Category Archives: Television

JBC vs. CDR

For Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, Canada’s Drag Race (CDR) should have been a dream come true. He was raised in a tiny town in Alberta and had no previous major television credits to his name. The 36-year-old actor and model — whose biggest credit was playing a manipulative reality TV producer on Lifetime’s UnREAL — was chosen to sit among its panel of judges. The openly gay and biracial Bowyer-Chapman already was familiar to CDR fans the world over having appeared a handful of times as a guest judge on VH1’s RuPaul’s Drag Race (RPDR) and RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars. “There’s something about drag that I’ve always been so enamored by,” he said. “Drag is magic.”

But the dream quickly turned into a glittery nightmare. In a recent interview, Bowyer-Chapman discussed his exit from the program where he alleged racism from the CDR producers, as well as a toxic fanbase that prompted his abrupt exit from the program. Bowyer-Chapman had served as one of the permanent judges in the first season of the series, a spin-off of the popular American show, RPDR. He exited the job prior to Season 2 following a campaign of online blowback for his comments as a judge although he cited “scheduling conflicts” as the official reason for his departure. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Bowyer-Chapman explained that American producers convinced him to accept the job as a judge on the Canadian show, but that the toxic work environment drove him to leave.

Upon arriving on the Canadian set, Bowyer-Chapman encountered a new group of local producers, and very different attitudes about his involvement. “I came into CDR with a false sense of security because I had built trust with the producers of the American show,” he said. “But this was a different set of producers. And I think they were trying to create something impactful and prove themselves along the way. There were many instances where I should have paid attention to my intuition and spoken up. And I didn’t.”

The problems began almost immediately when a “white, gay, male showrunner” pulled Bowyer-Chapman aside and told him just before he was to meet the queens for the first time that he was the “man-candy for the queens to drool over.” Apparently, all the judges had signed very ironclad contracts stating they would not fraternize with any of the contestants or the crew off-set. They were to have no personal relationships, dialogue, or contact with the queens whatsoever other than when they were filming. Bowyer-Chapman said in his introduction to the drag contestants, “the queens were flirting with me and being suggestive in some ways. My walls went up immediately. I realized there were different expectations being put on me that were not being placed on the rest of the cast, and nobody was going to protect me.”

The harassment from the showrunner continued, as Bowyer-Chapman’s boss explained he needed to play the role of the “sassy” judge on the panel. Bowyer-Chapman said, “Being told that from a white person, ever, as a Black person, it’s like a dog whistle. It’s like what is said of Black women and of Black queer men meaning you’re the hot-headed, opinionated one who’s going to tell it like it is and not give a shit about what anybody has to say. And that’s not who I am.” He also attributes that environment, at least in part, to a lack of Black talent behind the camera. “There really was no Black talent,” he said. “We’re walking onto a set of CDR day one, and the showrunner is telling me how diverse the crew was as he’s giving me a tour. And I didn’t see one Black person.”

In a departure from the US version of the show, the Canadian version outfitted judges with earpieces to get suggested snarky comments from producers. Judges also got a list of suggested negative criticisms from producers ahead of time, and were required to record them so editors could drop them into a show at will. The policy made Bowyer-Chapman uncomfortable as it forced both him and the other judges to constantly deliver negative criticism. “Even if we didn’t have anything negative to say, you had to come up with something negative.”  He said he realized the producers were portraying him as aggressively negative after the first episode. Tensions hit a new level several episodes into the season when Bowyer-Chapman had a terse exchange with the contestant, Jimbo. The moment, in which Bowyer-Chapman told Jimbo to “use time better, maybe,” became an instant meme, and prompted fans to create a Change.org petition to have Bowyer-Chapman fired from the show. The petition didn’t garner anywhere near its signature goal, but the moment started a campaign of online bullying that would follow Bowyer-Chapman the rest of the season. 

“My inbox was flooded with people telling me I was too mean. I didn’t know what I was talking about. Just a lot of blatant racism. Their public profiles read ‘Black Lives Matter,’ but their DMs were all about how my Black life didn’t matter. All of us were locked in our homes, riddled with anxiety … and then to be experiencing this hate and verbal violence and emotional assaults, this just blatant racism at the same time from my own community? It was really hard.” Bowyer-Chapman’s co-judges felt some of the backlash, too — but whereas judge, Brooke Lynn Hytes (who said of one contestant’s piñata-like outfit, “I should … beat you with a stick”) already had competed in a season of RPDR, and earned the right to critique, Bowyer-Chapman was viewed as an interloper with no expertise in the field. There also was the matter of race. “There was a lot I experienced that Brooke Lynn just couldn’t have, because Brooke Lynn is a white man.”  

Amid the harassment, RuPaul himself reached out to comfort Bowyer-Chapman. He also advised the then-judge to leave Twitter over the ongoing harassment. “We had conversations about his experience in this world and this industry as a Black, queer man. As a drag queen,” Bowyer-Chapman recalled. “All the hate and trolling and vitriol he’s experienced his entire life. And it’s really heartbreaking, but he’s experienced it for so many years and he’s so clear-headed about it. He has learned to not take it personally.” Still, when Season 2 of CDR rolled around, Bowyer-Chapman opted to leave to accept a role on another series though not before he “called a lot of attention to the bullshit that occurred behind the scenes and the stuff that happened online and their inaction.”

