Star Trek Guide

Picard Finale's LGBT Romance Brings Star Trek Firmly Into the 21st Century

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 1, Episode 10 of Star Trek: Picard, "Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2," now streaming on CBS All Access.

While the fate of the entire Federation and organic life in the universe hung in the balance on the first season of Star Trek: Picard, the venerable Starfleet officer's new crew still found some time for romance as they traversed the cosmos. While the first and most prominent burgeoning new relationship was seen between synthetic life expert Doctor Agnes Jurati and La Sirena captain Chris Rios, a new romantic liaison was strongly implied in the season finale's final scene that was even more of a surprise: A tentative relationship between Star Trek: Voyager main character Seven of Nine and Picard's old First Officer Raffi Musiker.

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While same-sex relationships have been established within the long-running science-fiction franchise before -- initially in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Rejoined" with Dax -- this development is a particularly noteworthy, forward-thinking one for the franchise as it boldly moves further into the future and beyond the more conservative times from which it long existed. And it's a move that's certainly a welcome one as the franchise continues to find a new generation of audiences through CBS All Access better reflecting the world we live in now.

Before the revelation of Seven of Nine and Raffi's strongly implied relationship, the franchise had largely taken tentative steps towards including homosexual and bisexual characters within its mythos, met with varying levels of appreciation and controversy. The 2016 film Star Trek Beyond, set in the alternate Kelvin timeline, reimagined longtime helmsman Hikaru Sulu as a gay man in a loving marriage with a daughter. This depiction faced a mixed reception, most notably from the character's original actor George Takei who insisted the version of the character he introduced in the original series and envisioned by franchise creator Gene Roddenberry had been heterosexual, in contrast to Takei's own homosexuality -- Takei's observations on the character were similarly met with divisiveness.

A much more favorably received same-sex couple was introduced in the inaugural CBS All Access Star Trek series, Star Trek: Discovery. The eponymous starship's chief engineer and chief medical officer, Paul Stamets and Hugh Culber, were portrayed as being in a thriving marriage together on board the U.S.S. Discovery. While the couple's romance was more than the brief nod that the Kelvin timeline's Sulu had received in Beyond, Culber was killed off in the middle of the first season. This decision would, fortunately, be reversed in Season 2, as Culber managed to return from the grave in a more prominent role, as the couple was joyfully reunited.

What makes the tentative Seven of Nine/Raffi romantic relationship so monumental is that it takes an established, particularly fan-favorite character --portrayed by the actor that originated the role, no less -- and organically retcons her as being bisexual. Seven had been portrayed in Voyager as heterosexual, entering a romantic relationship with first officer Chakotay throughout the series, with no serious inclinations that the character was bisexual. Similarly, Raffi had been implied to have been in a heterosexual relationship that resulted in the birth of a son who had become estranged from his mother sometime before the start of the season.

Seven and Raffi's relationship is portrayed subtly, as a final wink to the audience after the overarching story of Season 1 had been concluded. That makes the development feel considerably more organic -- much more than Jurati and Rios' own romantic reveal earlier in the season which had bordered on feeling a bit more forced. While Seven and Raffi's romantic dynamic is more than the two suggestively making eyes at one another while manning La Sirena into parts unknown will presumably be revealed throughout Season 2 but it does present a positive direction for the series to take the two characters next.

Star Trek has always been a cultural institution that promoted greater diversity representation as seen in its global crew right from the franchise's very first episode, especially pertinent given its 1966 premiere date. The franchise has since progressed, unfortunately, at a much slower pace towards depicting greater diversity representation in regards to sexual orientation and gender identity, only briefly alluded to in the 90s before the franchise was revamped in the 21st century. Seven of Nine and Raffi entering a romantic relationship helps close this LGBTQ gap, along with Discovery's own same-sex relationships, no longer limited to subtle implication and brief nods but standing as organically developed romances as the franchise bold goes where it has needed to go long before. Engage.

Star Trek: Picard stars Patrick Stewart, Alison Pill, Michelle Hurd, Evan Evagora, Isa Briones, Santiago Cabrera and Harry Treadaway. The first season is available on CBS All Access.