As the newest installment of one of the world’s most beloved science-fiction franchises, Star Trek: Discovery has had a mixed reception among both critics and fans. On one hand, there are those fans who are classical purists and believe that the show doesn’t fully live up to the spirit of the original TV series and subsequent films; on the other hand, Star Trek: Discovery has also received both positive feedback and some criticism for the diversity of its cast.
The show’s diversity becomes immediately apparent at first glance. Actress Sonequa Martin-Green plays the show’s lead role as Michael Burnham, also known as Number One, marking the first time an African-American female has had a leading role in any Star Trek series. Further adding to the cast’s diversity are Asian-American actress Michelle Yeoh and British actor Shazad Latif, among others. Star Trek: Discovery also features the franchise’s first gay couple, as the show focuses on the relationship between Dr. Hugh Culber and Lt. Paul Stamets, played by Wilson Cruz and Anthony Rapp.
Critics have been lauding the show for its diversity, and it seems that the new show is finally helping to fulfill the progressive ideas set out by Star Trek’s original creator, Gene Rodenberry, who believed that Star Fleet and the Federation of Planets should serve as a model of how an ethnically and racially diverse community could peacefully exist. However, some fans of the original series were none too pleased by the casting choices. Immediately after the first trailer for Star Trek: Discovery was released, many fans and critics began focusing on the fact that the trailer only shows two women, both of whom are in positions of power and neither of whom is white. This led many fans to give the show poor reviews, many of which seemed to focus almost solely on the diversity of the cast.
Of course, the Star Trek franchise is no stranger to diversity or controversy. In fact, the original series was one of the first to give a major role to both an Asian-American actor, George Takei as Lt. Sulu, and an African-American actress, Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Uhura. The original series was also famed for featuring the first interracial kiss between William Shatner’s Captain Kirk and Nichols’ Lt. Uhura. The diversity of the original series was previously seen as one of the primary driving factors behind its incredible success and directly led to much praise from critics and other prominent figures. Even Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. praised the original Star Trek series for giving Nichols an equal role, instead of simply a ‘black role’ as in so many other films and TV shows.
The fact that some Star Trek fans announced they would boycott the show due to the diversity shouldn’t be seen as too big of an issue by either CBS or the show’s creators. After all, the diversity is fully in line with the world Gene Rodenberry originally set out to create. Furthermore, it’s likely that the increased diversity will result in the show garnering more new fans than it loses.