Thrills, Trills and Outcasts, But Still No Happy Homo in the 24th Century
Is Star Trek only able to come out on the Internet?
"The Outcast" shows our Enterprise crew on a peaceful mission on some far off planet. That’s the back-story. The front story is that this new species is a genderless society, or as Trekkie Michael Ricci writes: an androgynous species (cast entirely of female actors) known as the J'naii who do not have typical gender roles of male and female.” The episode, "The Outcast", then proceeds to thread through several clichés to establish the fallacy of ‘gender’ when it comes to sex. One of the genderless people falls in love with the Enterprise’s First Officer Will Riker. Riker is the known playboy of this crew -- he embodies the libido of captain James Kirk from the original series. I suppose someone has to screw their way around the universe.
The Star Trek franchise has dealt a lot with sexuality, but always through the backdoor. In the Deep Space Nine (DS9) series, for example, there is the character Dax, a genderless worm that is hosted by a gendered humanoid being, a Trill, through several lifetimes. Hence, Dax is effectively transsexual, having lived several times in male and female bodies, always retaining the life experiences and memories of each previous host. In an episode from The Next Generation, "The Host", Dr. Beverly Crusher fell in love with a Trill in male host, only to end the relationship when the worm remerged with a female host -- although still the same ‘person’. Yet, that was just one episode. There are loads homoerotic and homosocial moments through DS9 built around Dax, including a Ferengi cross-dresser who comes out to her.
A back-story to DS9 is captain Sisko’s longtime friendship with Curzon Dax, a man, who hosted the worm before the very pretty Jadzia Dax, who is presently a part of the DS9 crew. There is even a famous kiss between two female bodies, although the worm inside is allegedly genderless.
In an episode of Voyager, the male holographic doctor uploads himself into the hybrid human/Borg seductress 7 of 9 who literally wears next to nothing. In that body, the doctor has to fend-off men. This same body-snatching theme is repeated in the episode "Warlord", where fans see another out-of-context same-sex kiss. For a die-hard Trekkie who happens to be queer, and of color, these omissions appear more than just whimsical, in spite of decades of homoerotic and homosexual subtexts. Though modern fans can queer the Star Trek universe by clipping and circulating a few choice scenes, Trekkie Michael Ricci sums the phenomenon best:
“In more than four decades Star Trek has produced nearly a dozen feature films, more then five hundred episodes between five series, numerous video games, and countless books, comics, role-playing games, and magazines. The ground-breaking sci-fi franchise has broken through many barriers, such as being the first to have an interracial kiss (between William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols) on broadcast television, as well as touting the values of peace and tolerance for all.”
Indeed, in the entire Star Trek franchise, there's not a single happy healthy queer person in the 24th century anywhere in the galaxy. In that same vast galaxy, across any species, there are also few people of color -- none of whom are in charge of anything, save for Sisko. Sisko shatters plenty of racial stereotypes often through his relationships with his father and son. Yet, these examples are the exception, and besides, war is still the order of the day. How ironic then, that another Star Trek back-story is that George Takei, an original Enterprise crew member, is now an outspoken queer rights advocate. I guess we’d better not wait for future salvation, and take our chances in this century.