In 1966 the Star Trek universe blasted onto home screens with Star Trek: The Original Series. From the very beginning, this cosmos exploring franchise has chased the leading edge on diversity and representation on television. Lieutenant Ohura, played by Nichelle Nichols, broke through dozens of barriers in her time aboard the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise. She became the first-ever black, female lead character to appear on television. Yet now Adira Tal, played by Blu del Barrio, might be breaking through the non-binary barrier.
Star Trek is, by design, a vehicle for progressive thinking. It tries to imagine a “maturity and wisdom” to the future of the human race. Because of this, the franchise as a whole tends to offer more opportunities to actors & actresses of diverse backgrounds. Certainly more than competing television shows when the series began.
As the world has grown and new disenfranchised groups have been brought into the public eye, Star Trek has been quick to try and welcome them into the ranks of Star Fleet.
The year is 2020 (Star Date 47634.44), Star Trek: Discovery takes a step into the future after the time-warping finale of season two. The crew of Discovery finally returns to Earth after 900 years. It is here that the audience is introduced to a new crew member, and a huge step forward in diversity and representation for the Star Trek franchise: Adira Tal.
Following in the footsteps of Wesley Crusher, Adira is a young prodigy working for the United Earth Defense Force. They seem like a fairly average addition to a starship crew…save for one pivotal detail. Adira Tal is the first self-identified, non-binary member of a Star Fleet vessel.
Now, before getting into the real meat of this discussion, we have to take a quick look at pronouns. There are many people who do not identify as either male or female. The most common term for this identifier is ‘non-binary’. The exact specifications of this are far more complex than this article would allow. However, there are many non-binary individuals who prefer they/them pronouns instead of he/him or she/her.
Since this article is exploring the importance of non-binary representation, I will be using chosen pronouns for actors and characters. If you’re not already doing the same, this is a good time to start learning!
What Adira Does For The DiscoveryMost Star Trek crew members tend to be characterized by what they bring to the ship they serve on. For example, Data explored the emotions and complexities of being human. Spock demonstrated the line between logic and emotion. Harry Kim died a lot during his adventures aboard Voyager.
It is these abilities and personalities that have created such iconic characters for this franchise over the years. Adira Tal rises to the high bar of characterization with a curious and observant personality. They transport on screen and almost instantly spot that the once cutting-edge Discovery is like a museum.
Within a few episodes, they have helped to retrofit the Starship with countless upgrades. Through their interactions and burgeoning friendships, we begin to get to know who Adira Tal actually is. The show begins to explore not only their non-binary gender identity but also their position as a Trill Symbiont host.
The SymbiontThe Tal Symbiont, Adira’s “squid”, is a creature with the ability to bond with a series of hosts and live an incredibly long time. When a host dies, Trill Symbionts are implanted into a new host. Once this takes place, memories from former lives are passed along.
Essentially, the Symbionts are the lifeblood of Trill society and it is considered a very high honor to be chosen to carry one. Adira is the seventh being to carry Tal, yet they are the only human to ever host to a Trill Symbiont.
Meanwhile, on the Trill homeworld, the Trill as a species are struggling to survive. There are less than a handful of Symbionts left alive. Therefore, very few are able to find receptive hosts within the Trill species. Hundreds of years of memories and culture are vanishing each time a Symbiont fails to find a host.
It seems as if Adira would be an answer to a heartbreaking loss for the Trill.
However, when Adira Tal returns with the Tal Symbiont to the Trill homeworld they are seen as “an aberration.” Symbionts are considered sacred by the Trill species and community. One held by a human is considered an infringement on the dying culture. Thus, Adira is turned away by those who should be their people.
All of the law’s prices generic cialis changes will be in effect by February 2010. Unlock your mind to the truths prescription viagra prices and implications of jailbreaking. Various offers such as cialis cost are also available like Zenegra online and Caverta online. Pfizer has manufactured the medicine expensing millions of dollars and doing extensive research over the year. order viagra cheap India is an expensive pills.
They are threatened with violence, talked down to, and hated simply for existing. This is, sadly, something members of the LGBTQ+ community can all too easily relate to. This deft parallel to queer identity mixed with actual representation in the casting of Blu del Barrio, a non-binary actor, is another new area for Star Trek.
It is a landmark in the inclusion of a group of people who are often ignored completely in mainstream storytelling. Wide-appeal genre shows hold a unique opportunity to reach a broad group of viewers. Fortunately, there is hope. Adira finds acceptance through the Tal Symbiont, actually able to speak to the past hosts who welcome them happily.
They even gain the acceptance of the Trill people. This achieves a fairly happy conclusion while fostering understanding. Knowledge wins out over prejudice and fear. Something we can all hope will one day be a reality here on Earth.
“I am Adira Tal”
Concerns were raised with Adira Tal right off as the show waited until a few episodes after their introduction to explore their non-binary nature. Female pronouns were understandably used by other characters. It seemed like Adira’s non-binary status was being attributed to the outside force of the Symbiont.
Obviously, this would devalue non-binary gender identity to nothing more than an aberration. It wouldn’t be until a few episodes after Adira’s introduction that they would establish their preferred pronouns. In a conversation with Paul Stamets (Discovery’s Chief Scientist), Adira would confirm that they felt this way during their time with Grey.
This shows that they held their non-binary status before taking on the Symbiont. Blu also went out of their way to confirm that Adira’s non-binary status was established long before they become a host to the symbiont. They officially declared themself non-binary shortly after proper pronouns began to be used in the show.
It is a small revelation, but definitely one of significance.
One could argue that Adira’s non-binary identity leaves them particularly receptive to the vast array of memories of the Symbiont, both male and female. Not only are they a suitable host, but they are also the ideal one.
Why This Is Important“I’ve never seen a hero like me in the sci-fi,” transgender actor, Ian Alexanders, quotes an FKA Twigs song. Serving as the boyfriend of Adira Tal in the series, Ian plays the Trill, Grey. This is the real importance of mainstream sci-fi franchises like Star Trek taking a deeper and more understanding look at LGBTQ+ characters.
Star Trek is “the future” and it should offer a hopeful look at the interconnected nature of humanity. Obviously, it makes sense that the LGBTQ+ community’s place in society would be much more solidified. Like Roddenberry’s original vision of a more united Human race, it gives the underrepresented something to hope for.
It plants seeds of acceptance and diversity in the consciousness of the general public. It opens doors in the minds and hearts of its viewers.
What’s Next?This coming year is going to be simply packed with Star Trek. We have the second season of Lower Decks, the fourth season of Discovery, the premiere season of Prodigy. Plus, the second season of Picard. Something we can hope for is that the producers and writers will keep stretching out towards more varied pools of talent.
It is a point of pride for Star Trek to explore new frontiers and humanize them for the general public.
Despite being a simple, sometimes campy premise, Star Trek has never shied away from trying to be something better. It is certainly not above making a misstep or two, (looking at you Enterprise). Yet the willingness to take a risk on a new idea or in support of a new group cannot be discounted. In our journeys through the stars, we’ve seen the promise of a more accepting future closer to home.
The Adira Tal character might be just another way Star Trek tries to be more open and inclusive. Yet to the non-binary community, a portion of the LGBTQ+ community that does not get a lot of media heroes, Adira is a huge asset. We hope to continue to see them thriving on Discovery or another area of Star Trek for a long time to come. If only Star Wars could be as inclusive…