When original Star Trek: Discovery showrunner Bryan Fuller and executive producer Heather Kadin were developing the series, they were both adamant about making sure that the show stayed true to Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision of social progressiveness and inclusion. But for a vocal contingent of racist “fans,” Discovery’s emphasis on diversity is tantamount to “white genocide.”
There’s nothing particularly new about fandoms hating any sort of deviation from classic franchises, which were historically dominated by white, cisgender heterosexual men. Racist fans take it a step further, by claiming any attempt to rectify unequal representation attacks white men like themselves—e.g. the recent Ghostbusters reboot, Star Wars, basically everything.
What sets this breed of intolerant Trekkies apart from other types of internet loudmouths, though, is how deeply incorrect their understandings of their beloved franchise’s core concepts are. Star Trek is quite literally about an organization of interstellar explorers who could not do what they do, were it not for the fact that their society is based on interplanetary cooperation and acceptance of one another.
From the very beginning, Star Trek has tried to champion onscreen diversity in ways that other shows like it haven’t. The original series that ran from 1966-1969 was noted for its inclusion of a black woman and a Japanese man, both of whom played substantial roles that didn’t play up to racial stereotypes of the time. Later series like The Next Generation and Deep Space 9 carried on in this tradition by featuring black and female ship captains leading ethnically diverse crews. On the whole, Star Trek hasn’t always succeeded as much as it could have, with regards to representation, but over the decades the series has steadily improved.
When Discovery was first announced, Fuller promised the show would feature a diverse crew composed of people with different ethnic backgrounds, sexualities, and genders, all reflective of the myriad cultures that contribute to Starfleet. The show seems to be fulfilling that promise: of the seven main leads, four of them are men and women of color. It’s also great that the show’s first trailer features First Officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) so prominently.
For many longtime fans of the Star Trek, Burnham and Georgiou’s introduction was the fulfillment of Roddenberry’s promise that the franchise would literally and narratively boldly go where other television shows had never gone before.
But even beyond mere casting, Star Trek was focused on fostering tolerance and understanding. When you look back at original Star Trek episodes about the crew’s encounters with hostile aliens from another planet, the day was almost invariably saved by Kirk and company figuring out how to see things from their enemy’s perspective, and ultimately trying to work with them .instead of against them. Where fists and phasers failed to solve a problem, understanding and diplomacy prevailed.
Star Trek has always argued that being able to see past one’s differences from another is the single greatest ability that a person—one that could lead to the creation of a truly fantastic society. Star Trek hasn’t always lived up to that message itself (see: preponderance of white guy captains in the franchise’s history), but Discovery is attempting to make sure that it does.
There will always be those people who tell you that they miss the good old days when women, people of color, and queer people simply weren’t a part of scifi fandoms. Those good old days are a myth. We’ve always been here. The only thing that’s changed is that shows like Star Trek: Discovery aren’t trying to ignore that truth anymore.
And those people who hate Discovery for its inclusivity are too small-minded to realize what they hate is what Star Trek stands for. One of the main reasons the franchise has been so beloved and so successful is because it’s ignored these sorts of cries for intolerance all these years.