Crave, the network that airs CDR, released a statement regarding Bowyer-Chapman’s departure and the campaign of online bullying. “In light of the social media attacks and bullying that Jeffrey experienced during season one, we put measures in place to mitigate this for future seasons. This includes a dedicated social media consultant to work with Crave to continue monitoring conversations in real-time.” RuPaul declined to comment, but his relationship with Bowyer-Chapman remains good, and he already has taped an appearance on an upcoming season of RPDR. For Bowyer-Chapman, though, the lesson is clear: “That’s what happens when it’s only white, cisgender people behind the scenes making the decisions. That’s what happens.”


Homophobic “Trekkies” and Wilson Cruz

Wilson Cruz, who plays the gay doctor Hugh Culber on Star Trek: Discovery and is openly gay himself, took to Twitter to bring attention to an incident that occurred during his appearance for Star Trek Day on September 8. Cruz voiced his frustration with a homophobic Star Trek fan that harassed him during a recent appearance.

In the tweet, Cruz wrote, “I wonder if this was the moment on stage when I heard a ‘fan’ on Star Trek Day refer to me with a homophobic slur,” Cruz wrote, captioning an image of himself smiling on stage. “Still smiling, though. You’ll never kill my joy.”

There are more Trekkies who are homophobic than you would think would be the case. They were outraged when on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine there was a kiss between two women (which was not a gay kiss—it’s complicated), and they have voiced their disdain over the LGBTQ+ characters on Star Trek: Discovery and the possibility of LGBTQ+ characters on Star Trek: Picard. During the early years of Enterprise there were constant rumors that one of the characters would come out as gay, but with the backlash from this homophobic group of fans, it never materialized. Only recently has the Star Trek universe begun to embrace LGBTQ+ characters, and it’s about time. 

The majority of fans are not homophobic, but the ones who are seem to be quite vocal. Cruz’s tweet sent Trek fans rushing to defend Cruz and slam event organizers for not doing more to curb the hate. Cruz then returned to Twitter to defend the event and calm his fans.

“Listen, y’all… I really don’t blame the event. I only heard it,” Cruz wrote.” Couldn’t point them out, so chose to ignore it. I DON’T blame the EVENT at all! That day wasn’t about them and it wasn’t about me. It was about Star Trek, it’s legacy, it’s ideals, it’s visionary creator…”

“I REALLY didn’t mean for this to blow up,” he continued. “It just means we have work to do. Let’s do it and move beyond this trivial moment. They’ve received enough attention, as it is. I’m grateful for ALL of your care. I forget sometimes how much this fandom can go to bat when it wants!”

Star Trek: Discovery has won wide praise for including the first explicit LGBTQ+ characters in the history of the long-running franchise. Alongside Cruz, actor Anthony Rapp plays Hugh Culber’s husband Paul Stamets, while actor Blu Del Barrio portrays the couple’s adoptive trans/nonbinary teen, Adria. Trans actor Ian Alexander also has a recurring role as Adria’s former love, Gray Tal. Also, openly gay comedian Tig Notaro plays Engineer Denise “Jett” Reno who in an early episode discussed the death of her wife.These homophobic Trekkies don’t understand the basic philosophy of Star Trek. Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, built Star Trek around the idea of differences and coming together despite them. When you compare the diversity of Star Trek: Discovery to Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek has come a long way, and I believe Roddenberry would be happy with the diversity presented in the franchise. On the bridge of the original USS Enterprise, there was a black woman, an Asian man, and a Russian during the height of the Cold War. Star Trek has come so far, yet there is still much work to be done. Progress has and is being made. No matter what century the show takes place in, we are seeing a true normalization of diversity.


Star Trek Crushes

Star Trek: Discovery’s Lt. Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz)

Actor Wil Wheaton, known for his role as Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation, welcomed pride month this weekend by giving a special shout-out to his LGBTQ+ fans. Wheaton, who is now 48, took to Facebook to publicly acknowledge the number of Star Trek fans that had a crush on the actor–or his character–during the show’s run.

“Over the years, I’ve met several men who have told me that their childhood crush on Wesley Crusher was a big part of them coming out and living their lives with joy and love and pride,” Wheaton wrote. “I can not even begin to tell you how much this means to me. I love it so much that I, and some of my work, were there for people (when I didn’t even know it was happening) who needed a safe place.”

As a Star Trek fan, I certainly had a crush on Wesley Crusher, but the character that really made my hear go pitter patter was Dr. Julian Bashir (portrayed by Alexander Siddig) on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Bashir has sometimes been referred to as a twink, although his character began the series in his late thirties. He obviously caught the eye of the station’s resident Cardassian tailor, Elim Garak (portrayed by Andrew Robinson). Dr. Bashir was always handsome in the series, in particular, I always loved the episode “Rivals” because of the skintight suit Bashir wears while playing racquetball.

