Star Trek Producer Regrets Not Including Gay Characters On Show

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Producer/writer Barannon Braga opens up to After Elton on why there were never any gay characters on any of the Star Trek shows and films he has worked on. Obviously, he's not speaking about the original show here, but about the The Next Generation, Voyager and Enterprise as well as two of the films in the 1990's, Generations and First Contact.

 "It was a shame for a lot of us that … I’m talking about The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and there was a constant back and forth about well how do we portray the spectrum of sexuality. There were people who felt very strongly that we should be showing casually, you know, just two guys together in the background in Ten Forward. At the time the decision was made not to do that and I think those same people would make a different decision now because I think, you know, that was 1989, well yeah about 89, 90, 91. I have no doubt that those same creative players wouldn’t feel so hesitant to have, you know, have been squeamish about a decision like that."

BbHe goes on, referring to the people involved on the The Next Generation non-progressive thinkers.

"I think it was, not so much a young man’s [issue], it was a syndicated family show, showing at six o’clock, you know, in Salt Lake City, so you had to deal with each separate affiliate rather than one network. And things like that. It was not a forward thinking decision. Knowing the players involved, knowing the decision makers, knowing it was that they felt reluctant about, you know, we’re not saying “yes,” we’re not saying “no,” we’re not just not going to touch that right now."

Maybe that's why Trekkies have sometimes had to resort to "creating" their own gay characters on the show.

While there aren't any gay characters on Terra Nova, the new FOX show Braga is executive-producing alongside Stephen Spielberg, that might change. He tells After Elton, who pointed this out to him: "I’m glad you bring it up because it’s something we should be attending to."

Comments

  1. Strepsi says

    AfterElton does a great job of not letting Producers and network execs get off the hook with a simple platitude — they speak in nothing but vagueries and spin, like politicians — but AfterElton pushes them at these junkets, which is terrific.

    By the way, Mr. Braga: “we’re not saying “yes,” we’re not saying “no,” we’re not just not going to touch that right now.” actually means you ARE saying no.

  2. says

    While it would have been nice to have a gay “regular” on one of the Treks, they did flirt with the idea in several storylines, most notably Jadzia Dax on DS9 and her rather wide-ranging sexuality based on the uniqueness of her symbiosis. There were a few others as well.

  3. Scott says

    Michael. The Dax stuff was pretty much thanks to Ron Moore who reportedly had to fight tooth and nail for the story, AND had it cut to shreds in order to be less ‘challenging’.

    What’s always amused me about the Trek producers timidness towards GLBT characters is their seeming inability to grasp how gay and gay friendly their fanbase is. I have a friend who goes to Trek cons a lot and he calls them the Meat Markets. Basically, its a big gay mixer with Spock ears.

  4. Sonneillon says

    Yes, Moore had to fight tooth and nail for the Dax stuff, AND. Garak and Bashir were originally written to be a romantic couple, but the networks shut it down. Both the actors were on board with it, as were the producers, the cast thought it was a great idea, but because it was a ‘family show’ the networks just wouldn’t let them get away with it. And it’s freaking sad. I really, really hope JJ has more guts when it comes to facing this stuff down.

  5. Baraeris says

    Gee, well as long as they regret it after the fact when there’s no Star Trek being produced in which to correct the situation…

    So what? I’m taking a pass on this one.

  6. Mike says

    I don’t think the Trek fan base is as forward thinking as we would like to believe. For example, if you take a look at a poll on Trekmovie.com right now asking if there should be a gay character in the next movie about 40% say no and almost 20% aren’t sure.

    The poll: http://goo.gl/dKm45

    Really disappointing.

  7. Kyle Sullivan says

    Translation — BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS…AND NO, WE AIN’T GONNA ADD NO FAGS TO OUR SHOW.

    I hope this clarifies everything this man said.

  8. mstrozfckslv@yahoo.com says

    @nike

    wow, chicken little much?

    You forgot to mention that poll has the majority 47% supporting = =YES to a gay star trek character

    yeah, one would expect it to be higher but no need to be all debbie downer when the majority 47% voted YES

  9. Disgusted Gay American says

    well I play Startrek Online ..and my character name is GAEMON of the USS EDWIN HUBBLE JPL (Intrepid class starship) ..on my bridge crew I have a male character named Bimann, also – I have a few other ships:
    USS MARRIAGE EQUALITY
    USS EQUALITY
    USS GAY MARRIAGE

  10. says

    It’s certainly ironic that a show that pushed racial, sociological, and political buttons in the 1960s became increasingly timid from Next Generation onward. It’s not just that the later Treks avoided the issue, they killed or watered down scripts in which it was raised – such as “Blood and Fire” (nixed) and “The Outcast” (watered down).

