Friday, September 4, 2020

To Boldly Go...

Blu del Barrio and Ian Alexander

There are a lot of Star Trek fans out there who hate Star Trek: Discovery, but those same people have hated every new Star Trek series and movie. Some fans you can never make happy. However, while the Star Trek universe is one of diversity, equality, and free of discrimination, there have always been those who fought against that vision because the Star Trek universe really does boldly go where no show has gone before. Star Trek has continually broken barriers, but Star Trek: The Original Series (1966–1969), Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987–1994), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993–1999), Star Trek: Voyager (1995–2001), and Enterprise (2001–2005) all held back on the topic of LGBTQ+ individuals. 


It was rumored throughout the production of Enterprise that there would be a gay cast member, but it never materialized. Deep Space Nine did feature a same-sex kiss in the episode “Rejoined” (Season 4, Episode 6). The episode first aired on October 30, 1995, and the kiss was between two female characters: Lieutenant Commander Jadzia Dax and scientist Lenara Kahn. Both characters were members of the Trill society and was not meant to be a lesbian kiss. Let’s just say, it was complicated because they were a joined species.


However, Discovery has gone where no Star Trek has gone before with LGBTQ+ characters. The premiere of Discovery included a very prominent male same-sex couple, Lt. Commander Paul Stamets and Dr. Hugh Culber, who are played by openly gay actors Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz. The two characters kissed shared the first gay kiss in Star Trek history near the end of season one. The show also featured a widowed lesbian engineer, Denise "Jett" Reno, played by out actress Tig Notaro. Season 3 of Discovery premiers on October 15 and will introduce the 54-year-old sci-fi franchise’s first-ever transgender and non-binary characters. Like Stamets, Culber, and Reno, the characters will be played by actors who are LGBTQ+. In fact, the actors actually are trans and non-binary in real life. 


Trans actor Ian Alexander will play Gray, a Trill, the same species as Jadzia Dax and Lenara Kahn. Non-binary actor Blu del Barrio will make their debut by playing the non-binary character Adira, an intelligent and introverted teenage amnesiac whose coming-out story will mirror del Barrio’s own real-life coming out.  They will befriend Discovery’s gay couple, Stamets and Culber.


Del Barrio told GLAAD, “I honestly cannot speak highly enough of Ian. I absolutely love him, and it was so fun working alongside him. Having him join the show with me was a godsend.” Del Barrio continued, “It’s pretty overwhelming joining a show with such a well-known cast going into its third season. So, I was so thankful to have his support whenever I was freaking out. He’s a talented, hardworking actor, and an all-around magnificent human being, so it was a joy having him as a partner.”

I think it is wonderful that Discovery continues to feature inclusivity in the show. The third season of the series follows the crew of the USS Discovery transported 930 years into the future and among a highly advanced but troubled society in dire need of their help. It appears that the Federation is only a shadow of its former self. The above trailer for the season depicts a Federation banner from the future with just six stars, suggesting only a handful of planets remain as part of the organization. The trailer also suggests that Starfleet no longer exists. In the preview, David Ajala's Cleveland Booker notices Burnham's emblem and refers to Starfleet as a "ghost." The rest, we will just have to wait until October 15 to see what’s going to happen. If it’s anything like previous seasons, we won’t fully know what’s going on until at least several episodes into the season.

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