'Hidden Frontier' Brings Gay Characters Out of HidingBy Michelle
June 18, 2006 - 2:50 AM
Though the Star Trek franchise has never had an openly gay character in one of its series or movies, the fan series Star Trek: Hidden Frontier has decided to make that quest for diversity a reality.
Producer Rob Caves told AfterElton that as a fan and a gay man, the lack of gay characters was surprising to him given the show's interest in contemporary social issues. Though Star Trek: The Next Generation did a metaphoric episode, "The Outcast", about a character condemned on a planet of androgynes for having a gender orientation, and although Deep Space Nine featured a kiss between two women in "Rejoined" - and although fan fiction writers have speculated for many years about the sexuality of established characters - there has never been even a background character in Paramount's onscreen Star Trek adventures who was gay or lesbian.
"Star Trek was about pushing social issues into a science fiction context, and not shying away from uncomfortable topics," said Caves, whose Hidden Frontier has a love triangle among three male characters. "It was an important decision for me to address something that was personal to me. It was also at a time when gay people were often portrayed in stereotypes. I wanted to show a future where gay was not an issue anymore.”
Caves said that while the GBLT community has been extremely supportive, he gets mail protesting the inclusion of gay characters as well. Sometimes the reasoning has to do with religion - though Roddenberry's vision of the future was wholly secular - while sometimes fans protest that gays don't exist on Star Trek, "that we're a threat to values and at worst, we're somehow corrupting Star Trek fans."
The producers hope that fans watching "will shape their thinking around the idea that these characters are just people. People in and out of relationships. Not gay, not straight, just people." He has been concerned that Hidden Frontier might be singled out for a cease-and-desist order from Paramount, which thus far has allowed series like this one and Star Trek: New Voyages to continue to produce episodes so long as they make no profits.
"I'd like to think they've seen that we've been careful and tactful with the subject matter and that has helped keep us safe," noted Caves, who said he believed that the target demographic audience of young (presumably heterosexual) men has been a reason for the studio to stay away from gay-themed episodes. "It doesn't help their business to do a story with gay characters, and at worst, it might even hurt. I think once you accept the fact that media is a business, it's a lot easier to see why they would be hesitant to do a gay kiss."
Still, Caves thinks that the exploration of certain characters would have been improved by gay storylines on television, such as Garak and Bashir's friendship. "Jake Sisko had so little to do in DS9, making him gay would have given the character more interest. Coming out in season 5 or 6 might have worked for him...it does have the power to change hearts and minds about accepting gays as people, and not viewing them as second class citizens."