Gerrold Talks TNG Episode That Never WasBy Lisa
June 30, 2001 - 12:46 PM
David Gerrold wrote one of Star Trek's most popular and memorable episodes, the Original Series' 'The Trouble With Tribbles.' In a recent interview, Gerrold provided details of a script he penned for the Next Generation, which would have been the first Trek episode to portray homosexuality.
In 1986, Gerrold wrote 'Blood and Fire.' The script described a situation in which the Enterprise-D answered a distress call from a medical research facility. The facility was infested with Regulan blood worms, carriers of a highly infectious disease that Starfleet Command had decreed must be destroyed upon contact.
"This was during one of the worst parts of the AIDS crisis," Gerrold said in an interview with Salon.com. "Before protease inhibitors, before AZT. AIDS was not a treatable condition; it was a fatal disease. And the fear of it was widespread, so much so that blood donorship had reached critically low levels."
The Enterprise crew would need to donate blood to save the stricken facility. "I felt this plot point would raise the consciousness of 20 million Star Trek' fans overnight," Gerold explained. "In fact, I was hoping that we could put a card at the end of the episode encouraging people to donate blood."
The episode would have featured a gay couple dealing with the ramifications of the disease. "How long have you been together?" Riker was to ask a pair of male officers. "Since the academy," came the reply.
Gerrold said that Gene Roddenberry sent him a telegram congratulating him on the finished script. But Gerrold left the Next Generation staff after a series of arguments, and the script was never made. Gerrold could not help but wonder if the over-riding reason for this was the way the script dealt with homosexuality. But others close to Roddenberry disagree.
"I knew Gerrold from 1972, and I'd read all his books up to that point. 'Blood and Fire' was not his best work," said Trek archivist Richard Arnold. "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."
Whether this was the reason for abandoning the script, the episode would have been the most explicit portrayal of homosexuality in Trek's 35 years, a portrayal many have long campaigned for. You can read more about the ways Star Trek has almost dealt with the issue in a new original feature at Salon.com.