Let’s Talk About Star Trek Discovery: Hot Women in Space

When Star Trek: Discovery launched on CBS All Access in 2017, response was decidedly mixed: it led to a record subscription day for the brand-new streaming network, but many die-hard Trekkies were anti-Discovery from the jump, one taking the time to produce a 47-video series on the inconsistencies presented within Discovery, which takes place earlier on the Prime Timeline than Enterprise, The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager. The Klingons look different! Spock never said he had a sister! The technology is WAY beyond what makes sense for the time! Spores? What?

But while there was certainly plenty to lament in Discovery — and historically, ,many Star Trek series have tended to take a few seasons to find their footing — there was also a lot to celebrate: it’s the most diverse Star Trek franchise show yet, with a black woman at the show’s center (Sonequa Martin-Green‘s Michael Burnham) played by and an actual romantic relationship between two gay men (played by Wilson Cruz and Anthony Rapp). Mirror Universe Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) had a threesome with a man and a woman in Season One, and has implied that pansexuality was the norm where she comes from. This year, lesbian writer/director/actress Michelle Paradise joined the production team and has been promoted to co-showrunner for Season Three. Tig Notaro also joined the cast as Jet Reno, a real live lesbian lady.

The reaction to our post ranking Star Trek characters by lesbianism was pretty intense, and also made clear that a lot of you are watching Discovery. So after the series wrapped up Season Two last week, we sat down to talk about this beautiful program.


Riese: So, before we get to deep into the show in general, let’s talk about THAT FINALE, which seemed to be taking a stab at ironing out some continuity issues and explaining why so much of what happened on Discovery was never mentioned in these future series. But also… I’m… not sure what happened? It was a very action-heavy finale, chock-full of the scientific conversations I tend to zone out on anyhow. I think the focus Discovery has on these action sequences, rather than just people talking to people, is probably my main reservation about the show in general, but we’ll get to that. What’s your take on the finale?

Kayla: See, for me, I do love action sequences in general. I’m really drawn to good action and special effects BUT that said, it’s not necessarily something I come to Star Trek for. I hate to sound like some of the annoying purists who are overly critical of the new directions Star Trek went in starting with the JJ Abrams movies, but Star Trek was never really an actiony universe, it was more of a political drama (slash family drama slash workplace drama) set in space. That said, I do like how modern technology has allowed more recent Star Trek iterations to play around more with effects and big budget fight scenes and what not. There have been some really good ones on Discovery.

Me during the finale

Riese: Right! I don’t want to sound like the annoying purists either, but that element has been kind of lacking from Discovery overall for me. My favorite franchise production is Next Generation, which was perhaps the most committed to exploring philosophical ideas and human relationships through encountering other worlds and civilizations, rather than engaging in uh, battles and stuff. Like you said, a workplace drama set in space. And we haven’t gotten a lot of that in this series. But anyhow, back to the finale.

Kayla: I have to agree with you! This finale was all action, very little substance. And all the table-setting it does for continuity reasons just… isn’t that interesting to me either? I get that it’s important but table-setting is something that should happen at the beginning or middle-ish of a season, not in the FINALE which should be exciting on its own. I’ve long noticed that a lot of genre shows struggle to really stick the landing with finales and do a lot better work in the penultimate episodes of season, and that’s definitely the case with this season of Discovery! The lead-in episode was a lot more thrilling, compelling, and representative of the show. Sometimes the finale just felt like an effects flex?! The best stuff was the character-rooted Michael Burnham stuff, particularly some of those moments between her and Spock. Gimme more damaged sibling dynamics and less things blowing up. Also, when we get too deep into the logistics of time travel, my head hurts.

Riese: I honestly totally space out (LOL) during the science-y tech-focused parts of the show and perk up for the character development or when the plot is taking an interesting and more readily understood twist — I was ALL IN for the alternate-universe plot from the latter half of S1 and was impressed by how it tied everything up at the season’s end AND provided an avenue for Georgiu to come back to us. So during the finale, having thus far failed to truly understand the logistics of a lot of what was happening, there… wasn’t much actually capturing my attention. It looked really cool though! Very expensive for sure.

