Star Trek’s progressive LGBTQ history has had a lot of ups and downs, and Discovery is no exception. It’s charted the chaotic lives of two of its biggest characters: Anthony Rapp’s Paul Stamets and Wilson Cruz’s Hugh Culber, who’ve gone through a lot together in the road to season four. But now, looking back, the duo reflect with their character’s new extended family about how Discovery’s queer spirit has grown.
“I think what we know about it is that we’re honouring this time-long experience of queer people throughout history, which is we create our families. At times, our real families can’t accept us for who we are and who we love, so we create these family units for ourselves in order to be able to function in the world and have the support we need in our lives,” Cruz reflected while on a video call with Gizmodo recently. “And to have an example of that in the future — we continue to be a queer community that stands up for each other and holds each other and support each other through this life. It’s really meaningful to me, personally.”
It’s no longer just Culber and Stamets that are sharing the spotlight for Discovery’s continued embrace of queer storytelling. In season three, the couple found themselves taking another queer character under their wings in the form of Adira (played by Blu del Barrio), who underwent the surprising process of becoming a human joined with a Trill symbiont — formerly hosted by their boyfriend, Grey (Ian Alexander, the franchise’s first openly trans actor). “After season three, before it came out — before anybody knew who Adira was, I would tell people, ‘Just you wait! You’ll meet this amazing character’ — and they go, ‘OK, great,’” Rapp told us. “But now they know Adira, now everyone’s invested in this, I’m so happy that we have established part of this in such a major way.”
“He also told me every time he did that. Didn’t help!” del Barrio jokingly added. The pressure’s clearly still on aboard the ship, too: they take on a much bigger role now as an official member of the Discovery crew in season four, promoted to the rank of ensign, playing a vital role alongside the rest of Star Trek: Discovery’s cast. But for Del Barrio, it wasn’t just getting to play a queer character that was important for them, but that Star Trek was also expanding its cast to have these queer characters be played by prominent, queer actors. “I’d also, maybe selfishly, add it feels like such a huge deal that these people — like, we love each other, but it’s also getting to see queer actors [in these parts]. I mean, it’s been done, It’s not the first time you’ve seen a queer family on a show or a movie, but not necessarily is it every time all queer actors,” they noted. “So having that just allows it to translate into real life as well, which is great.”
All three actors have a big plot goal to work towards coming out of season three and into four, even if everyone is also busy with that whole anomaly business. “Dr. Culber makes a promise at the end of season three that [Grey] will be seen, and when Dr. Culber makes a promise he keeps it,” Cruz said of Stamets, Culber, and Adira’s quest to pull the vision the latter has of their deceased boyfriend out of their symbiont and into a physical presence aboard the ship. “We find a way to make him corporeal. Because it’s important for Hugh — he understands what it’s like to be in an in-between space of existence — to have him be real and seen. And we need all the things [Grey’s] capable of doing for this crew — as much for us, as for him. I’m really proud of the fact we follow through with that.”
Corporeal or otherwise, it’s not surprising to Cruz that Culber just wants his queer family aboard the ship to get even bigger. “We have so many! We have Ian Alexander, we have Tig Notaro… this queer family is enormous and that’s an example of the fact we are everywhere,” Cruz celebrated. “We can do anything. And I think that’s the message we’re sending.”
Star Trek: Discovery season four is now streaming on Paramount+.
Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.