Star Trek Beyond, the latest installment in the adventures of the reimagined original crew, flies into theaters today and will bring with it the franchise’s first gay character in the form of helmsman Hikaru Sulu (played by John Cho).
But while this is uncharted territory for Star Trek’s official cannon (queer characters have been included in several Star Trek novels), the franchise’s various TV series did touch on a few LGBT issues with some clever story lines and allegories during their runs.
Join us as we take a look back at the five queerest Star Trek episodes so far.
1.) “The Outcast” from Star Trek: The Next Generation
In one of the strongest LGBT allegories in Star Trek history, this season 5 episode of The Next Generation finds the Enterprise crew encountering the J’Naii, a race of genderless people. However, when Riker is sent on a mission with a J’Naii named Soren, he learns not all J’Naii identify as genderless and some feel attraction to one gender or another. Yet, they are considered sick by their society. Riker and Soren share a kiss, which is witnessed by another J’Naii and Soren is reported to the authorities where Soren delivers a powerful speech about the need to accept those who are different before Soren is taken away to the J’Naii version of reparative therapy.
2.) “Rejoined” from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
The first romantic same-sex kiss in Star Trek history was a complicated one. Jadzia Dax and Lenara Kahn are both from an alien race known as the Trill – a species that exists as symbionts implanted in host bodies. Dax and Kahn were once married back when Dax was inhabiting a male body. Turns out they still have a thing for one another, despite the fact that Trills are not supposed to rekindle their previous hosts’ romantic relationships. Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop the two from sharing a passionate lip lock and their undying love for each other.
3.) “Chimera” from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Odo, a changeling whose natural form is puddle of liquid, has an eye-opening moment when he meets a being named Laas from his own race who does not share Odo’s need to “pass” as a species with a solid form. Odo is confronted with the prejudices of others, even some of his friends, who claim to be okay with changelings – just as long as they don’t have to see them change form or exist as anything other than humanoid.
4.) “The Host” from Star Trek: The Next Generation
Dr. Crusher falls in love with a Trill diplomat named Odan. But when Odan is fatally wounded and must transfer his symbiont self into a new female host body, Crusher breaks off the relationship saying she can’t deal with “these kind of changes.”
5.) “Stigma” from Enterprise
With obvious parallels to the real-life story of AIDS in ‘80s America, this episode of the final Star Trek series (which takes place 100 years before the days of Kirk and Spock) finds T’Pol, The Enterprise’s Vulcan first officer, contracting Pa’nar Syndrome. It’s an ailment that is spread through mind melds – an act that is considered unnatural in Vulcan society during this era and is believed to be practiced by only a few degenerate telepaths. Because of this stigma, Vulcan doctors are unwilling to supply research, medicine, or discuss preventative measures about the spread of the disease. The Enterprise crew soon find themselves battling one of their most difficult enemies they’ve ever encountered – Vulcan prejudice.