reading Homosexuality in Star Trek – a really in depth look at homosexuality in the franchise on the Star Trek fan site Ex Astris Scientia. Gay “Trek” – a nice detailed article written before the debut of Enterprise for Salon. Scrapbook Enterprise – my own super geeky documentation on my journey through the Universe of Star Trek.