On Monday, the Television Critics Association announced this year's winners of the annual TCA Awards. Among them, Star Trek: The Original Series won the TCA Heritage Award, which honors icons of the television industry from throughout the medium's history. Per StarTrek.com, "The Television Critics Association (TCA) was proud to bestow the Heritage Award upon Gene Roddenberry’s landmark 1966 sci-fi epic Star Trek, in recognition of the groundbreaking series which brought the future to life — illustrating a unique vision that is equal parts hopeful and cautious as it explored issues such as bigotry, religion, politics, sexism, and human rights through timeless stories of love, war, intrigue, and adventure in outer space — with the help of a strong cast that was among the first to feature an African-American actress in a significant leading role."
Star Trek celebrated its 54th-anniversary last week on Star Trek Day. The celebration included a virtual panel with Star Trek star George Takei, in which he recounted conversations with Roddenberry about representation in the series and how far the franchise has come since then, not featuring an openly gay couple on Star Trek: Discovery, which will also soon introduced new non-binary and trans characters.
"I've been closeted most of my adult life," Takai said. "I was living a double life. I was an activist. I was active in electoral politics. I was active in the civil rights movement. During the Vietnam War, I was in the peace movement. I was a member of what was called EIPJ, Entertainment Industry and Peace and Justice, and I worked alongside Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland. So Iw as an activist and closeted on the one issue that was very personal to me, very much my issue. And here are all these other people involved in gay liberation movements and so forth, giving up their lives, giving up their careers, some their families, and here I was protecting my career and being closeted, which adds another layer of torture. And some of my colleagues knew, but they knew that if they talked about me then it would hurt my career and they respected my privacy."
Takei goes on to recall a conversation with Roddenberry at a party in Hollywood after the show had been canceled. "I introduced the idea of, 'Why won't Star Trek deal with the gay issue?' as a closeted man," Takei said. "And he said 'Yes, I'm aware of that issue. It's an important part of diversity but I can't deal with it because I have to exist on television. We had one episode where we had a biracial kiss where Captain Kirk kissed Uhura, and that was the lowest-rated episode that we ever had because in the South they literally blacked out that show, and the ratings plunged. It's a high-risk business on television because it's an advertising medium. I can't deal with that and stay on the air. I'm pushing at the edges already, and for me to continue doing it, I have to watch the guard rails' "And I understood that too because I was closeted. And now that we can have a committed gay couple as a regular on a TV Series, I thinkit's a great advance."