The trailer for CBS’s “Star Trek: Discovery,” the latest entry in the “Star Trek” universe, feature two women of color — Michelle Yeoh as the starship captain and Sonequa Martin-Green as her first officer — as they engage the Klingon people.
It’s fairly standard fare for the series, which has seen multiple entries since Gene Roddenberry created it in 1966. This new show takes place a decade before the adventures of Captain Kirk and Spock aboard the Enterprise starship, the original and most famous story in the “Star Trek” canon. What’s most shocking about the trailer is how different the Klingons look, but some fans took issue with something else entirely: the ethnicity and sex of the lead characters.
As the New Yorker reported, comments such as “Where is the alpha male that has balls and doesn’t take crap from anyone?,” “Is everything going to have to have females in every … thing?” and “Star Trek: Feminist Lesbian Edition” quickly appeared on YouTube.
On Twitter, fans focused on the lead characters’ race, often employing the term “white genocide.”
It makes you wonder where they’ve been all these years. The series, in 1968, featured the first interracial kiss on television. And, in 1966, it featured the first black woman to play a lead role on television when it cast Nichelle Nichols as Lieutenant Uhura.
The series, in fact, has long been lauded as one of the most progressive on television, a fact not lost on Martin-Green, who was recently asked by Entertainment Weekly about the backlash. On the show, those with differing backgrounds and viewpoints often have to work together to solve problems, which Martin-Green said is “one of the foundational principles” of the series.
“I would encourage them to key into the essence and spirit of ‘Star Trek’ that has made it the legacy it is — and that’s looking across the way to the person sitting in front of you and realizing you are the same, that they are not separate from you, and we are all one,” Martin-Green said. “That’s something ‘Star Trek’ has always upheld and I completely believe that is why it’s been a mainstay in society in the hearts of so many people for so many decades.”
George Takei, who played Sulu on the original series, also defended the show, calling the detractors “alien life-forms that we call trolls” on MSNBC’s “AM Joy.”
“You know, when you go out into space, you’re going to have even greater diversity,” he said. “These so-called trolls haven’t seen a single episode of the new series because it hasn’t been aired. And they don’t know the history of ‘Star Trek,’ that Gene Rodenberry created this with the idea of finding strength in our diversity.”
Added Takei, “These people claiming ‘Star Trek’ is racist genocide, or whatever, ‘white genocide,’ don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re equal to the president of the United States.”
Finally, the new show’s co-creator Bryan Fuller mirrored the sentiments, saying at the Television Critics Association Summer Tour, “’Star Trek’ started with a wonderful expression of diversity in its cast. We’re continuing that tradition.”
Many others on Twitter felt the same way.
Indeed, the ‘Star Trek’ series, as Manu Saadia put it in the New Yorker, has always been about inclusion, diversity and breaking down human-made social barriers. Saadia wrote:
Each successive “Star Trek” cast has been like a model United Nations. Nichols’s black communications specialist worked alongside George Takei’s Japanese helmsman and Walter Koenig’s (admittedly campy) Russian navigator. Leonard Nimoy’s Spock was half-human, half-Vulcan, and he bore traces of the actor’s own upbringing in a poor Jewish neighborhood in Boston. The Vulcan hand greeting, for instance, which Nimoy invented, is the Hebrew letter shin, the symbol for the Shekhinah, a feminine aspect of the divine. The original series aired only a few years after the Cuban missile crisis, at the height of the Vietnam War and the space race, and its vision of a reconciled humanity was bold. Nichols, who considered leaving the show after the first season, has said that she was persuaded to stay on by Martin Luther King, Jr., who told her that he watched “Star Trek” with his wife and daughters.
This isn’t the first time an entry in the “Star Trek” series has come under fire for including ever more diverse characters. Just last year, the film “Star Trek Beyond” portrayed Sulu as a gay man. It was the first time the series featured an openly gay character, and some fans were furious.
“It is absolutely reprehensible to take (and this is what the Gay Left always does: takes) a beloved and established character and use him as a publicity stunt and Social Justice Trophy,” columnist John Nolte wrote in the Daily Wire. “The decision to make Sulu gay is not about furthering gay rights or creating a more realistic ‘Star Trek’ universe. It is about the Left telling the world: ‘Now that we have the power, we are going to s— all over everything you hold dear.’”
Such critics, though, didn’t seem to detract from the film’s success. It grossed more than $340 million worldwide.
More from Morning Mix