Okay next question: what do you like best about Star Trek; Discovery?

Kayla: My favorite thing about Star Trek: Discovery is that everyone is a lesbian. OKAY I KNOW THAT IS NOT TECHNICALLY EVEN CLOSE TO TRUE, but this show is without a doubt the queerest iteration of Star Trek there has ever been.

Riese: FOR SURE. Even the allegedly straight characters don’t really get involved in any major romances, outside of Burnham.

Kayla: The romantic core of the show belongs entirely to Stamets and Culber, which is sadly still a pretty big deal for sci-fi, which has so much room for queerness and norm-busting but doesn’t always go there.

Riese: Right. I was actually consistently surprised by the centrality of that relationship, which broke my heart at times this season. It was a huge departure from everything we’ve seen from Star Trek thus far. Also I totally buy a world in which this is what Rickie Vasquez from My So-Called Life and Mark from RENT grew up to do with their lives.

Kayla: PLUS, this season we learn that Tig Notaro’s Jett Reno is queer, which of course we knew in our hearts but it was very nice to have it confirmed.

Gonna be honest with you, this is bigger than the biggest dildo I’ve ever used but I’m not mad about it

Riese: I got goosebumps when she said “my wife”? Again — huge departure, and I wonder how much influence Michelle Paradise had over making that happen. Tig Notaro was basically playing Tig Notaro, so it felt like we had a friend on that ship, somebody who actually was very authentically a lesbian as well as really dry and smart. I loved her character by which I mean, again, that I love Tig Notaro, and would love for her to work on my starship. Also I just realized that this means ¾ of the queer characters on this ship are played by queer actors. I am counting Georgiou as one of the queer characters, obviously.

Kayla: There’s something very queer about Michael Burnham/Philipa Georgiou and somehow even more so when it comes to the Mirror Universe version of Georgiou.

a sweet moment between close friends

Kayla: But all of this gay speculation actually does tie into what it is that I love about Star Trek: Discovery: It has very well written, dynamic, complex characters. The one exciting thing about the finale is seeing everyone working together, everyone’s individual strengths serving a crucial purpose in the fight against Control. Michael gets a lot of powerful emotional arcs throughout the show, especially dealing with family. I even like a lot of the writing around Michael and Ash Tyler, even though I’m convinced Michael is a lesbian. The relationship dynamics on this show are rich, believable, and very fun to watch play out in different scenarios.

Riese: Right, and also there are like twice as many women and people of color on this bridge than in previous incarnations? I know Star Trek is considered a trailblazer in that realm, and it is in many ways — but also, one thing that’s consistently frustrating about ambitious space travel related sci-fi like Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica is how many men it asks me to not only keep track of, but somehow care about? Even TNG, aka Mommis in Space, really only had two central women. Women have consistently been like 100x more interesting than men throughout human history and wow, having poc and women so prominent on this ship, dayenu.

Kayla: Fully agreed. In the same sense that sci-fi is positioned well to explore queerness and yet doesn’t always live up to that potential, it’s also a genre conducive to playing around with gender, race, etc. There’s absolutely no fuckin reason for any show to only center white men, but I think that’s just especially true when your show is set across MULTIPLE UNIVERSES AND PLANETS. Star Trek in general has always been slightly ahead of its time in terms of women, poc, etc, but Star Trek: Discovery is leaps and bounds ahead of everything in the franchise that came before it.

Riese: Also having Burnham’s three Moms be played by Michelle Yeoh, Mia Kirshner and Sonja Sohn was … A CHOICE. A beautiful choice.

Kayla: HOT MOM TRIO. I feel pandered to.

My Three Mommis

Riese: So according to SyFy, Season 3 is going to pick up 950 years into the future, which means, I think, that we are going to lose Pike, Ash and Spock? And Mia Kirshner? But there’s also supposed to be a spinoff set in Section 31, starring Georgiou, so it’s unclear how that’s going to work if she’s… in the future. I personally will be devastated if she doesn’t return to the show.

