Vampires & Violets: boldly going (where no man has gone before)

With that initial promise…to boldly go where no man has gone before…that Star Trek would be a haven for diverse sexuality. But that would be to fail to acknowledge the innate conservatism of US TV executives, and the studio system behind them.

With the result that despite plenty of gestures in the direcxtion of inter-racial (and even inter-species) “getting it on” – and despite the stated intent ofseries creator Gene Rodenberry to add lgbt characters as far back as the earlty ’90’s – same sex encounters, of any form, are remarkably noticeable by their absence.

Which doesn’t prevent Star Trek from including a certain amount of lesbian eye candy, almost by accident (see below).

So what went wrong? Star Trek is, of course, total metaphor for America triumphans. (Its also, incidentally, a classic submarine drama updated to the 24th century). It is therefore melting pot writ large, with a crew pointedly drawn from every major racial minority going.

Or is it? A rather geeky analysis suggests otherwise: mostly male and white (only one third of major characters being female); a quite notable absence of hispanic actors; no representation of alternative cultures within the main character plotting (though a fair bit of transgressiveness allowed to aliens and the various bods the regulars encountered in each episode). Next to no lgbt mention- let alone action – in any shape form or whatever.

Which is strange given the openly liberal credentials of so many associated with the show. There was that “first inter-racial kiss” on US television between Captain Kirk and Uhuru. Even if they were in fact beaten to it by a couple of other less famous tongue-tanglings.

That caused NBC palpitations, with studio execs seriously worried about tensions being sparked down south (no: that’s NOT rude metaphor!). William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols were even instructed to fake it by studio bosses, though Nichelle later claimed they did it for real.

For a series with its origins in the ’60’s – when male homosexuality was still a crime not just in the US but in many of the countries to which the ST franchise would be sold – one gets the rationale. But later, given the fairly broad support for a lgbt plot line espoused by almost every leading character in the series?

Even creator, Roddenberry, went public in 1991 with an open admission that he had been wrong on homosexuality and that he intended to introduce an openly gay plotline in the 1991/92 season…but died before he had a chance to put it into action.

So, on the gay/lesbian plotlines, there is next to nada. Scour the geek literature, and you’ll find the odd mention. Exceptions to this rule appear mostly to be explained, plot-wise, by alien intervention (as was the Kirk-Uhura interaction): and a couple of overt lesbian clinches seem to use the plotting device of the alien symbiotic trill species as excuse. As the kiss between Jadzia Dax and Lenara below:

And the subsequent one between Ezri Kigan (Nicole de Boer) and Intendant Leeta (Nana Visitor): both, again aliens, one Trill:

Women in Star Trek

Otherwise, the role of women in Star Trek appears to lag mainstream culture by a decade or more.Plenty of objectification and eye candy for blokes in the original series: scantily clad blondes, usually falling for William Shatner’s exceedingly dubious charms. Few, if any icons, role models or anything else for women.

The major exception,of course, arrives with Captain Kathryn Janeway, played by Kate Mulgrew, who takes on the role of a woman in charge: critics, though, may be concerned that as always, to be a woman in charge requires that one is either camply evil or, as in this case, just a touch dykey.

In terms, therefore, of eye candy for women, Star Trek provides very few useful images.There is Janeway herself, and the image below, with mild bdsm overtones (selected with a certain geeky friend in mind!), is of an “Evil Janeway” from a parallel universe:

An evil and very scary Janeway

Who else: well, guided by my geek friend, there is the Borg Queen, here played by Alice Krige:

The Borg Queen (film version(

And also in Borg territory, Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) – though here i think i disagree with my friend…since seven in her spray-on unitard and barbie-blonde perfection looks a lot like gratuitous bloke fodder:

Seven of Nine: Barbie pose

Last but by no means least, i am going to include Uhura herself. OK: as originally envisaged, she comes over as not much higher than the office temp. Little Miss prim and proper, reduced to what is essentially a receptionist role. But there always were flashes of strength and independence there, and those finally broke through in the later films, when Uhura comes into her own. Below is, frankly, a much more interesting image than the usual celebration of pert young women:

Maturerer, strongerer, altogether more interestinger Uhura

jane xx


1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    I thought Tasha Yar was the obvious lesbian character in ST:TNG, even if she did vary her interests under the influence of drugs. But yes, this kind of void is one of the reasons why those series come across as creepy fascism rather than Utopianism. We just skipped the historical overview episode in which several billion Chinese people were sent to camps and the episodes that show those pod-produced babies who have complex sex or gender issues having their bodies and brains forcibly realigned.

    I still like the original series, which get away with a lot because they never take it seriously.

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