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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."

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  1. 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.

    Posted by: JT | Jan 29, 2011 4:45:31 PM


  2. 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.

    Posted by: Anonymous | Jan 29, 2011 4:50:36 PM


  3. 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.

    Posted by: Steve | Jan 29, 2011 4:59:09 PM


  4. I never fell for the notion that Star Trek was gay-friendly in any way, shape or form. I won't be watching it.

    Posted by: brian | Jan 29, 2011 5:02:17 PM


  5. 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.

    Posted by: brian | Jan 29, 2011 5:05:56 PM


  6. Let's clear this up:

    Star Trek TNG was never on Network television. The show was syndicated.

    Posted by: Rodney Wollam | Jan 29, 2011 6:39:58 PM


  7. >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.


    Posted by: Jacknasty | Jan 29, 2011 6:40:54 PM



  8. 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.

    Posted by: Natira | Jan 29, 2011 7:16:25 PM


  9. another load of "regretful" bs...is he looking for another job??...

    Posted by: alanbrickman | Jan 29, 2011 7:40:21 PM


  10. 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.

    Posted by: Ioann | Jan 29, 2011 8:09:43 PM


  11. 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!

    Posted by: MIndy | Jan 29, 2011 8:51:15 PM


  12. Just to add to the gentleman's comment about startrek online, I think the MMORPGs are way ahead of the game on this issue. http://starships-rpg.com is also way ahead of the curve, as are many others, so GO GAMERS!

    Posted by: Archie | Jan 29, 2011 9:28:27 PM


  13. 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.

    Posted by: Rovex | Jan 30, 2011 2:45:18 AM


  14. 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.

    Posted by: jaragon | Jan 30, 2011 11:25:00 AM


  15. It's nice to see that all you guys have lives....

    Posted by: wimsy | Jan 30, 2011 12:09:06 PM


  16. >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.

    Posted by: Jacknasty | Jan 30, 2011 1:05:15 PM


  17. 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)!

    Posted by: Ian | Jan 30, 2011 7:03:54 PM


  18. 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.

    Posted by: darkmoonman | Jan 30, 2011 7:18:32 PM


  19. 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.

    Posted by: ted | Jan 30, 2011 9:28:26 PM


  20. 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.)

    Posted by: redball | Jan 30, 2011 9:34:10 PM


  21. "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.

    Posted by: John | Jan 30, 2011 10:23:43 PM


  22. 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!

    Posted by: Travis Yocom | Jan 31, 2011 2:36:37 AM


  23. 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.

    Posted by: Rob | Jan 31, 2011 9:35:36 AM


  24. 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.

    Posted by: madjoy | Jan 31, 2011 11:31:50 AM


  25. So, "It was a shame but we're not going to do anything to correct it."

    Posted by: Daniel | Jan 31, 2011 11:35:14 AM


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