Gay "Trek"

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News Media Commentary
Title: Gay "Trek"
Commentator: Jonathan Kay
Date(s): 30 June 2001
Venue: Salon.com
Fandom: Star Trek
External Links: Gay "Trek"; archive link
Gay Trek.png
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Contents

Gay "Trek" is a 2001 article about the lack of gay characters on Star Trek. It is by Jonathan Kay and posted to Salon.com.

Among many other things, the article links to and quotes from "Turning Point," a 1995 "slash" fiction novel by "Killashandra". It also mentions Gaylaxians, and discusses at length the controversial Star Trek: TNG script by David Gerrold called Blood and Fire.

This article was reposted in full in DIAL #19, a Pros letterzine.

Excerpts

The Starship Enterprise, arguably the most famous vessel in the history of fiction, has seen some amazing sights. Its crew has gone back in time, averted intergalactic war and defeated monsters that eat whole planets. In one "Star Trek" episode, crew members were turned into little crystalline polyhedrons. In another, Mr. Spock's brain was surgically removed by an alien supermodel wearing a silver miniskirt.

Yet there's one frontier that has consistently eluded producers: Through three seasons on television and six movies, the decks of the original Enterprise have never witnessed a single word or gesture of gay affection. The same goes for the Enterprise D from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and the eponymous craft from "Deep Space Nine" and "Voyager." No same-sex kisses. No hand-holding. Not even a casual reference to the existence of homosexuality. It is an odd distinction for the franchise that, 33 years ago, gave America its first televised interracial kiss. "You would think that occasionally a gay or lesbian character would [appear] somewhere in the 24th century," wrote a contributor to the Lavender Dragon fan newsletter a few years back. "Has the Federation [of Planets] found a 'cure' for homosexuality?"

In Gerrold’s script, curing the disease required a complete blood transfusion. To treat the infected, the worried Enterprise D crew was asked to donate blood. “I felt this plot point would raise the consciousness of 20 million ‘Star Trek’ fans overnight,” says Gerrold. “In fact, I was hoping that we could put a card at the end of the episode encouraging people to donate blood.”

Gerrold never got a chance to lobby for that card. After a series of arguments with Roddenberry’s underlings, Gerrold quit the show, and the episode was permanently shelved. Gerrold says, half-joking, that the script got caught up in “orifice politics.”

The breakup was bitter. Roddenberry, who had sent Gerrold a telegram congratulating him on “Blood and Fire” (“Everybody loves your script”), now began badmouthing his work at “Star Trek” conventions.

“A large part of the problem was that Gene’s health was failing,” Gerrold says. “He didn’t have the physical strength he needed — and he was experiencing mental lapses as well.”

Gerrold says that some of Roddenberry’s collaborators stepped in and began to make decisions about the show. Other writers, including Herb Wright, were fired. Roddenberry’s lawyer, Leonard Maizlish, even went so far as to write story memos and rewrite scripts. And Maizlish was hardly sensitive to the gay issue. “The last time I saw [Maizlish] I was helping Herb Wright pack up his office,” says Gerrold. “The lawyer came to make sure we weren’t stealing anything. To my face, he called me ‘an AIDS-infected cocksucker. A fucking faggot.'”

Some details of Gerrold’s story are disputed (though not the bit about Maizlish, who is now dead; David Alexander, Roddenberry’s authorized biographer, referred to the lawyer in his discussions with me as “Roddenberry’s dark presence”).

Many “Star Trek” insiders say Gerrold’s “Blood and Fire” was simply a bad script. “David has made a career out of this sort of claim,” says Ernie Over, a Wyoming journalist who worked as Roddenberry’s personal assistant. “He had an agenda, which was to get gay people onto ‘Star Trek.'”

“I knew Gerrold from 1972, and I’d read all his books up to that point. ‘Blood and Fire’ was not his best work,” says Richard Arnold, Roddenberry’s research consultant on “The Next Generation” and a columnist for the official “Star Trek” newsletter. “I was almost offended by the stereotypes. The scene I remember particularly was when the gay couple was having a sort of lover’s dispute. The one we could call the wife was expressing concern to the other about getting into dangerous situations. He was saying stuff like ‘You know how much I worry about you when you’re away.’ I mean, come on. This was absolutely ridiculous — for Starfleet officers or for gay men.”

But whatever the merits of the “Blood and Fire” script, Arnold, Over and other “Star Trek” insiders agree that Roddenberry’s subordinates have deliberately kept the official “Star Trek” canon free of any explicit mention of homosexuality since the creator made his comments to the Gaylaxians 15 years ago.