There’s been a rather ugly strain of criticism of Star Trek: Discovery online and it goes like this: The upcoming CBS All Access show’s cast is too diverse for some of the franchise’s longtime fans. The term “white genocide” has been bandied about. Original series star George Takei has even gotten involved to defend the new show. But the Discovery cast themselves haven’t commented on the matter — until now.
EW asked Discovery star Sonequa Martin-Green — the first black woman to lead a Trek cast — about the complaints. What would she say to these self-declared fans, if anything?
“Well, I would encourage them to key into the essence and spirit of Star Trek that has made it the legacy it is — and that’s looking across the way to the person sitting in front of you and realizing you are the same, that they are not separate from you, and we are all one,” Martin-Green said. “That’s something Star Trek has always upheld and I completely believe that is why it’s been a mainstay in society in the hearts of so many people for so many decades. I would encourage them to look past their opinions and social conditioning and key into what we’re doing here — which is telling a story about humanity that will hopefully bring us all together.”
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Indeed, The Original Series, in particular, was considered ultra progressive, especially for 1966 — the show’s bridge crew included a Russian character (ensign Chekov played by Walter Koenig), a Japanese man (Lt. Sulu played by Takei), a black woman (Lt. Uhura played by Nichelle Nichols) and a rotation of others, all working together with mutual respect. The show featured TV’s first interracial kiss and frequently tackled issues of social justice in allegorical ways. Over the decades since then, the franchise has continued to present Gene Roddenberry’s utopian multicultural vision of humans and other species overcoming their differences to solve problems. It’s kind of the whole idea behind the show.
“And it’s hard to understand and appreciate Star Trek if you don’t understand and appreciate that,” Martin-Green continued. “It’s one of the foundational principles of Star Trek and I feel if you miss that then you miss the legacy itself. I’m incredibly proud to be the lead of this show and be at the forefront of an iteration of Star Trek that’s from the eyes of a black woman that’s never been done before, though obviously there’s been other forms of diversity that have been innovated by Trek. I feel like we’re taking another step forward, which I think all stories should do. We should go boldly where nobody has gone before and stay true to that.”
It’s hard to put it better than that.
On the show, Martin-Green plays First Officer Michael Burnham, the focus of the story. Her commanding officer is Captain Philippa Georgiou, played by another woman of color, Michelle Yeoh. The cast also includes the TV franchise’s first openly gay character, a science officer played by Anthony Rapp.
Here’s what Takei said on MSNBC earlier this year about the criticism: “Today in this society we have alien life forms that we call trolls. And these trolls carry on without knowing what they’re talking about and knowing even less about the history of what they’re talking about. And some of these trolls go on to be presidents of nations … These so-called trolls haven’t seen a single episode of the new series because it hasn’t been aired. And they don’t know the history of Star Trek, that Gene Rodenberry created this with the idea of finding strength in our diversity.”
And by the way, a rather similar criticism hit Star Wars: The Force Awakens after its trailer debuted — and before the film went on to become a worldwide critical and box office smash.
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On Monday, CBS announced Star Trek: Discovery will debut Sunday, Sept. 24 (first on CBS, then shifting to CBS All Access streaming service). EW has more to come, follow @jameshibberd for the latest.