Alexander Siddig: Dr. Julian Bashir and Today

I had crushes on other Star Trek characters as well. On Star Trek: Voyager, I had a thing for Tom Paris played by the ever-handsome Robert Duncan McNeill. Enterprise had Commander “Trip” Tucker portrayed by Connor Trinneer who seemed to spend half the series in his underwear and boy did he look good in his underwear. With Star Trek: Discovery, we now have actual gay characters, who are all surprisingly played by gay actors, to lust after. I am looking forward to the upcoming Star Trek: Strange New Worlds to see actor Ethan Peck, the grandson of actor Gregory Peck, who will be playing Spock. Peck previously played Spock during the second season of Discovery

Connor Trinneer as Commander “Trip” Tucker


Working with a Headache

The headache I have been suffering from for over a week seemed to improve on Saturday, with little pain throughout the day, but the pain was back on Sunday. When I woke this morning, the pain was as bad as before I saw the neurologist. It is evident that the nerve block was a complete failure, and the steroids don’t seem to be helping a lot either.

I have to work this morning to answer some urgent emails, send some information to program presenters, and work on some promotional material for another virtual program. If I can get all of this done this morning and I don’t feel better this afternoon, I will have to take the afternoon as sick leave. I hate to continue to take sick leave, but I find it increasingly hard to concentrate.

I spent most of the weekend mindlessly watching television, in particular, old Star Trek episodes from the various series: Deep Space NineEnterprise, and DiscoveryStar Trek has a way of calming me down and letting me forget my troubles for a little while. I did watch the Super Bowl last night, but I found it profoundly disappointing. The Bucs seemed to walk all over the Chiefs, the commercials were mediocre at best, and the halftime show was horrible. 

I had never even heard of The Weekend. I can’t remember the last Super Bowl halftime show where I had no idea who the performer was. I had to look him up. Apparently, he’s a Canadian singer, songwriter, and record producer. If they wanted a Canadian, there are so many outstanding Canadian acts. If they’d gotten Shawn Mendes, at least we would have had eye candy. Honestly, I don’t care much for Shawn’s music, but he is awfully damn cute and sexy.

Anyway, that’s all for now, but here’s a bonus of Shawn in his Calvin Klein underwear.


To Boldly Go…

Blu Del Barrio and Ian Alexander

There are a lot of Star Trek fans out there who hate Star Trek: Discovery, but those same people have hated every new Star Trek series and movie. Some fans you can never make happy. However, while the Star Trek universe is one of diversity, equality, and free of discrimination, there have always been those who fought against that vision because the Star Trek universe really does boldly go where no show has gone before. Star Trek has continually broken barriers, but Star Trek: The Original Series (1966–1969), Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987–1994), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993–1999), Star Trek: Voyager (1995–2001), and Enterprise (2001–2005) all held back on the topic of LGBTQ+ individuals. 

It was rumored throughout the production of Enterprise that there would be a gay cast member, but it never materialized. Deep Space Nine did feature a same-sex kiss in theepisode “Rejoined” (Season 4, Episode 6). The episode first aired on October 30, 1995, and the kiss was between two female characters: Lieutenant Commander Jadzia Dax and scientist Lenara Kahn. Both characters were members of the Trill society, and the kiss was not meant to be a lesbian kiss. Let’s just say, it was complicated because they were a joined species.

However, Discovery has gone where no Star Trek has gone before with LGBTQ+ characters. The premiere of Discovery included a very prominent male same-sex couple, Lt. Commander Paul Stamets and Dr. Hugh Culber, who are played by openly gay actors Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz. The two characters kissed shared the first gay kiss in Star Trek history near the end of season one. The show also featured a widowed lesbian engineer, Denise “Jett” Reno, played by out actress Tig Notaro. Season 3 of Discovery premiers on October 15 and will introduce the 54-year-old sci-fi franchise’s first-ever transgender and non-binary characters. Like Stamets, Culber, and Reno, the characters will be played by actors who are LGBTQ+. In fact, the actors actually are trans and non-binary in real life. 

Trans actor Ian Alexander will play Gray, a Trill, the same species as Jadzia Dax and Lenara Kahn. Non-binary actor Blu del Barrio will make their debut by playing the non-binary character Adira, an intelligent and introverted teenage amnesiac whose coming-out story will mirror del Barrio’s own real-life coming out.  They will befriend Discovery’s gay couple, Stamets and Culber.

Del Barrio told GLAAD, “I honestly cannot speak highly enough of Ian. I absolutely love him, and it was so fun working alongside him. Having him join the show with me was a godsend.” Del Barrio continued, “It’s pretty overwhelming joining a show with such a well-known cast going into its third season. So, I was so thankful to have his support whenever I was freaking out. He’s a talented, hardworking actor, and an all-around magnificent human being, so it was a joy having him as a partner.”

