The world of Star Trek is one that is open and accessible to all, and that mindset is shown not just in the hopes of a utopian future, but one on a more personal level of inclusion. Sexuality has been one that the franchise largely ignored in its first iteration, and was dived deeper into in TNG and DS9. Episodes like “The Outcast” or “Rejoined” were part of a television revolution in that era that pushed for screen time of an under-represented population. Still, it was the 90’s, and only so much could be done during that era.
In a tweet from her account on April 28, Gates McFadden responded to a post from Jeri Ryan in regards to an article on Star Trek’s website about LGBTQ+ representation in the franchise. In it, the author discussed the episode “The Host”, which saw Beverly Crusher fall in a love with a Trill named Odan who was forced to changes hosts a few times in the episode. Ultimately, it ended with Dr Crusher unable to continue the relationship, and said: “Perhaps it is a human failing, but we are not accustomed to these kinds of changes.” This line has been interpreted in many ways, and Gates made a statement about it:
“Thank goodness we are 33 years more enlightened re: LGBTQ. But Bev would have slept with male or female the first time the host switched. But to switch so quickly again—so soon, was more than Crusher could handle. That was thought in my mind as I played that scene. only that.”
On a recent episode of the Trek Untold podcast, I asked Gates to elaborate more on this tweet, and here is what she had to say about the concluding scenes of “The Host”:
“I’m somebody who is very inclusive, gender-wise… Gender is something that’s just fantastic because it can be so many different things for different people. I felt when I played it – because I certainly, you know, was in my 20’s, I had a lot of friends who were gay and lesbian and I had taught workshops for theatre groups that were a group of gay women. So, I did not want to play it that it had anything to do with her being a woman.
That to me, what it was is – first I had this one male that’s the person I fell in love with. I didn’t know that it was this host thing when I fell in love with him. So [Beverly’s] already gone through that, then very quickly, he’s going to die. So you have to put it in something… she didn’t know what person you could put it into. I mean, what if they’d put it into a child, that would have been a really different episode.
So I think it could have been put in Troi, it could have been put in Ogawa, whatever. I think the first time it gets put in someone else, it was that she was still so in love that she felt that it was like, ‘Oh, you’re not dead. Oh, I’m so glad this, this, this, oh, he is still alive’. But then to have very quickly after that – like, you know, really quickly – it’s in someone else. It’s, it’s just too much.
I don’t care who had it… they would have to be maybe a host themselves, they would have to be that kind of a creature to understand that you could just keep changing. And it didn’t make any difference for us. That was the first time we knew of this kind of species. And I think it’s the fact that it was changing so fast. I don’t know how you can process that. It takes time to process things that we don’t understand and to me, that’s what I was playing.
This was the first time we had seen this species, within a matter of like a week, it was three different people the host was into. I don’t find that unusual that she couldn’t process it. And to me, I did not at all play it. I think I know people took it that way. But I didn’t play it that way at all in my mind. That had nothing to do. If it had gone into Picard at that point, that’s like too much. I couldn’t have done that. You see what I mean?
So I think people need to look at it in terms of like, go deeper. And think about it, that it’s not just about the surface thing of that suddenly it was a man or woman… If you had your pet and you took this host out of your pet and you had in a matter of a couple of days, it’s like three different looking dogs or something. It’s going to screw with how you feel about that, you know?”
On the subject of inclusivity in Star Trek, and the subset of fans who are against it for various reasons, Gates had this diplomatic response:
“I feel that we in order to go forward, we have to be inclusive. We have to become tolerant, we have to become more accepting of people who are different from us. We don’t have to be like them, we can be ourselves. I think that the wonderful thing about Star Trek… We have to learn how to live together. And that’s one of the great things about the Prime Directive.”
“It’s like even though we would like to impose something, we’re not going to do that. Yes, we sometimes make mistakes and then we talk, we try to correct them as much as we can. I can understand how it’s against some people’s religious beliefs or their feelings and they have absolutely the right to feel that way. So there are many other aspects of Star Trek they can enjoy.”
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Trek Untold is a weekly podcast series that chats with character actors, stunt performers, behind-the-scenes crew and other people who are the contributors of the Star Trek universe whose names aren’t in the opening credits of the shows. Follow Trek Untold on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to learn more about upcoming episodes, which are released every Thursday on all major audio platforms, and Sunday on Youtube in video form.