Star Trek: Discovery will be looking to the future in more ways than one when it returns next month.
For starters, the premise will take Micheal Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery some 900 years into Starfleet’s future — a time when the Federation is diminished and in need of some hope. In our 21st Century, the series will be taking another leap forward by introducing the first recurring non-binary and transgendered characters to be played by non-binary and transgendered actors.
Deadline reports Blu del Barrio and Ian Alexander will play the non-binary Adira and transgendered Gray, respectively. Adira is described as “highly intelligent with a confidence and self-assurance well beyond their years.” Making a new home aboard the Discovery, they will bond with Lt. Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz). Grey, meanwhile, is a transgendered Trill awaiting the moment to bond with a symbiote, but “he will have to adapt when his life takes an unexpected turn.”
Attempts at addressing things like gender-fluidity in the future have been made in Star Trek before, starting with an abbreviated attempt by Star Trek: The Next Generation creator Gene Roddenberry to normalize the leg-revealing “skant” variant of the Starfleet uniform as a gender-neutral option aboard the 24th Century U.S.S Enterprise. This was short-lived, of course, as it was clear the 20th Century sensibilities of background performers and the crew could not normalize the concept. Also, the “skant” uniform was phased out entirely early in TNG‘s second season.
A gay character was intended to be featured in Star Trek: First Contact, but all lines referring to his orientation were eventually removed from the script. Additionally, the writing staff on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine attempted to broach topics of sexual orientation and gender identities, but were forced to heavily code them under alien make-up to clear the broadcast standards of the day.
Discovery took those early attempts and ran with it by introducing the first openly gay Starfleet officers with Stamets and Culber — highlighting that by the 23rd Century Roddenberry envisioned, sexual orientation and gender identities would not the divisive topics they frequently become in our current era. Of course, the 32nd Century the Discovery is about to find may be all to familiar in its divisions.
Star Trek: Discovery returns October 15th on CBS All Access.