Jun 9, 2017

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Boldly Going Where No Heterosexual Has Gone Before

Science fiction has been notorious for promoting an exclusively heterosexual future, insisting over and over again that gay people do not exist.  The Star Trek tv series have been the worse offenders, and Deep Space Nine (1993-1999) the worst of the lot, trying over and over again to be as heteronormative as possible, ignoring countless blatant opportunities for inclusivity.

The premise: On a far-off space station (but only about a day's flight from Earth), United Federation of Planets is assisting the planet of Bajor, which has just won its independence from the brutal Cardassians.  Meanwhile a wormhole opens up to the other side of the galaxy, bringing new possibilities for exploration, plus the threat of the Dominion.

The politics get complicated, and rather boring.  And all of the characters, bar none, are heterosexual:

Odo (Rene Auberjonois) is a changeling, a liquid in his natural state, capable of adopting any form he wishes.  He usually adopts the form of a humanoid male -- who is attracted to women.

Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) is a trill: a symbiont named Dax "joined" to a humanoid host.  Dax has lived in seven hosts before; its last was Curzon, an elderly man very, very interested in ladies.  Now that it's living in a female host, however, it's very, very interested in men.

The possibility of same-sex desire intrudes in a few episodes, briefly:

1. The Ferengi, space capitalists/Jewish stereotypes, do not allow women to go to work, so Pel (Helene Udy) disguised herself as a man to become a waiter at the bar/restaurant run by Quark (Armin Shimmerman). "He" falls in love with him, and seeks the advice of Dax, who is not surprised by what she thinks is same-sex desire.

Later "he" grabs and kisses Quark.  They are interrupted in media res by aliens, who assume that they are a same-sex couple.

Quark responds to the same-sex advance by ignoring it.

Pel: "I kissed you."

Quark: "No, you didn't."

2. Dax and her boyfriend Worf (the Klingon from The Next Generation)  go to the pleasure planet Risa, which seems to be a gigantic tropical brothel, with scantily clad women walking around saying "Everything we have is yours."  Dax reunites with a woman "he" dated as Curzon.  They get altogether chummy, even though Dax is now female, and Worf suspects that they are involved.

3. In a parallel mirror universe, the counterpart of Bajoran Major Kira Nerys is slinky, seductive, and  predatory, hinting that she's bisexual.

And some gay-subtext bromances.

1. Garak (Andrew G. Robinson), the only Cardassian left on the space station, is a fey, androgynous tailor who seems to be hitting on Dr. Julian Bashir.  Then they settle in for a romantic friendship, as each pursues hetero-romances.

Robinson later stated that he played the character as bisexual and in love with Bashir, but it was "a family show," so he couldn't be open about it -- can't let those kids know that gay or bi people exist!

2. Jake, son of the station commander (Cirroq Lofton), and Nog, Quark's nephew (Aron Eisenberg), are teenage best buds who have a quasi-romantic relationship.

By the way, after Nog joins Star Fleet, take a look at him in his uniform.  You'll soon find out why they generally film him from the waist up.

Beefcake is practically non-existent.  None of the main cast are ever shown shirtless.  Occasionally one of the women hooks up with a muscle man.

Lieutenant Manuele Atoa (Sidney Liufau) performs a Hawaiian fire-dance at Dax's pre-marital party.

Of all the Star Trek series, I like Deep Space 9 the least.  Instead of exploring strange new worlds, it's internecene politics.  Instead of boldly going where no man has gone before, it retreads the same old tired "no gays in space" mantra.


  1. "Rejoined" (1993) was designed to be an gay rights episode, albeit through the lens of a Trill taboo against a Trill having marriages/sexual relationships with former partners/spouses. "Chimera" had Odo meeting another one of his kind, and its peppered with gay dialogue....yeah, tye Tailor and the doctor should have been a couple. Its played that way early on, but then they were given girlfriends. Overall, an improvement from Next Generation, when it came to gay episodes.

    1. There was the TNG episode about aliens who values androgyny above all else, but one felt more feminine and was in love with Riker. (Jonathan Frakes wanted a man to play the part, but America wasn't ready for that.) The result was the opposite of what the writers wanted: Instead of a story about gay acceptance, we got psycho space lesbians. Oh TV...

  2. Actually, a lot of SF books have LGBT themes, especially if there's a lot of worldbuilding involved. It's just hard to do worldbuilding on film (2 hour format, Chekhov's gun and all that) or until recently do anything LGBT-related on TV (standards and practices, lazy writers, skittish executives).

    And of course, in the last decade or so, nerd culture has been invaded by regressives.


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