While it’s often not thought about as a bastion for all things acceptance, it’s pretty clear that since its inception, Star Trek has pushed the envelope of inclusion and diversity. Throughout the franchise’s 50+ year history, the show has always been at the forefront of change – whether it be the infamous kiss shared by Captain Kirk and Uhura, the budding relationship between William Riker and a member of an androgynous species, or a non-binary character, who’s set to debut in the upcoming third season of Star Trek: Discovery.
During its heyday, The Original Series pushed back against cultural norms, with the aforementioned kiss and the fact that the main cast was comprised of actors and actresses of all different races and ethnicities. George Takei, who played Mr. Sulu during the franchise’s debut in the 1960s, has since become a well-known advocate and voice within the LGBTQ community and recently shed some light on why TOS never featured any gay characters.
In an interview with PBS News Hour, Takei explained that while series creator Gene Roddenberry wanted to introduce one, he was between a rock and a hard place, especially after airing “Plato’s Stepchildren” – the episode which featured the interracial kiss between Uhura and Kirk.
Speaking to PBS News Hour, Takei recalled a conversation he had with Roddenberry about adding a gay character to the mix:
“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,” Roddenbery said at the time.
While The Original Series could only do so much during its run in the 1960s, the franchise has made a lot of strides since. Back in 1995, the Deep Space Nine episode “Rejoined” featured a same-sex kiss between Jadzia Dax and Lenara Kahn. More recently, 2016’s Star Trek Beyond revealed that the Kelvin Timeline version of Sulu was gay, and Discovery‘s Paul Stamets and Hugh Culber were in a committed relationship.
We’re curious though. What do you think of Roddenberry’s reasoning for not pushing the envelope on Star Trek back in the day? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below!