“Star Trek Discovery” Shaping up as Least Diverse Star Trek

Discovery has a diversity problem

Fans of Star Trek’s Values

At NCC-1031.COM, we’re all fans of Star Trek.  Most of us have been watching the shows for decades.  I personally subscribe to, and believe the following quote to be true: “everything I know in life I learned from Star Trek“.  Am I a Trekkie or Trekker?  Yes, but which?  None of your business, thanks.

Because we consider ourselves to be such big fans, it’s hard – painful even – to point out when the series, episode, or show, has gone astray, or speak of Star Trek in negative terms.  Especially when it presents us with such an optimistic future.  But the more news we see coming in about Star Trek Discovery, the more dismayed we get with regards to certain aspects of the series.  While the details about the show itself give reason to remain optimistic, some production decisions don’t.

People Now, of the Future

Star Trek: The Original Series introduced us to a diverse crew
Star Trek: The Original Series introduced us to a diverse crew

One of the core tenants of Star Trek has always been that it does an admirable job at trying to represent us all.  By that, I mean humans – of all ethnicities and genders.  It doesn’t do this perfectly, true.  At times it has been so off the mark its been offensive (Chakotay pan flute music, TNG episode “Code on Honor”).  But it tries, and has been a ground-breaker in this regard more than once.  Trek has an equality that has been held up as something we, humans, should strive towards.  Much of it’s wide appeal and massive cult following can be attributed to the fact that it is representative of humanity and non-assuming.

We’re now in 2017 and most mainstream entertainment has finally caught up to where Star Trek started off some decades ago.  It’s fair for one to assume that Discovery, the newest franchise of the series, would be looking to break ground on some real 21st century social issues.  Especially since the original showrunner and creator, Bryan Fuller, has made this a point on more than one occasion.

Unfortunately, when we look at the casting announcements so far, we’re immediately struck by just how non-representational the cast is.  To the point where its less diverse than most mainstream television is.  Certainly less than any previous series.  Frankly, this is embarrassing for a Star Trek show, and the production crew and those making the decisions aught to be ashamed of themselves.

A Real World Cast

For those that think cultural diversity in television is fake or unattainable, I want to stop and talk about my day job for a moment.

I work for a media company within their tech department.  There are 9 people on my immediate team.  Of those nine there are: 2 Black men (from very different African countries), 1 Caucasian man, 1 Italian man, 1 man of Middle Eastern decent, 1 man of mixed race (myself – 1/4 Black, 3/4 Caucasian).  Then there is 1 woman from Belgium of mixed race (1/2 Caucasian, 1/2 Black), 1 woman from Iran, and 1 Egyptian woman.  Of these people, 3 are Muslim, 1 is Christian, 1 is Catholic, and 4 are Atheist.  1 woman is gay.

This is a real-world 21st century inclusive team.  Not only are we all professionals in our field, our diverse cultures and origins give us a breadth of experience that a single culture doesn’t and can’t.  Out of the box doesn’t need to happen because there is no box.

My team excels beyond our on-paper record as a result of a diverse people and mindset.  If this is my real life experience, why can’t it also be that of Star Trek Discovery‘s supposed utopian future of equality?

By the Numbers

IDIC - Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination. A Star Trek mainstay
IDIC – Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination. A Star Trek mainstay

So far there have been 13 official casting announcements.  That’s quite a few for Star Trek, and we understand not everyone announced so far should be considered a series main character.  Of those 13 cast, a whopping 10 of them are men.  As we’ve written before, Star Trek Discovery needs more women – badly.  But not just that.  Of those 10 men, 7 of them are Caucasian, 1 Black, 1 Indian, and 1 Pakistani.  Add to that the fact that Chris Obi (Black male) and Shazad Latif (Pakistani male) both play Klingons.  This means that their ethnicities will be mostly hidden by their makeup!  Intentionally or not, there’s a point being made where the racially-different have been cast as aliens.

Now if Star Trek strives to represent us all, this is a far cry from it.  Last time we checked, the world’s population wasn’t made up of 54% Caucasian men.  Actually, males of all ethnicities combined only represent 48% of people.  If Discovery were to present Caucasians men more representationally, it would have between 1-2 Caucasian men and 2-3 Caucasian women.

This all isn’t to say that Star Trek should be playing a purely numbers game and be defined only in these terms.  But it needs to be more honest with itself when casting decisions are made – that it’s no longer following the tenants that were once prevalent and that contributed heavily to its popularity and longevity.  Either that or make conscious decisions in the other direction where casting is more inclusive – and stick to it.

The world is becoming more and more divided by political extremes and nationalism.  Star Trek desperately needs to address these, not only in plotline and content, but also in casting.

None of this should be considered an assault on any of the actors.  They’re all undoubtedly excellent in their craft.  There are also plenty of individuals that are just as good that fall within different cultures and ethnicities.

Time is Running Out

There’s still time for Discovery to head in this direction.  But with filming already going into its third month, and at least two episodes having been filmed already, time is running short.

