Rick Berman is an idiot. Seriously. I cannot stress this enough. Rick Berman is a flipping idiot.
On top of ruining Star Trek with the poor writing of Voyager and the abomination that is Enterprise, Rick Berman produced some of the worst episodes of the series. One of these episodes falls right into Sexualized Saturday’s wheelhouse. That episode Star Trek The Next Generation’s “The Outcast”.
In the episode, 1701-D encounters a species of androgynous humanoids known as the J’naii. One J’naii, named Soren (No relation to Malcom McDowell), falls in love with William Riker, and announces that it wants to become a female. The J’naii use psychological therapy to convince Soren to remain androgynous, and Riker loses a love interest for about five minutes, until the next episode.
So why do I hate this episode? This should be a piece protesting the bad treatment of LBGTQ+ society. In 1992, an episode like this would be amazing. It would certainly go a long way toward showing that equality that Gene Roddenberry always preached about before his death.
That’s why I hate it though. This episode should have been a crowning protest for equality, and instead became a throwaway episode.
The reason for this is because of the casting of Soren. Soren was played by actress Melinda Culea, and while she is very capable in her role, it’s very obvious that Jonathan Frakes is kissing a woman in makeup while she pretends to be androgenic. Frakes said in several interviews that Riker’s kiss with Soren would’ve been much more powerful if Frakes kissed a man instead of a woman.
So why didn’t that happen? Rick Berman is an idiot.
In a 1992 interview with the San Jose Mercury News, Berman said he didn’t cast a man to play Soren because “having Riker engaged in passionate kisses with a male actor might have been a little unpalatable to viewers”.
Hey, Rick: when you’re trying to make a statement, usually you do things that may be unpalatable to viewers. However, that unpalatable thing turns out to open up doors.
This is in 1992. Star Trek could do no wrong. TV Guide was calling TNG better than TOS. People wanted movies. People wanted everything. I wanted a tri-corder for my birthday in 1992. It was a big flipping deal!
But Rick Berman wussed out. He missed the mark. Instead, Star Trek only appeared to preach equality, instead of actually taking a stand.
Berman later was quoted as saying that:
We thought we had made a very positive statement about sexual prejudice in a distinctively Star Trek way, but we still got letters from those who thought it was just our way of “washing our hands” of the homosexual situation.
The homosexual situation. The. Homosexual. Situation. I don’t think Berman could be any more dismissive of this.