One of the great things about science-fiction shows like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is they allow for the exploration of human traits through fictional characters. Star Trek writer Brian Fuller said Star Trek in particular helped pave the way for more visibility of queer actors in other shows.
Fuller has a pretty good pedigree in the Star Trek universe. He wrote on Star Trek: Voyager and Deep Space Nine before ultimately co-creating Star Trek: Discovery. That show features gay actors Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz as married couple chief engineer Paul Stamets and his husband, Hugh Culber, something Fuller is very proud of.
In an interview with IndieWire, Fuller revealed that he thinks a Deep Space Nine relationship directly influenced the dynamic between Willow and Tara in Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
“Then you look at the strength of Kira Nerys, and when you go to the Mirror Universe, you see the explicit queerness of that character in a way that sets up Willow’s line from Buffy, where she meets her Doppelgänger and was like, ‘I think I’m a little queer.’ There’s something about those things that in Star Trek started with Deep Space Nine in a major way. Really it wasn’t until Discovery made that queer representation more explicit that we got the next step.”
Fuller has been out his whole career, but he remembers decades ago when queerness wasn’t necessarily something studios were looking for in characters. Despite this, he said he found ways to subtly introduce the idea to viewers.
“You have the stories with Dax and the taboos of her relationships loving another person from her past as a Trill, but for the modern audiences, we’re seeing queer oppression born out of this narrative. Characters like Garak on Deep Space Nine who, thanks to Andrew Robinson’s fantastic portrayal, explicitly represent a queer character for the first time that I personally think is the best. Garak is my favorite Star Trek character of all time.”
Basically, getting to the point where a same-sex relationship was so open was a long time coming, he said. Fuller said he remembers writing women and being forced to put them in more traditional roles.
“We saw in Next Generation and classic Star Trek, women were often relegated to caretaking roles. That’s not to say that we didn’t have fantastic characters, because I loved Dr. Crusher and Counselor Troi. They’ve had amazing episodes, but Uhura never got an episode. She was always a supporting character. So it’s fascinating to see the evolution from classic Star Trek to Next Generation, then the quantum leap forward that Deep Space Nine took in terms of representation and queerness.”
Star Trek: Discovery is currently streaming on Paramount Plus.