Will the producers continue perpetuating  Hollywood’s well documented diversity problem, or will they turn things around and head more towards what Star Trek is supposed to be about?  A representation of us all, towards a shared goal of bettering ourselves and each other.

Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.

Discovery loses nothing by having 3 or 4 Caucasian males instead of 7, and would gain so much if it were to add 3 or 4 more ethnicities.  It loses no viewers but potentially gains many more.  Especially when you consider that it has been picked up by Netflix for 188 countries!

What do you think of Star Trek Discovery's Diversity Issue?

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About Cassius Adams

Cassius Adams is the creator of ncc-1031.com and is a content contributor. He has been a Star Trek fan for nearly three decades. Cassius discovered his passion for the franchise early into TNG's run, and nourished that passion throughout DS9, Voyager, Enterprise, and the movies. Cassius can be reached by emailing cass@ncc-1031.com or you can follow him on Twitter at @supercass

  • Rory Thomson

    bit of a loaded poll..

    • Dendrobates!

      i’d say it is ridiculously loaded lol, thought it was a joke at first

      • johnhay

        Yeah, really. A standard poll has one of each, not ALL one way. Not very “diverse” answers. See, because infinite diversity doesn’t just cover racist, sexist views like yours, Cassius, where you only see skin color and cisgenders (very binary of you!), but also diversity of OPINION. That was why everyone could always watch and relate to Star Trek. Dr. McCoy might not be the same color as me, but he was a HUMAN. Skin color is just that: Skin deep.

  • Chris

    I am sick of the lack of gay Australian Aborigines in Hollywood!! They so racist

  • Paul

    Totalmente de acuerdo con este articulo, los latinos siempre quedamos al margen. o somos los narcotraficantes o a los que matan en el primer episodio junto a los negros. Es verdad que hace falta mas diversidad, sino pareciera que USA conquisto el mundo, cuando justamente Startrek muestra una diversidad que es lo que la hizo una serie tan caracteristica.
    Saludos a todos desde Argentina.

  • johnhay

    It’s sad there are so many racists who look at stories like they’re sorting M&Ms. If you only watch shows that are this abstract “diverse,” why ever read stories of Shakespeare, or China, or the Mideast, or Greek Mythology, or Native tales from ancient cultures? Why, for that matter, be friends with anyone who doesn’t meet the quota? Really, get good ACTORS and tell good STORIES. The cast should reflect all of humanity, but it’s a reflection of the show, not the reason for it! Get a phaser and blast open your closed little mind.

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  • THETRUTH

    I voted and picked the most innocuous of the three choices.
    But the article and the survey are obviously skewed in favor of Gays.

    Sad when you have to write such a slanted piece because your position is so pathetically weak!

    • cass ada

      Sad when you’re so easily frightened by a diversity of people that you flood websites with bigotry.

      • THETRUTH

        Where do you read frightened?
        And by me posting a belief that differs from your own you lable that as me “flooding the websites?!”
        In the same vein, my opinion differs from yours and it’s ‘Bigotry?!’

        You picked the wrong guy, I don’t run scared to my safe place because you decide to name call!

        This article is a Hit Piece!
        The survey is remenicent of an old time gag where the Comedian asks, “so when did you stop beating your wife?!”

        There weren’t 3 questions but 1 all leading to the conclusion the writer wanted.
        Perhaps if you weren’t so narrow minded you would have read that several other people noted and posted the same thing!

        Go turn on CNN and get further indoctrinated, when you’re ready to formulate a cogent argument, I’ll be here.

        Who knows, maybe we can both learn something!

        • cass ada

          “Where do you read frightened?” Between your lines. Why go out of your way to comment on an article that pointed out (and rightly at the time I might add) that Discovery wasn’t following suit of previous Star Treks? And that difference is one of the major points of the Star Trek shows! I’m also not sure why you specifically say it’s “in favor of Gays”. I’m not even sure what that means. It’s like saying I’m in favor of puppies. Gay people exist, puppies exist.

          Oh, and by the way, obviously Star Trek: Discovery has rectified the problems mentioned in this article since this it was written. I don’t think this article would have been written now because the show takes most of them into account. Seems the showrunners agreed.

          As for the poll, it’s heavily biased. I didn’t say it wasn’t and it’s likely the writer intended that to be obvious.

          • THETRUTH

            You’re just being argumentative at this point.
            And your last paragraph, now your an appologist for the Author of the article?!

            Finally, you don’t understand this:
            “in favor of Gays???”

            It means there’s an Agenda.

            Since 95% of the world is NOT Gay, why this need to insert it into a Classic like Star Trek?!

            There’s an agenda, you know it but you too cowardly to admitt it!
            Perhaps because you preceive it as Normal.
            And quite naturally if that’s the case, than this is a waste of time!

            You’re insulting and borish.
            We don’t run from insults any longer, your side has used them for so long that we’re Immune!

  • elfodd

    This is the most ridiculous bs ever, if lack of diversity of skin color and gender is so bad then why do places like China and Japan do so well? What happened to diversity of thought? Now it’s how diverse are the external features of the group, pathetic.

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