Kayla: I just did some Google-ing, and it looks pretty confirmed that Pike and Spock are not returning. I wasn’t able to confirm the Ash situation, but losing him would be a bit of a bummer, because the way his arc touches on ideas about self, identity, memory, trauma, etc. are very interesting to me.

Riese: Yeah this show did a lot of interesting psychological stuff with how we are shaped by trauma, both personal and intergenerational. I feel the most connected to sci-fi when it delivers a perfect otherworldly metaphor for something that happens in our real actual lives, like Burnham finding out that Ash is part Klingon — you think you know and love somebody and then they turn out to be capable of things you’d never considered could ever be lurking beneath the person you thought you knew.

So, what are your hopes for Season Three? I personally would LOVE for Owosekun to have like, maybe a few lines.

Kayla: I want Georgiou (if she’s remaining a part of this show) to beat up a bunch of people. Those are my favorite action scenes on this show. I also want another weird queer alien sex threesome for her — very much. I want more Tilly stuff, too! I think Tilly is a very fun character, and I really wish they would just explicitly make her the awkward, anxious LESBIAN that I feel she is. For people who haven’t watched Short Treks, the sorta companion miniseries of short side episodes also available on CBS All Access, there’s a great one that initially introduces Po (who’s gotta be gay, right?) and gets into some of Tilly’s background, including her fraught relationship with her mother. We love mommy issues.

Riese: Tilly is a very unique character for the Star Trek universe. She feels like she’d be the gay guy’s best friend or the awkward-girl-having-a-glow-up’s best friend in a teen movie / TV series, but there she is on the starship. Again, as with Tig “Jet Reno” Notaro, it’s refreshing to have somebody who feels so familiar on the deck. Sometimes I felt like she was invented to annoy fanboys.

And finally, I think it’s important for us to put it out there that CBS All Access should pay us to write a post about why people should subscribe to CBS All Access, the most underrated streaming network in the world.

Kayla: CBS All Access, I love you. Give us money.

Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2744 articles for us.

36 Comments

  1. 100% agreed with Riese about the pacing and the stupid action sequences in this show! After the finale, I had to ask @jajs what even exactly had happened.

    That said, I absolutely love that I have a crush on every single woman on this show, AND that like all of the character development and B storylines are basically queer? It’s kind of astounding?

  2. With apologies to Captain Janeway, I’m considering skipping the rest of Voyager to get right to this nougat of extra queer goodness. Also, anyone complaining about Klingons looking different must have forgotten TNG. In the Original Series they’re basically just pissed off rowdy humans lol 🤓

  3. okay in the premiere where burnham is all radiation poisoned and she comes out of sick bay and everyone is like wtf go back to quarantine you crazy dying maverick and she’s like no, no it’s too important and she says “Philipa, there are klingons” and then there’s a beat and Captain Georgiou takes it in and then firmly says “Red Alert” and everyone springs in action. The tone that set for women in fucking charge up here still gives me CHILLLLLLLS. This series is gay and good and I agree with both you re: less action/more workplace dramaaaaaa. ALSO TILLY I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU SO MUCH. ALSO CBS ALL ACCESS YOU ARE THE BEST I CAN’T WAIT FOR WOMEN WHO KILL OMGOMG.

  4. Wait, you mean there’s a way to read that scene where Tilly and Po are reunited as something other than “Two friends who have total crushes on each other awkwardly and happily saying hello?!” Because I’ve totally seen/had that reaction more than once. Also, Tig Notaro was a treasure and I hope she stays on for a long time!

  5. Overall I really enjoyed this season even though I was really skeptical when the whole time travel thing came along, because that’s usually a crutch to get around serious plot lines. But it worked for overall continuity which was neat, and I guess it’s exciting that they’re now literally flung out of space so can only become more gay.

  6. My biggest gripe with the finale was with the admiral. I wasn’t particularly attached to the character other than her being HBIC, but I didn’t see the need for her to die and also it was stupid.