    Blood and Fire has been since made by the fan production Phase II.

  11. mld says

    @rodney, no, i am not excusing one over the other.

    braga is star trek’s nixon administation to berman’s bush administration, to roddenberry’s kennedy administration :)

    ok trekked it up enough in here.

  12. Coco Vonloco says

    The glaring lack of gay or bi characters in any of the 3 most recent series made me fearful that the Star Trek universe would try to account for it in some ex post facto way involving doctors removing “gay genes” in urtero as if its some standard medical proceedure when a “defect” is detected or some other similar rubbish.
    I am very much relieved to know the subject matter is still on the table for future Star Trek “projects.”

  13. bobbyjoe says

    Yeah, yeah, “family” syndication, Salt Lake City, blah, blah, blah.

    Gene Rodenberry went ahead on The Original Show and included the first inter-racial kiss ever broadcast on network television and let the bigots be the ones to decide not to air it if they wanted (as reportedly some Southern stations did).

    It made Rodenberry look good, and those Southern stations look bad, and when folks talk about Rodenberry, they can say he helped make a positive difference historically in the culture.

    Braga, on the other hand, by being a wimp who chickened out, will be remembered for nothing of the sort.

  14. Garrison Howard says

    During the first season of TNG, David Gerrold wanted to add a gay character. Gene Roddenberry said absolutely not! After Roddenberry passed they were able to get two shows that had very vague undertones. “The Outcast,” and “The Host.” The storyline for “The Host” underwent dramatic script changes so it was only vaguely gay toned in the end. Originally it was the whole episode. Had it not been for Roddenberry, there probably would have been gay characters on there.

  15. says

    @Garrison Howard:

    You’re mistaken on several points. It was not Gene Roddenberry who nixed homosexual storylines, it was producer Rick Berman. Second, “The Host” was produced during Roddenberry’s lifetime.

    Had it not been for Rick Berman (who, admittedly, Roddenberry appointed), there would have been gay storylines.

  16. Jacknasty says

    Roddenberry didn’t have much choice in the matter. He was getting old, weak and somewhat senile toward the end, and after the disaster of the 1st & 2nd seasons of TNG, the studio pretty much mandated a producer be brought in.

    I just want to point out that Babylon 5 had a bisexual major character in, what, 1996? And it was syndicated. The fact that Trek could never bring itself to have a single LGBT character, even thru Enterprise in the middle of this last decade, is pathetic. And the blame for it lies with that hack Braga.

  17. JT says

    As a huge fan of the show, lets clear up some stuff.
    First, Gene Roddenberry admitted at the beginning of his career, he had been homophobic as well, but after working with so many in the LGBT community in Hollywood, he endorsed the idea of having characters on TNG. Problem came with the networks. We all can spit fire about how “wrong” it was it didnt happen outright, but remember, this show ran from 1987-1994, how many gay characters were there on TV at that point. Yes, Babylon 5 flirted with it, but that show was HUGELY less popular than TNG and was under less network scrutiny. Second, Gene’s death left the show in the hands of Rick Berman, whom was dead against any LGBT characters due to the “largely straight male audience” the franchise had. thats bullshit too. Also, in the two episodes of TNG where they touched upon it, the actors themselves wanted it to be gay friendly. In “The Host”, Gates McFadden (Beverly Crusher) wanted the host at the end, the female, and her character to kiss goodbye, to show that her love was not limited by gender, but by uncertainty. That was nixed by the network. In “The Outcast” Jonathan Frakes (William Riker) wanted ‘Soren’ to be played by a male actor, to really emphasize the point of un gender biased love. Again, nixed by the network. Even in “First Contact”, the helmsman “Hawke”, was written as gay, and was going to be featured as half of a gay couple (later picked up on by several novels) but again, Berman cut that out as he felt “it wasnt needed”. Berman nixed everything that came up after that, and only teased at female pansexuality in several episodes of DS9 and VGR. And again, there is no indication that JJ Abrams version is going to fix the problem, because of the same reason stated above. “Straight male audience”.
    Frankly, Abrams “trek” needs to shore up its storylines more before draggin a poor gay into a crappy plot as some foil.
    Treks greatest failing has been this issue.

  18. Anonymous says

    Jonathan Frakes has said that he wanted to have the asexual alien, Soren, who Riker falls in love with for the episode “The Outcast” be played by a male actor, but they chickened out and went with a female actor, nearly eliminating the halfhearted pro-gay (or anti-ex-gay) message they intended that episode to carry.

