Star Trek Discovery and Unburying the Gays

I’ve really, really, really been enjoying the Star Trek: Discovery season so far. I love how much the focus has moved to the crew trying to find its way in a future so far, the show can functionally do whatever the fuck it wants with world building, so they’re just having fun. The quest to rebuild Star Fleet is an obvious parallel to the crew trying to rediscover their place in the world and a new mission for themselves after they’ve completed the one-way trip of their final assignment.

And I’m going into paroxysms constantly about Saru as captain, because the show is really leaning in to the importance of kindness and empathy generally, and Saru is the perfect captain for that because his thinking continually emphasizes the wellbeing of the whole. Also, him getting to interact with Hugh, whose superpower is also empathy even if he applies it with a lot more frankness, is excellent. They’re letting the bridge crew become more developed characters, because there’s space for them to do that. We’re getting a meta plot that can string together more episodic shows. I am pleased.

The one thing I’m feeling conflicted about is honestly the second queer relationship we’re getting in the main cast. To be clear, I am beyond pleased that we’ve got a nonbinary character (Adira) and a trans character (Gray) and they make an absolutely adorable couple. I didn’t think we’d get cuter than Stamets and Hugh, but here we are. Where I’m less happy is the state of the relationship, as in

SPOILERS FOR S3 EPISODE 4 ONWARD

 

the  whole thing where Gray is actually super dead in real life and pretty much exists as Adira’s imaginary friend. This does not prevent them from continuing to be super adorable, and it is very flippant of me to call Gray an “imaginary friend” when it’s very clear that he’s real in the same way a Trill symbiont’s  past lives are all very real. But it’s also true that in the sense of existing as a physical person in the material world, he is super, tragically dead, having gotten killed by an accident directly in front of Adira and left her so traumatized it took an entire episode to figure it out.

I do not think this would even bother me, if seasons 1 and 2 hadn’t given us the Hugh and Stamets situation, where half the delightful gay married couple (Hugh) got buried via murder, and then unburied half a season later via an incredibly marriage of mystical bullshit and sheer technobabbly that allowed his soul to be taken out the universal fungus network and stuffed into a brand new body that was still totally him. I do not mind the unburying of Hugh at all; I am so glad they did it, and I’m glad Hugh got to work through his trauma about being murdered, and I’m glad he and Stamets are back to being adorable husbands. I forgave Discovery for burying one of its gays because it unburied him fairly promptly and it honeslty gave the two gay characters the same kind of meaty angst that hetero characters get all the time.

It’s just… when the second queer couple is already starting out with one of them dead… is that really necessary? Part of me hope that it means we’ll be unburying Gray at some point, but that’s really a place the show has already gone, and it would probably make even less sense. (Though if you throw enough mystical bullshit and technobabble my way, sure, I’ll take it, because I think Adira and Gray are just that cute.) I suppose in a way it’s letting the queer couples be treated the same way hetero couples do in these shows, where you generally don’t get a whole season where they’re sort of normal and cute but ultimately boring and just living their lives and doing their own thing. That’s not how things work on TV.

I’m sure this is bothering me precisely because “bury your gays” is a trope for a reason. And these things definitely feel different because it isn’t done for cheap shock value (though when Hugh got his neck snapped, it sometimes felt like that until they brought him back) and it’s very carefully not written to be a universal punishment for queerness. Maybe it’s a whole kind of statement that it’s the queer characters who get to continue on in a life after death where they can still find happiness. I think there’s also really something there with the bonding Stamets and Adira are doing, where they have an understanding due to shared genius and also shared loss. That could be really powerful.

But you know… how about if no one had to die? Can queer couples even exist in the Star Trek: Discovery universe if one of them isn’t dead and/or resurrected? Just like… one couple. Because doing it two in a row is sitting real weird with me, as my 600 words of nattering might tell you. There are still plenty of ways to entertainingly torment everyone involved without diving into the queer afterlife. Trust me.

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