When Star Trek The Original Series (known by Trekkie superfans as TOS) burst onto the scene in 1966 it was a fresh, sexy new SciFi show that shook up the television industry. It was the first show with a multi-racial, multi-gendered, and multi-generational cast.
Star Trek TOS was always revolutionary in its sexual politics. It latched onto the mid-60s free love movement and assumed that in the future our universe would be even more sexually open than the present day, literally going “where no man has gone before.” It featured women beyond the scope of housewives and girlfriends, casting them with (gasp!) real jobs like head of communications or even leader of a far off (apparently more progressive) planet. And naturally, Captain Kirk was trying to woo them all!
In a truly revolutionary moment, 1968’s episode “Plato’s Stepchildren” featured a kiss between Captian Kirk and Lt.Uhura, the first inter-racial kiss ever shown on American television. The behind-the-scenes story reveals that NBC wasn’t sure if they would actually show the kiss on TV and made sure to shoot an alternate kiss-free version of the scene. But William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols knew that this was an important scene to air and they deliberately flubbed the shooting of the kiss-free version. Nichols recalls Shatner even crossing his eyes, making the kiss-free scene unprintable!
Star Trek TOS was happy to push boundaries, featuring inter-species relationships and kisses between more than just white and black actors but white and green ones!
Star Trek The Next Generation (known by Trekkies at TNG) followed suit in terms of its inter-racial and inter-species relationships but not so much in its free love attitude TNG is often considered the more mature and mainstream version of the outlandish and rebellious TOS.
Series creator Gene Roddenberry promised to feature an LGBT crew member in the new series but died before it happened. Many Star Trek actors (both TOS & TNG) have addressed the lack of LGBT representation on their show and have no valid reason for it, especially because the future their show represents is supposed to a be a very diverse and inclusive universe.
When J.J. Abrams was hired to reboot the franchise in 2009 he immediately addressed the issue stating that he was “frankly shocked that in the history of Star Trek there have never been gay characters in all the series”. That being said, it took him until his third Star Trek film (“Star Trek Beyond” which opened last weekend) to right this wrong. Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu a character famously played by George Takei in TOS is now the first openly gay character on Star Trek. Abrams admits that making this latest incarnation of Sulu (now played by John Cho) a gay man with a loving husband and daughter was an homage to Takei who came out as gay in 2005. Ironically the kiss between Sulu and his husband was cut from the final film.
Hopefully the next reboot will continue to go where no man has gone before and push the boundaries of sexual politics to show us a future that is an even more diverse and inclusive version of our universe.