I think it is wonderful that Discovery continues to feature inclusivity in the show. The third season of the series follows the crew of the USS Discovery transported 930 years into the future and among a highly advanced but troubled society in dire need of their help. It appears that the Federation is only a shadow of its former self. The above trailer for the season depicts a Federation banner from the future with just six stars, suggesting only a handful of planets remain as part of the organization. The trailer also suggests that Starfleet no longer exists. In the preview, David Ajala’s Cleveland Booker notices Burnham’s emblem and refers to Starfleet as a “ghost.” The rest, we will just have to wait until October 15 to see what’s going to happen. If it’s anything like previous seasons, we won’t fully know what’s going on until at least several episodes into the season.


Plain, Simple Garak

Elim Garak

One of my favorite characters in the Star Trek universe is a Cardassian. In general, the Cardassians were not known as the nicest of races. Captain Edward Jellico, who was briefly in command of the Enterprise-D, said of them, “Cardassians are like… timber wolves… predators… bold in large numbers… cautious by themselves… and with an instinctive need to establish a dominant position in any social gathering.” The Cardassians were similar to the Romulans in their xenophobic tendencies, and also shared the Romulan belief there is no such thing as luck. Like the Breen, they treated their prisoners with little tolerance or sympathy; they had no qualms using torture to extract information. Some Cardassians were even known to enjoy torturing their prisoners whether there was information to be extracted or not. 

Ideal Cardassian life was one of complete loyalty and servitude to the State and to the family. Like the Chinese, family was the building block of Cardassian society, and as such, the hierarchical system of respect also applied to one’s rulers and one’s family. The Cardassian government was assumed by its citizens to be omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent; the government was anything but benevolent. An example of the Cardassian approach to life was found in their jurisprudence and criminal trials in which the conclusion was always determined beforehand: the ruling of each case was a guilty verdict; the purpose of the proceeding was not justice in the Human sense, but instead bringing the offender to recognize the power and benevolence of the State. A trial, therefore, was an opportunity for the State to reveal how someone’s guilt was proven by what they considered, “the most efficient criminal investigation system in the quadrant.” 

Almost all Cardassians lived in fear of the Obsidian Order, the chief intelligence agency of the Cardassian Union, whose constant surveillance had led to the sudden elimination of numerous “traitors.” It was said The Order was so efficient a Cardassian citizen couldn’t sit down to a meal without each dish being duly noted and recorded including its preparation and the exact measurement of each ingredient. Dr. Julian Bashir wondered what happened to people who ate something that was “not in agreement” with the Order, and Odo noted that people had “disappeared” for less. Every Cardassian home was equipped with surveillance equipment to keep an eye on its citizens. Only members of the Central Command, the military leaders of Cardassia, could turn off the cameras and only occasionally. The Order was the ultimate Big Brother.

Some of the alien races of Star Trek, especially the enemies of the Federation, had an equivalent in Earth history especially during the Cold War era of The Original Series. The Klingons represented the Soviets, the Romulans were like the Communist Chinese, the Cardassians were representative of Nazi Germany, the Bajorans similar to the persecuted Jews of Europe. Cardassians took control of Bajor in 2319 establishing the Bajoran Occupational Government. Initially, the Bajoran people offered them little resistance. However, the Cardassians rapidly pacified the planet and began a coordinated scheme of strip-mining, forced labor, slavery, and genocide. The brutality of the Cardassian military drove many Bajorans to form a resistance to the Occupation. Using guerrilla and terrorist tactics, the resistance continually harassed Cardassian forces. Under constant attack and unable to subdue the Bajoran resistance, facing pressure from both internal civilian elements in the Cardassian Central Command and from the Federation, the Cardassians withdrew from Bajor in 2369. However, many Cardassians, such as Gul Dukat, continued to want to regain control of Bajor and to exterminate its people.

While the Cardassians were a brutal race, they sometimes showed signs of being a kind and warmhearted people. One of the most complex characters in Star Trek history is one of my favorites, Elim Garak. He was the Cardassian tailor and Promenade shopkeeper of Garak’s Clothiers who lived on Deep Space Nine. He first appeared in the episode, “Past Prologue” where he introduced himself to Dr. Bashir who believed Garak was a spy. As soon as I saw this conversation, I knew Garak would be an interesting character. He proved to have some of the best lines in the series beginning with this: after Garak asks Bashir to stop by his shop if he desires new apparel or some interesting conversation, Bashir says, “You’re very kind, Mister Garak.” To which Garak replies, “Oh, it’s just Garak. Plain, simple Garak.” Right away viewers knew there was nothing plain or simple about Garak. He had previously been an agent of the Obsidian Order but had been exiled to Terok Nor, the Cardassian name for Deep Space Nine. 

