Trek Cast & Crew Talk AIDS Awareness

By Caillan
February 5, 2003 - 11:35 AM

With tonight's premiere of 'Stigma', Trek personnel past and present have weighed in on the issue of AIDS awareness.

The spread of HIV/AIDS is not something to be swept under the carpet, according to actress Jolene Blalock (T'Pol), who said the issue is just as significant today as it was during the 1980s. "It's still a crisis," she told TV Guide Online. "Our next generation needs to be educated in AIDS awareness. I was honored to do something with this issue."

The actress has seen the impact of the AIDS virus firsthand. "AIDS hits home with me, because when I was in South Africa shooting the Diamond Hunters miniseries with Sean Patrick Flannery and Alyssa Milano we toured the townships, where it's poverty-stricken. One out of every 10 people has AIDS. Some of these people actually believe that if they sleep with a virgin, they'll be cured! It's not a sob story, it's serious."

In tonight's episode of Enterprise, T'Pol discovers she has been infected with the AIDS-like Pa'nar syndrome, which was contracted during a forced mind-meld. When Doctor Phlox tries to discretely question some Vulcan doctors about how to treat the disease, he is shocked to find that the physicians actively discourage the spread of information about Pa'nar syndrome.

Executive producer Brannon Braga, who penned 'Stigma' with Rick Berman, said the aim of the episode is not to be the last word on the subject, but to use the medium of science fiction to educate viewers. "If we can open a mind or two, stimulate discussion in the school room or wherever, there's your hope," he told the Baltimore Sun. "The danger is no matter how you approach the subject matter you sometimes still offend people in the most unexpected ways."

'Stigma' comes fifteen years after Star Trek's abortive first attempt at dealing with HIV/AIDS in an allegorical manner - David Gerrold's first-season Next Generation script 'Blood and Fire.' The story, which was also to feature the franchise's first gay characters, was shelved and never made it onto the screen.

"While I'm delighted that Star Trek is finally doing a show about AIDS, they should have done it in 1987, when it could have had a much greater impact," Gerrold said. "In 1987, there were no reliable treatments for AIDS. It was a fatal disease. And there was an enormous stigma attached to it. People who were infected with the virus were considered 'walking dead' and were treated like lepers."

The original Blalock interview is available at TV Guide, while further comments from Braga and Gerrold can be found at the Baltimore Sun.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.