Bryan Fuller, who wrote for ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ and ‘Deep Space Nine’ before co-creating ‘Discovery’, traces the franchise’s LGBTQ history.
Paramount+’s ongoing “Star Trek: Discovery” may feature the most LGBTQ+ characters ever seen in the “Star Trek” universe, but diehard Trekkies know the groundwork was laid long before.
First premiered in 2017 to critical and fan acclaim, ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ featured gay actors (and original ‘Rent’ co-stars) Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz as engineer chief Paul Stamets and her husband Hugh Culber, respectively. Together, they made history as the first gay couple in any “Star Trek” franchise, and that’s something series co-creator Bryan Fuller is very proud of.
“That was something that was very important from the start, is having an explicit representation of homosexuality,” Fuller told IndieWire during a recent interview. “So I’m glad that queer people are finally seeing themselves in ‘Star Trek’ stories in a way that they didn’t before. But I think queer representation in ‘Star Trek’ really started with ‘Deep Space Nine’ more than any other franchise or show.
A prolific screenwriter, producer, and television creator known for popular cult classics like “Pushing Daisies” and “Hannibal,” Fuller cut his teeth as a writer on “Deep Space Nine” and “Voyager” in the late ’90s. Although he parted ways with “Discovery” before the first episode aired, he views his work on those previous “Star Trek” series as laying the groundwork for his current openly queer iteration.
As a longtime Trekkie, he’s aware of the limitations of the originals, especially when it comes to female characters.
“We saw in ‘Next Generation’ and the classic ‘Star Trek,’ women were often relegated to caretaker roles,” Fuller said. “That’s not to say we didn’t have fantastic characters, because I loved Dr. Crusher and Counselor Troi. They had amazing episodes, but Uhura never had an episode. She was always a secondary character, so it’s fascinating to see the evolution from classic ‘Star Trek’ to ‘Next Generation’ and then the leap forward that ‘Deep Space Nine’ made in terms of representation and homosexuality.”
While Fuller himself has been absent for his entire career, his characters haven’t always had the same freedom. Over two decades ago, he became adept at noticing and nurturing homosexuality in subtle ways.
“You have the stories with Dax and the taboos of loving another person relationships from his past as Trill, but for modern audiences we see queer oppression born out of that narrative,” he said. “Characters like Garak in ‘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 character from ‘Star Trek’ all time.
Fuller is also proud of how “Star Trek” influenced other great sci-fi and fantasy shows of the era, many of which became as iconic as “Star Trek” in its own right. He sees a direct line between “Deep Space Nine” and the groundbreaking relationship between Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Tara (Amber Benson) on “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 weirdness of that character in a way that sets up Willow’s line from ‘Buffy,’ where she meets his Doppelgänger and was like, “I think I’m a bit of a fag. There’s something about those things that in “Star Trek” started with “Deep Space Nine” in a major way. is really that when “Discovery” made this queer representation more explicit that we took it to the next level.
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