The true reason for Garak’s exile is never revealed during the series. When he does tell Bashir why he was exiled, he tells him three different stories all involving a man named Elim which Bashir later learns is Garak’s first name. When Bashir asks Garak, “Of all the stories you told me which ones were true and which ones weren’t?” Garak replies, “My dear Doctor, they’re all true.” Bashir says, “Even the lies?” to which Garak replies in his standard obfuscation, “Especially the lies.” Garak once told Bashir, “Truth is in the eye of the beholder, Doctor. I never tell the truth because I don’t believe there is such a thing. That is why I prefer the straight-line simplicity of cutting cloth.” Garak believed, “Lying is a skill like any other. And if you want to maintain a level of excellence, you have to practice constantly.” Bashir once tried to tell Garak the fable of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” While Bashir believed the moral to be that lying too much will cause people to never believe a person, Garak retorted he believed the point was, “That you should never tell the same lie twice.” As his father, Enabran Tain, the one-time head of the Obsidian Order once said of him, one of Garak’s basic philosophies is, “Never tell the truth when a lie will do.” Garak once explained his belief that, “the truth is usually just an excuse for a lack of imagination.”

Andrew Robinson

Garak, though, was more than just a pathological liar. Played by Andrew Robinson, originally a stage actor, he is also known for his portrayals of the serial killer Scorpio in the crime film, Dirty Harry (1971); Larry Cotton in the horror film, Hellraiser (1987); and as the title character in the ABC television film, Liberace (1988). Without Robinson, the character of Garak never would have become as intriguing as it did. In fact, the character might have had only one appearance in the series. Robinson commented, “Garak is one of those guys, we all know someone a bit like him who you can’t trust as far as you can spit. The moment you see him you put your hand on your wallet, and the moment he opens his mouth you know he’s going to lie to you, but yet, somehow, you’d rather be in his company than with almost anybody else. He’s a charming rogue, you can’t deny it. Even I get sucked in by him. Although it’s me playing him. When I see Garak on TV, I swear to God this is true, I’m fascinated.” Robinson also said of the character, “He’s all subtext. If a smart guy like Garak says he’s ‘plain and simple’, you realize he’s not plain and not simple. There is a lot going on. Regardless of how innocuous or simple each line is, there’s always something going on underneath that belies the line. And his eyes and the tone of his voice say something different than the words he’s speaking. It’s not an easy thing to work with subtext, but when you do it well, you really get people’s attention.”

Garak was also one of the most sexually ambiguous characters in Star Trek history. Robinson stated in an interview, “I started out playing Garak as someone who doesn’t have a defined sexuality. He’s not gay, he’s not straight, it’s a non-issue for him. Basically, his sexuality is inclusive. But, it’s Star Trek, and there were a couple of things working against that. One is that Americans are very nervous about sexual ambiguity. Also, this is a family show; they have to keep it on the ‘straight and narrow’ so I backed off from it. Originally, in that first episode, I loved the man’s absolute fearlessness about presenting himself to an attractive Human being. The fact that the attractive Human being is a man (Bashir) doesn’t make any difference to him, but that was a little too sophisticated, I think. For the most part, the writers supported the character beautifully, but in that area, they just made a choice not to go there, and if they don’t want to go there, I can’t, because the writing doesn’t support it.” Ira Steven Behr, the executive producer of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, commented, “I wish we could have done a little bit more with the Garak character…. I mean, he was clearly gay or queer or however you want to say it. I think I would have loved to have taken that and seen where that went and how that affected his relationship with Bashir.” I would have loved for the show’s creators to have explored that part of Garak. It took twenty-five more years before we saw LGBTQ+ characters in Star Trek: Discovery. There had been a few hints, or even winks, to LGBTQ+ characters. It could have come sooner and been bolder with Garak’s character, and we wouldn’t have had to wait twenty-five years.

Behr once said, “Garak is a mystery wrapped in an enigma. So, who he is, what he really is, who the hell knows? And I think it took a more sophisticated audience to really get behind that kind of a character, because back in the day, it seemed anyway, that mystery and … I don’t want to say subtlety, but something along those lines … that’s not what people wanted, they wanted their TNG good, bad, everything very clear, everything very clean, everything very understandable. And at the end of the day, everything was safe. Everything was basically safe. And Garak is not a safe character. The fact that now he’s so popular says something about how the audience has matured. And that’s a good thing.” Hans Beimler, a writer, producer, and script editor of many Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes, commented, “To me, the guy that embodied the show was Garak. He was a fuckin’ spy, man! He was a bad guy in a way. But you got to know and understand him. And he got to know us and understand us. Even appreciate us. He wasn’t such a bad guy at the end of the show.”

Garak had been intended to be a one-off character; Robinson said he first portrayed the character, because he needed money that month to pay his bills. The producers were impressed with Robinson’s performance and decided to develop the character after Robinson agreed to return. The decision to incorporate Garak into more of the series led to Garak becoming a pivotal character transforming him into someone of importance, of unusual complexity, and of resonance. Garak became known throughout the series for the ruthlessness of his past with the Obsidian Order, but at various times, he uses contacts on Cardassia to help Starfleet and even the Bajorans. He was known to be a witty conversationalist and a skilled tailor, but underneath his friendly and charming exterior, he was a proficient assassin, saboteur, and expert liar able to adapt to a variety of situations. Occasionally, he was used by Starfleet as a backchannel to the Cardassians when a direct message was not possible. By the end of the series, he was a different man. 

