Film and TV

George Takei says a gay character in original Star Trek would have been ‘a bridge too far’ for its time

Patrick Kelleher November 4, 2019
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George Takei says a gay character in original Star Trek series would have been 'a bridge too far' for its time

On the set of the TV series Star Trek (Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty)

George Takei has revealed that Star Trek: The Original Series creator Gene Roddenberry wanted to introduce a gay character – but was constrained by the times.

In an interview with PBS News Hour, Takei – who played Mr Sulu in the original series in the 1960s – spoke about the show’s diversity.

After the original Star Trek series aired an inter-racial kiss – a scene that garnered controversy at the time – Roddenberry had to tread lightly.

Takei later spoke to Roddenberry about the idea of introducing a gay character into the mix. He said that Roddenberry explained he would “like to do that” – but said he was “walking a tightrope”.

Star Trek: The Original Series avoided gay characters to stay on the air.

“The interracial kiss was very controversial,” Roddenberry said, according to Takei.

“So I’ve got to keep the show on to tell the stories that I’m telling, which aren’t being dramatised metaphorically on any other show.

“I’ve got to keep the show on. And [a gay character], as you say, may be a bridge too far.”

Star Trek originally aired between 1966 and 1969, and was later referred to as Star Trek: The Original Series because of the expansive world that series spawned.

I’ve got to keep the show on. And [a gay character], as you say, may be a bridge too far.

The original run was cancelled after just three seasons and suffered from poor ratings on NBC. Since then, six television series, 13 feature films and various books have been released based on the world of that original show.

The show’s original run was well known for its unusually progressive approach to race, gender and sexuality.

Original series constantly broke new ground over the course of its three seasons.

The show’s producers reportedly filled the show with sexualised scenes in order to distract censors from the more controversial content in their episodes.

Star Trek also broke new ground by casting black woman Nichelle Nichols as Lieutenant Uhura. The actress later revealed that she faced racism from the studio and was turned away from entering the studio through the walk-in gate on one occasion.

While the original series was constrained by the time it was created in, LGBT+ characters have become more mainstream since within the Star Trek universe.

In 1995, Deep Space Nine aired a same-sex kiss, and in 2016, Star Trek Beyond revealed that the Kelvin Timeline version of Sulu was gay. It was also later revealed that Discovery’s Paul Stamets and Hugh Culber were in a relationship.

Related topics: george takei, star trek, Star Trek: The Original Series

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