From its very beginning, Star Trek has endeavoured to show us a vision of humanity striving to attain a utopian future, with people of different creeds and nationalities being able to co-exist alongside each other, free from the kinds of prejudices which afflict our current society.
As far back as the original series, the diversity of the crew (as well as the casting) was to be applauded. At the very height of the Cold War, there was a Russian serving on the bridge of the USS Enterprise, something which must have felt like an impossibility at that time, with rivals being able to lay aside their differences and work together. Star Trek has also been – albeit wrongly – attributed with having the first interracial kiss on network television.
However, one area of significance in which the franchise has frustratingly lagged behind in terms of representation is the inclusion of the LGBTQIA+ community. Not that the makers over the years have entirely shied away from this, as in The Next Generation episode ‘The Outcast’, Riker developed an attraction to a member of an androgynous race. Although it was in syndication, that series fell foul of the same issues as mainstream network programming, where any contentious subject matter could lead to advertisers withdrawing.
Flash forward to our modern streaming age, in which Star Trek now lives chiefly online, on demand at the touch of a button, and those same concerns no longer apply. Anyone who has seen recent entries in the canon will have observed how much things have changed since even Enterprise drew to a close in 2005. It can now get away with far more than it ever could when it was on TV, with characters now swearing with relative abandon, something which would have seemed anathema back in the day.
Trek has also been able to finally openly address sexuality in all of its forms, with Discovery being at the vanguard of this paradigm shift. Not only do we have a loving relationship on display between two men, but there has also been a move to address both trans and non-binary lifestyles. The characters of Gray – a transgender alien – and Adira Tal – a non-binary human – have seen true diversity on display in the lineup of a Star Trek crew, having been unable to truly reach that final frontier for so long, due to external pressures.
With so much of Discovery having so far been wrapped up in season-long story arcs, some of the character development has been caught up in the sound and fury of the action, and not had as much focus as may have otherwise been the case. With IDW’s Star Trek: Discovery – Adventures In The 32nd Century, we get the opportunity to step back from the main narrative thrust, and focus upon various different members of the ship’s crew, ones who might not otherwise have their moment in the spotlight.
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Here, writer Mike Johnson gives us a recap of the fated yet also ongoing and unconventional love story between Gray and Adira, presenting their tale as matter-of-factly and in quite as unsensational a manner as possible. The fact that it has taken more than five decades for Trek to be freed of the shackles of heteronormative relationships appears to be the most shocking thing of all, but both the series and this comic have managed to pitch it right for the most part, giving us a loving couple who just happen to fall outside the model that we are usedg to seeing in the franchise.
The artwork by Angel Hernandez and colourist J.D. Mettler is a visual feast, managing to capture the likenesses of both of the actors perfectly, as well as depicting the story with great economy on the page, through use of some carefully thought out layouts. It gives the characters a chance to breathe, and for us to take stock of what we might have otherwise missed on screen. Adventures In The 32nd Century is definitely the best version of Trek on the printed page right now.