On numerous occasions, Garak was seen to have internal conflicts between his morals and his obligations to the Cardassian Central Command. One of my favorite episodes is, “In the Pale Moonlight.” This episode shows the Federation on the brink of losing the Federation-Dominion War. With mounting losses and the specter of defeat, Captain Sisko must put aside his Federation morals in an attempt to turn the tide of the war.  Sisko enlists Garak’s help to “persuade” the Romulans to join the Federation/Klingon alliance. Deep down, Sisko knew Garak could do things that he, morally, could not. Garak tells him at the end of the episode, “That’s why you came to me, isn’t it, Captain? Because you knew I could do those things that you weren’t capable of doing. Well, it worked. And you’ll get what you wanted: a war between the Romulans and the Dominion. And if your conscience is bothering you, you should soothe it with the knowledge that you may have just saved the entire Alpha Quadrant, and all it cost was the life of one Romulan senator, one criminal… and the self-respect of one Starfleet officer. I don’t know about you, but I’d call that a bargain.”


Past Tense

Sisko and Bashir in the Sanctuary District

“Star Trek” is a sci-fi universe with a positive outlook on Earth’s future. The United Federation of Planets uses its Starfleet armada of spaceships for humanitarian and peacekeeping missions. Many of the storylines are allegories of contemporary culture. I will repeat what I said yesterday: from the very beginning, Star Trek has held a firm belief represented by the symbol representing IDIC: infinite diversity in infinite combinations. I agree with the idea that Star Trek can teach us so much about what humanity can become. However, Star Trek often had to deal with the problems of the past to create this future Star Trek universe. As was well-established in the Star Trek universe originally envisioned by Gene Roddenberry, society had to go through Hell before reaching a state of utopia, and the episode “Past Tense” from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is part of an examination of that Hell.

“Past Tense” shows what the United States was like in the 2020s through the lens of the 1990s. The year is 2024. Sisko, Bashir, and Dax find themselves trapped 300 years in the past confronting one of the darkest hours in Earth’s history. The time period is best explained by Sisko who teaches Bashir about 21st century history and the Sanctuary Districts:

Sisko: By the early 2020s, there was a place like this in every major city in the United States.

Bashir: Why are these people in here? Are they criminals?

Sisko: No, people with criminal records weren’t allowed in the Sanctuary Districts.

Bashir: Then what did they do to deserve this?

Sisko: Nothing. They’re just people without jobs or places to live.

Bashir: So, they get put in here?

Sisko: Welcome to the 21st century, Doctor.

Bashir comments to Sisko, “21st century history isn’t one of my strong points. Too depressing.” Bashir would definitely be horrified at the way the United States government and other governments around the world have dealt with COVID-19. But back to the episode, the conditions of the Sanctuary Districts lead to an event known in the Star Trek universe as the Bell Riots. As Sisko explains to Bashir, “The Sanctuary residents will take over the District. Some of the guards will be taken hostage. The government will send in troops to restore order. Hundreds of Sanctuary residents will be killed.” The dialog between Sisko and Bashir continues:

Sisko: I sympathize, Doctor, but if it will make you feel any better, the Riots will be one of the watershed events of the 21st century. Gabriel Bell will see to that.

Bashir: Bell?

Sisko: The man they named the Riots after. He is one of the Sanctuary residents who will be guarding the hostages. The government troops will storm this place based on rumors that the hostages have been killed. It turns out that the hostages were never harmed, because of Gabriel Bell. In the end, Bell sacrifices his own life to save them. He’ll become a national hero. Outrage over his death, and the death of other residents, will change public opinion about the Sanctuaries. They’ll be torn down and the United States will finally begin correcting the social problems it has struggled with for over a hundred years.

The riots over the death of George Floyd and others killed by police may be the start of a change in American history like the Bell Riots were in 2024. We can only hope. In 1995, when this episode aired, who would have predicted that only a few years before the fictional Bell Riots, the United States would see nationwide protests on racial injustice?

Ira Steven Behr, executive producer of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and one of the story creators for “Past Tense,” was inspired to come up with the idea for the Sanctuary Districts through his real-life experience in the early 1990s. In an interview for a Season 3 DVD special feature about “Past Tense,” Behr said:

I was down in Santa Monica one day, and there [were] all these homeless people there, and it was a beautiful day, the ocean, sky, sun, and homeless people everywhere. And all these tourists, and people up and about, and they were walking past these homeless people as if they were part of the scenery. It was like some artist had done some interesting rendition of juxtaposition between nature and urban decay right there in front of me. And the fact was that nobody seemed to care, at all. And I said, ‘There has to be something about that, where does that go? How far do you take that?’ And that evolved into the idea for concentration camps essentially for the homeless.

Dax and the Wealthy Businessman

Behr also stated there is a subtle examination of racism in this episode. When Dax is discovered, she is treated like royalty and taken in by a wealthy San Francisco businessman, but when Sisko and Bashir are found, they are treated like criminals. Of this situation, Behr said, “The simple fact is, a beautiful white woman is always going to get much better treatment than two brown-skinned men.” We see the contrast between the life of the wealthy San Franciscans Dax meets, and the discarded people of the Sanctuary Districts whom Sisko and Bashir encounter.

