Star Trek has always taken on relevant social issues in its stories. That’s baked into the franchise’s DNA as envisioned by creator Gene Roddenberry. Star Trek: The Original Series is proof of that. But one subject The Original Series never tackled is same-sex relationships. George Takei played Mr. Sulu in Star Trek: The Original Series. Takei is now a well-known voice in the LGBTQ community. Speaking to PBS NewsHour, Takei says Roddenberry was hesitant to introduce a gay character after airing the episode “Plato’s Stepchildren.” That episode included an interracial kiss between Capt. Kirk (William Shatner) and Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols).
In the interview, Takei recalls asking Roddenberry about making an episode with a gay character. He recalls Roddenberry saying, “You’re right, I’d like to do that, but I’m walking a tightrope. The interracial kiss was very controversial… And so I’ve got to keep the show on to tell the stories that I’m telling, which aren’t being dramatized metaphorically on any other show. I’ve got to keep the show on. And [a gay character], as you say, may be a bridge too far.”
Star Trek wouldn’t see its first same-sex kiss until 1995. The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Rejoined” featured a kiss between Terry Farrell as Jadzia Dax and guest star Susanna Thompson as Lenara Kahn. Farrell later stated that Dax was pansexual. In the documentary What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, there’s some discussion about how Andrew Robinson’s character Garak’s sexuality is never addressed, but that he’s written as being gay.
Star Trek: Discovery is the first Star Trek series to feature a gay couple as series regulars, Anthony Rapp as Paul Stamets and Wilson Cruz as Hugh Culber. “This franchise has been around for over 50 years, and to not have LGBT characters represented was an obvious missing piece of the world,” Cruz said in a 2018 interview. “So many LGBT people have been fans since the ’60s and have been wanting the LGBT community to be a part of this universe. For them to be thanking us, it’s so moving.”
What do you think of Roddenberry’s reasoning for not introduced a gay character to Star Trek? Let us know in the comments.