  19. Steve says

    Something very interesting to note, for gay Trekkers, there is one episode that’s held above any other and sadly it was never even filmed. The episode was called “Blood and Fire” and was written by David Gerrold. It included not only the first Trek gay characters, but an AIDS allegory. Sadly it was never filmed. Gerrold DID however make the story into one of the books of his “Star Wolf” trilogy.

  20. brian says

    Steven Spielberg is also not very gay-friendly in my view. I’ve never seen a decent gay male relationship in a Steven Spielberg movie. Think of all the Steven Spielberg movies – we are notable by our absence.

    Hollywood liberals strike again. They are incredibly hostile to male-male love.

  21. Jacknasty says

    >Yes, Babylon 5 flirted with it, but that show
    >was HUGELY less popular than TNG and was
    >under less network scrutiny.

    I’m not just talking TNG, which ran from ’87-’94. There was also DS9, which ran from I think ’93-’99, Voyager which ran from ’95-’01 and Enterprise, which ran from ’01-’05. And how could a *less* popular show get away with it, while a cash and ratings cow like TNG or even DS9 couldn’t? That’s just nonsense.

    >The problem came with the networks.

    TNG and DS9 were syndicated. No networks. No excuses. Braga and Berman were just hacks, that’s the only reason why gay characters didn’t crop up on Trek.

    It’s silly to blame “the networks” or the studio (Paramount) because they were afraid of what a gay character might do to the ratings. Paramount stood behind Berman and Braga for over a decade while the franchise’s ratings not-so-slowly circled the drain, all completely gay-free! Those two clowns obviously had little reason to fear for their safety – it took the suits an entire decade to realize how thoroughly they’d destroyed the franchise and finally dispose of them.

    >Hollywood liberals strike again. They are
    >incredibly hostile to male-male love.

    Brian nails it. See also Hollywood’s collective freakout over Brokeback Mountain.

  22. Natira says

    I think it’s too late to retroactively gay-ify the Star Trek universe, as the series is on life support. And if they do try to add gay characters to upcoming movies, they’ll be sanitized and lame.

    They all envisioned a future without gay sexuality, and that’s where they flew their ship towards. To explore strangely familiar worlds, to seek out normal heterosexual life. To boldly go where no man is gay.

  23. says

    Change happens slowly, especially in a country like ours. Several people above are complaining that he’s saying something now, twenty years later, but most people in his position would not express any regrets like his, EVER, so give the guy a break… and the benefit of the doubt.

  24. MIndy says

    It’s a huge cop-out to say all this now. Time and time again, they could have rectified the situation back then, and that old excuse of “well, it was a syndicated family show” doesn’t let them off the hook. SORRY…but I was a big fan back then, who frequented conventions left and right. HE KNEW full well (as did the rest of the creative team behind the show) that there was a huge gay fan base for the show. And the ONE TRUE THING about trekkies or trekkers or whatever you wanted to call us is: We, as a group, were the MOST ACCEPTING of everyone. EVERYONE WAS INCLUDED at conventions.. why? Because in REAL LIFE, we were outsiders too. The FANS could have handled it at any time.

    Oh.. and another thing. On THE SHOW Brannon was in charge of (Star Trek: Enterprise), the character of Malcolm Reed (played by Dominic Keating) was described in the initial writers guide before the show began airing stated that Malcolm was “the openly gay chief weapons officer.” For whatever reason, they shelved that idea… Brannon,YOU were in charge. You have only yourself to blame!

  25. Rovex says

    In fairness to Star Trek how many big shows (TNG was huge in it prime), even now, actually have gay male characters that are not stereotypes?
    While The star Trek universe didnt show us much in the way of same sex love directly, its pretty obvious the universe doesn’t really care who your partner is. The message was clear.

  26. jaragon says

    The excuse they have given until now is that by the 23rd century homosexuality would not be an issue as in the Trek universe race, gender and aliens do not matter. It would be nice that if in the next Star Trek movie or series there would be a gay or lesbian lead.

  27. Jacknasty says

    >In fairness to Star Trek how many big shows
    >(TNG was huge in it prime), even now,
    >actually have gay male characters that are
    >not stereotypes?

    Dynasty had a gay main character in 1981. By 1985 was the #1 show on American television. TNG didn’t start until two years later. TNG’s producers had no excuses. None. They were simply cowardly hacks. Their writers, actors and directors were all way ahead of them.