At the end of the second part of “Past Tense,” Bashir asks Sisko, “You know, Commander, having seen a little of the 21st century, there is one thing I don’t understand: how could they have let things get so bad?” Sisko replies, “That’s a good question. I wish I had an answer.” And, it is a good question. We may not have Sanctuary Districts, but we still have massive inequality. There are serious problems in the United States which our current president has made worse. Trump has highlighted inequalities and injustices in the U.S., at least for some of us. Alternatively, Trump supporters relish the inequalities, because for them, it means someone is less fortunate than they are. It’s the same reason that poor white men who owned no slaves fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. As long as there were slaves, they weren’t the lowest social class. It was a similar situation in the Civil Rights Movement. Poor whites favored discrimination and segregation because it put them above black people. The same is true today with Trump’s followers—many of whom would rather suffer from the damage done by Trump to the nation’s economy, healthcare status, and many other issues rather than to allow equality in America.

When the episode aired, it received some criticism for being too preachy, liberal, and “soapbox like” something which disappointed Behr, who felt the show had important things to say, and treated a serious situation in a realistic manner; “We’re not going to solve anything with two hours of TV. The homeless are still there. The problem hasn’t gone away. But maybe just one person saw this and started to see the problem in a different way.” The real 2020s may not have Sanctuary Districts, but there are segregated sections to every city; whether they segregate the rich from the poor or blacks from whites or whatever the dividing line is, we still live in a society segregated by race, income status, and a host of other perceived differences. We continue to have homeless and displaced persons. We need to do better.

I will say this though, through most of the Star Trek universe, LGBTQ+ issues were rarely, and never directly, dealt with. Yes, Commander Riker of The Next Generation did fall in love with a nonbinary individual, and Jadzia Dax did have a same-sex kiss, and there were a few other instances, but none dealt with LGBTQ+ individuals. When Voyager and Enterprise premiered, rumors circulated there would be an LGBTQ+ individual on the crew of those ships; it never materialized. It wasn’t until Discovery that we see fully-fledged LGBTQ+ individuals in the marriage of Paul Stamets and Dr. Hugh Culber, plus the character of Jett Reno. I also recognize in Star Trek Beyond Sulu is seen, ever so briefly, in a same-sex relationship which was done as a homage to George Takei, the original Sulu. The Star Trek universe is becoming more inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community, but it’s been a long time coming.


The Best of Both Worlds

Locutus of Borg

On this date 30 years ago, Star Trek had its “Who Shot JR?” moment. The third season finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation aired. This would be the first end-of-season cliffhanger in the history of Star Trek, and it would make TV history as one of the greatest cliffhangers ever. The episode was entitled, “The Best of Both Worlds.” It became one of the best known TNG episodes.

At the end of the episode (and if you have never seen it SPOILER ALERT, but it was 30 years ago), the Borg hail the Enterprise. We see the crew watch in horror as Captain Picard, now calling himself “Locutus of Borg,” utters what many consider Star Trek’s most chilling lines, “I am Locutus of Borg. Resistance is futile. Your life, as it has been, is over. From this time forward, you will service us.” With no other option, Picard’s first officer William Riker orders, “Mister Worf…fire.” The screen goes black with the words “To Be Continued” on the screen. Star Trek fans would have to wait three months until the premiere episode of Season 4 on September 24th.

The episode is considered a continuation of events that took place in the third season episode, “Q Who.” Q, a powerful entity from a race of godlike beings also known as the Q, was introduced in the series opener, “Encounter at Farpoint,” and would serve as a menace in TNGDeep Space Nine, and Voyager. In “Q Who,” Q throws the Enterprise into uncharted space where the ship encounters, and is engaged by, a dangerous alien vessel of a previously unknown species: the Borg. When the vessel instantly and effortlessly overwhelms the Enterprise, Picard realizes that the Federation may not be as ready for the future as he thought.

At the end of “Q Who,” we see the foreshadowing of “The Best of Both Worlds.” Guinan, played be actress Whoopi Goldberg, is seen reflecting upon the events of meeting the Borg in Ten Forward with Picard. Guinan says the encounter with the Borg happened before it should have. She believes it might be possible for the Federation to establish some kind of communication between themselves and the Borg, but for the time being, Humans are just raw material to be consumed. Guinan begins, “Since they are aware of your existence…” Picard finishes for her saying, “…they will be coming.” Guinan ominously warns, “You can bet on it.” Picard comments that perhaps Q did the right thing, for the wrong reasons, to shake humanity out of its complacency for whatever lies ahead.

I always wondered, with the Borg having numeric designations instead of names, why Picard was given the name Locutus. It turns out that “Locutus” is Latin for, “he who has spoken.” The Borg Collective, speaking in one combined voice, tells Picard when he is captured, “To facilitate our introduction into your societies, it has been decided that a Human voice will speak for us in all communications. You have been chosen to be that voice.” Therefore, Picard becomes the voice of the Borg as it moves to assimilate the Federation beginning with Sector 001, Earth.