    Like, would they really build a fancy-pants spaceship with the override only on one side of the door?

    Also, it was just a pull lever… couldn’t they have spent like 2 minutes getting a piece of string and yanking it down from outside the door?

  7. When will Tilly just be gay tho?
    She’s clearly not straight. She’s never so much as shown the SLIGHTEST bit of interest in a man. The only man she seems to like is…Stamets. Cos she’s fucking gaaaaay.

  8. I really enjoyed Georgiou formally and bisexually inviting the security officer to kill a man with her in the finale.

    I’m still pretty miffed that Jet Reno inexplicably disappeared for like 5 episodes in the middle of the season?? But her sass in the finale was incredible.

    And actually my biggest grudge against this season is that they only gave Airiam character and backstory in the same episode they killed her off, which felt pretty shoddy!

    But obviously I can’t resist beautiful space queers, so as long as they’re there i’m going to keep watching, zoning out at extended jargon or Klingon sequences.

  9. Dubious in the beginning. Adored Captain Georgio, so glad she was brought back tho it took time to acclimate to the emperor. Tilly is so smart, fun, and caring. Her hyper excited emotional word volleys are accepted by the crew and they reel her in to focus in way that is comforting and safe. I am a fan of strong decisive female characters for sure. To see a sometimes scattered and emotional character as strong and capable in her way is fantastic. Waiting for Tilly to emerge as a captain and a lesbian. The show is full of so much non-verbal communication. Not a huge fan of the over the top action and have to shutoff the part of my brain that says, wait that’s totally unrealistic, and allow myself to be entertained. I could help but notice the breast size difference between the enterprise and discovery crew. Lol 😂

  10. Thanks for this feelings atrium, I really need it for this show. Main reactions to the season:
    1. Enough with Ash Tyler. goddddddddd. Or at least enough with them forcing the romance with Michael and him.
    2. Love me some competent women.
    3. I was so frustrated with the admiral dying. Seemed like such a simple fix, and I liked her a lot even if we didn’t get a ton of backstory on her.
    4. I didn’t know about the shorts! More to watch!

  11. Star Trek Discovery:Fifty Shades of Gay.
    I mean, seriously, I‘m like, whoa, she‘s kinda hot/interesting
    /totally gay about another female character about every single episode of this show.
    And it’s totally fine,too, because basically everyone’s pan anyway.
    Also, I totally forgive Discovery the action sequences because obviously someone got handed a wad of cash and their first reaction was a gleeful „LET‘S GO FULL STAR WARS ON THIS!“ not giving a flying fuck that Kelpians are self described plant loving cattle who don’t even drive cars and Star Trek shuttles are the most boring vessels space has ever seen in any timeline or universe.
    For the most part I‘m just cheering myself through most of the episodes, because Michelle Yeoh kicks ass again, Burnham goes on some crazy space walk..again, the guys are bros or we have gay drama in one form or another.
    The show was ridiculously good at the beginning of the season with the whole religion and angel thing. It had a lot, like a LOT more potential with the time travel and knowing one‘s future theme, and could have struck a much better and deeper chord with the second chances/identity theme going on with Culbert and Tilly. Instead, I was snickering at the fact that the admiral had been a psychologist in a previous career and everyone was like, „Thank God!A psychologist is on board!“
    The whole set up for Section 31 really disrupted the flow and energy of the show, and I really hope they find their groove next season.
    I‘m a sucker for the philosophical possibilities of science fiction and also for Ladies in space uniforms, what can I say?

  12. Unpopular opinion, I don’t mind some of the action. There is bound to be some action when they are literally at war or trying to stop AI from gaining a foothold.

    I do mind the completely unbelievable romance between michael and ash.

    I lost my shit when Hugh Culber died. Like, I was so mad that they killed the gay character so soon. I kept watching for all the other hot women and queerness and literally jumped out of the couch with excitement when I realized he would be reborn (thanks spores)!

    Tilly FOREVER!!!

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