It’s a show built on the idea of peace and togetherness, but behind-the-scenes the Star Trek franchise has faced its fair share of controversy across six TV series and 13 films. Here are 10 of the most notorious.
Kirk and Uhura’s inter-racial kiss – The Original Series
The 10th episode of the third season of the show, which aired in November 1968, is perhaps the most infamous due to a kiss between Captain Kirk (William Shatner and Lieutenant Uhura (Nichelle Nichols).
While the scene in Plato’s Stepchildren is not actually the first inter-racial kiss on TV, it was still a huge deal, taking place in the middle of America’s battle for civil rights.
In fact, the studio was so scared of the scene that at one point Kirk was to be replaced with Spock, but Shatner refused. Then when it was demanded that a take be shot where no kiss occurred, both actors deliberately messed up all their lines so it couldn’t be used.
British TV bans a reference to Irish re-unification – The Next Generation
The plot of 1990 season three episode The High Ground is about separatists taking Dr Crusher hostage, but it’s a line by Data (Brent Spiner) that got the censors in the twist.
He says that in the Star Trek universe, Ireland was unified in 2024 after a terrorist campaign, leading the instalment to be banned from terrestrial broadcast for many years, only being shown unedited in 2007.
George Takei objects to Sulu coming out as gay on-screen – Star Trek Beyond
The latest Trek movie incurred the wrath of original Sulu Takei, who took objection to the revelation that the character (now played by John Cho) comes out.
Takei, himself a prominent LGBTQ advocate, revealed the decision was “really unfortunate” as creator Gene Roddenberry never intended Sulu to be gay.
Star Trek Beyond writer Simon Pegg said, “I have huge love and respect for George Takei, his heart, courage and humour are an inspiration. However, with regards to his thoughts on our Sulu, I must respectfully disagree with him.”
The feud between the actress who played Captain Janeway and Seven of Nine – Voyager
The former Borg beauty played by Jeri Ryan arrived on Voyager at the start of season four, much to the chagrin of the established cast.
Particularly miffed, says the tabloid gossip, was Kate Mulgrew who played the Captain.
Ryan alluded to the friction in a 2014 interview with Aisha Tyler although she consciously avoided naming names. “I would be nauseous when I knew these scenes were coming up,” she said. “When there were a lot of scenes with this person the next day, I was sick to my stomach all night, just miserable. It was so unnecessary and just so petty.”
Grace Lee Whitney accuses TV executive of sexual assault – The Original Series
Whitney played Janice Rand in eight episodes of the first series before getting fired and subsequently alleged in her memoir that she was sexually assaulted by an exec working on the show.
Having fallen in substance abuse, in later life she returned to the franchise in guest roles, as well as appearing constantly on the convention circuit. She died in 2015 aged 85.
Deep Space Nine accused of ripping off Babylon 5 – Deep Space Nine
Fans of sci-fi series Babylon 5 (Fivers?) have long argued that Deep Space Nine plagiarised their pride and joy, as both chart the adventures aboard a space station.
The former was created by J. Michael Straczynski, who has acknowledged he pitched the idea to Star Trek rights holders Paramount before it was bought by Warner Bros.
Further fuel was added in 2013 by an online commenter who said he worked in the WB publicity department at the time. “I was told [Paramount] purposely took what they liked from the B5 script and put it in the DS9 script,” he wrote. “In fact, there was talk of leaving the B5 script intact and just setting it the Star Trek universe. I had to keep rewriting press release drafts while they were trying to make the final decision.”
We should add this revelation is uncorroborated.
Alice Eve’s gratuitous underwear scene – Star Trek Into Darkness
After audience outcry branded it misogynistic, writer Damon Lindelof apologised for the scene in which Eve, aka fan favourite Carol Marcus, showed off her undies while changing outfits.
“I copped to the fact that we should have done a better job of not being gratuitous in our representation of a barely clothed actress,” he admitted.
Paramount sues a crowd-funded fan film – Star Trek: Axanar
It took a number of years – and the intervention of JJ Abrams and director Justin Lin – for the company to drop its much-maligned lawsuit against Star Trek Axanar, a not-for-profit full-length fan film which raised just over £650,000 on Kickstarter.
Initially arguing that the budget and scale of Axanar meant it significantly infringed on Star Trek copyright, Paramount finally relented in May of this year. “We started talking about it and realised this was not an appropriate way to deal with the fans,” said Abrams.
Geneviève Bujold quits as Captain Janeway a day into shooting the pilot – Voyager
The Canadian actress only lasted one-and-half-days before quitting the show, causing a mad scramble as the production company tried to find a new captain (they eventually went with Kate Mulgrew now best known as Red in Orange is the New Black).
The series’ producer Rick Berman said back in 2006 that, “[Bujold], in no way, was going to be able to deal with the rigours of episodic television.”
The effects company hired for the first film was fired having gone massively over-budget and produced almost zero useable FX – Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Robert Abel’s innovative firm was initially contracted after submitting a low-ball bid to producers, only for the decision to come back and bite them when the FX went hugely over-budget and were deemed unsuitable.
Speculation flew that Abel was using the money not for The Motion Picture but to fund his struggling company and he was fired.
Image credits: Rex_Shutterstock, Paramount, CBS, Axanar