Part II of “The Best of Both Worlds,” particularly the Battle of Wolf 359, would be revisited in the series opener of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This episode, “The Emissary,” introduces the character of Commander Benjamin Sisko. In the opening scene, then Lieutenant Commander Sisko, the executive officer of the USS Saratoga, is on the bridge when the ship encounters the Borg led by Locutus at Wolf 359. Locutus tells the Federation fleet, “Resistance is futile. You will disarm your weapons and escort us to Sector 001. If you attempt to intervene, we will destroy you.” With its shields drained and a direct hit form the Borg cube, the computer announces there is a warp core breach in process, and the ship will soon explode. With his captain dead, Sisko begins to evacuate the ship. He goes to his quarters to find his wife and son trapped under debris. He can pull out his son but cannot get to his wife who is already dead. He is ultimately dragged away screaming to an escape pod by another officer. Together with his son and the other survivors, he watches from the escape pod as the Saratoga is destroyed. The episode then jumps to three years later as Sisko and his son are arriving at Deep Space Nine, a station which was orbiting the planet Bajor. Later when Sisko meets with Picard in the observation lounge of the Enterprise, Sisko is brusque and distrusting towards Picard. He begins by “re-introducing” himself, mentioning that he has already “met” Picard (or rather Locutus) at the Battle of Wolf 359. Obviously, Picard is troubled by his memories of the event. Sisko clearly blamed Picard for the death of his wife.

The effects of the assimilation of Picard by the Borg not only runs throughout the rest of DS9 and into the TNG movies, but also into Star Trek: Picard. To me, Picard always seemed cold and distant throughout TNG, but ironically, his assimilation by the Borg humanizes him to the audience. It is a major turning point for Picard’s character, the series, and the entire Star Trek franchise.

In the current political climate, we shouldn’t forget that from the very beginning, Star Trek has held a firm belief represented by the symbol representing IDIC: infinite diversity in infinite combinations. Creator Gene Roddenberry has been quoted as saying, “Until we can value the diversity here on Earth, then we don’t deserve to go into outer space and encounter the infinite diversity out there.”

For any Donald Trump supporters out there, I want to add a quote from a different episode of The Next Generation, “The Drumhead.” In the quote that ends this episode about conspiracies and casting blame, Captain Picard says to Worf:

Mr. Worf, villains who twirl their mustaches are easy to spot. Those who clothe themselves in good deeds are well-camouflaged.”

While most Democrats and people around the world can spot Trump as a mustache twirling villain, most Republicans don’t seem to see it or want to see it. They see his appointment of conservative judges and actions against Mexicans, African Americans, Muslims, LGBTQ+, and others they want marginalize as good deeds, but they need to remember that “Those who clothe themselves in good deeds are well-camouflaged.” Look at what he has done, the lies he has told, the harm he has caused, the mismanagement of government, etc. etc. etc. The list goes on and on. When will you wake up and see him for what he truly is: a sociopathic megalomaniac?


Funny Fortune

Last night I watched Fortune Feimster’s Netflix comedy special Salty and Sweet. I laughed so hard; I was nearly crying. Have any of you seen it? Fortune is a lesbian comedian from North Carolina. She came out surprisingly a little later than I did. She was 25; I was 23. However, like me, she did not realize she was gay for most of her formative years. Living in the South, we didn’t have positive LGBTQA role models. However, unlike my situation, her family has been very accepting, and she is currently engaged to a kindergarten teacher.  

She was in shows like Last Comic Standing and Glee. She’s been a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race and will be staring in The L Word: Generation Q. She was also in the 2019 Tales of the City. I most remember her from a short-lived sitcom called Champions. I’ve watched her on TV a few times, and I think I saw every episode of Champions which was about a flamboyant gay kid who gets dropped off to his father (who never knew before that moment he even existed) by his mother so he can attend an arts school in the city where his father lives. It as a cute show, and Fortune played a coworker of the kids very straight dad. I’ve also seen clips of her comedy shows, and she never fails to make me laugh watching her stand-up acts. Salty and Sweet was no exception. I hope I didn’t disturb my downstairs neighbor laughing so much. I really recommend anyone who wants a good laugh to watch it, especially if you’re gay and from the South.

World on Fire

Last night, I watched the beginning of a new series on PBS’s Masterpiece called World on Fire. The series follows the hidden lives of ordinary people from Britain, Poland, France, Germany and the USA during World War II. The drama switches its scenes between various locations in France, Britain, Germany and Poland. It features repeated visits to Paris, Warsaw, Manchester, Berlin and Dunkirk.

I really enjoyed the first episode and can’t wait to see more. One of the stars is a favorite actor of mine, the out gay actor Brian J. Smith who plays Dr. Webster O’Connor, a gay American doctor living in Paris.

Did any of you watch it last night? If you did not, I highly recommend you do.