  28. Ian says

    RE: Sonneillon That is so cool to know what was originally intended for Garak & Bashir’s sexuality, I KNEW there was a flirtatious vibe the actors seemed to be adding early on in their relationship whenever they had lunch together!

    I suddenly had this vision of one of the DS9 crew coming to Bashir’s quarters & Garak is leaving and Bashir is only in a robe. Then Bashir states that Garak the tailor had come to take his measurements (yeah, hm, ahah)!

  29. darkmoonman says

    Same old BS reasoning that I’ve heard/read for 40 years – “We’d like to have shown a positive gay image up THEY didn’t concur then … but they’d agree now because things have changde sooo m uch over the past 5 years … or 7 years … or 10 years or whatever.

  30. ted says

    I will never forgive them for the TNG episode where the atmosphere of a planet was sucked into space and the enterprise had to just stand by and let it happen. They also brought a 13 year old boy aboard the starship and he DIED when he found out he was in space, because he could not accpt such a thing. This was the fundamental dishonesty of the show under Braga, any normal creature capable of reaason and at a young age would be AMAZED to see something new and accept the change. Kids are built for it – but they were desperate to indoctrinate their world view, so everyone on the planet had to die, and even the ones they tried to save had to be fooled into thinking they never left home. All so Picard could serve/worship his precious Prime Directive. Poppycock. The show stank because they were hobbled with politically correct crap at every turn. Defying authority is a staple of the original series – it is what made it interesting and thought provoking. The new films series has it right. Go JJ.

  31. redball says

    The title of this post is hilarious to me because nowhere in Braga’s quote did I see a mention of “REGRET.”

    Just a lot of “we went back and forth on it…appeasement to Salt Lake City syndicates…IF WE’D DONE THE SHOW TODAY, we’d’ve included gays…blah blah blah.”

    Saying that you’d’ve included gays on a show TODAY doesn’t mean that you regret not doing so 20 years ago in what was a very different social climate for the entertainment industry (How many gays were even on mainstream TV shows 20 years ago? Painfully few, I’m sure.)

  32. John says

    “Their writers, actors and directors were all way ahead of them.”

    But not their surprisingly conservative audience. Fan reaction to these comments from Braga has been overwhelmingly negative. And most of them are actually upset Braga has diverged from the party line on homosexuality.

    The insecure, middle aged geeks who grew up with TNG are still whining about how having a gay character is part of the “homosexual agenda” and nobody wants to see any of that. Sometimes I wonder if these people are so insulated from reality that they are still living in 1987. Or maybe they just never matured beyond the need to drool every time a female cast member shows off her boobs. Or maybe the absurd excuses come from a sense of loyalty to the franchise.

    Who knows.

    Doesn’t matter at this point.

  33. Travis Yocom says

    There was one Out Star Trek character: Lt. Hawk from “First Contact”, but you had to read the novel prior to that point in the Trek timeline. But since, unlike Star Wars, the snoots, I mean suits, in the Trek management say that not all the novels are cant in the Trek Universe. You know, they would not want to alter a character or timeline in case they finally made a successful Trek movie, ooppps, did I say that? Or have an Out navigation officer, hey, wait!

  34. Rob says

    Yeah, as mentioned before me, Deep Space Nine got as close as Paramount would let them. I have no doubt that if Paramount had just said “OK”, that DS9 would have done a better job writing an LGBT story line than TNG or Voyager would have. At least we got that lesbian kiss right?

    Interestingly, not mentioned in the article, Enterprise did break some semi-queer ground not with a gay character, but with Polyamory. In one episode they met a species with three genders, and marriages of three. Also, Dr. Phlox’s race was one where multiple marriages were the norm. (I think he had like 5 wives and each of them had 5 husbands.) Yeah…not gay…but definitely not traditional sexuality for sure. 😉

    Fortunately for gay Trekkies, several Trek novels not only introduced gay characters, but had a good amount of same-sex romance in a few of them as well.

  35. madjoy says

    This comment section has been fascinating re:DS9 as someone who only watched the series a year or two ago. It makes so much sense that Bashir and garak were going to be a romantic couple – I totally thought it was heading in that direction the first few seasons!! And interesting the Dax story, which I loved for its mostly making her sexuality a non-issue, had to be fought for.

  36. Dan says

    Of course there’s gays in Star Trek, but the great thing about it is, it’s not a big deal. This is the future. Nobody cares if you’re gay, straight, bi, bi species, bi Vulcan or bi Klingon. In the future, all of this is not an issue. So nobody talks about it. It’s a NON issue.

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