The episode ‘Despite Yourself’ brought Star Trek: Discovery back from the long winter break. To put simply, it was brutal. While it confirmed a lot of things we’d been speculating about, it came at such a high cost that I almost couldn’t enjoy the revelations.
As I’ve been speculating pretty much constantly in my Star Trek: Discovery reviews, ‘Despite Yourself’ basically confirmed that Ash is T’Kuvma. His PTSD symptoms directly relate back to T’Kuvma’s personality being placed over his own. Shortly after this revelation he snaps and kills Culber to hide this fact. You know, Culber, the happily married partner of Stamets played by Anthony Rapp, whom I adore. Culber, half of the same sex couple who made history on Star Trek as (arguably, though certainly by most standards) the first openly queer protagonists in the Star Trek TV franchise.
I audibly gasped when Ash snapped his neck. My first reaction was that a show that was beginning to earn my trust for portraying LGBTQ+ representation so well had quickly and horrifically betrayed me. How could they? Putting this couple in the show was a major selling point. It was part of the reason why so many people were ranking it so high so early on. It hurt to see this happen.
Almost immediately after the episode aired an interview was released that began to put me at ease. Executive Producer Aaron Harberts said the following in an Entertainment Weekly interview:
We knew that this was going to be shocking for an audience and for a community that has unfortunately been assaulted by this “bury your gays” trope, but I’m an openly gay showrunner and my writing partner is nothing if not the most supportive person when it comes to LGBT portrayals on TV. We’ve got gay members of the writing staff and we have two incredible out gay actors as part of our team. We knew that starting this journey was going to be really painful for a lot of people, but at the end of the day we could say to our audience, “This is the team who is bringing you this story.”
I don’t know if this show has earned my trust yet, but right now I’m hesitantly giving it to them. I trust Anthony Rapp as an actor. I idolize him. If he’s part of this project, I’m inclined to give it more weight. And with that quote from Harberts, I’m inclined to give him some of my trust as well. Still, this stings a bit. In the same interview they say that Culber’s story “isn’t over” so if they prove that to be the case I’ll consider my trust thoroughly earned. If they use the rest of the season to further run the Bury Your Gays stereotype into the ground or linger on sad gay plot lines, my trust in the entire group of creators will forever be lost. They are on very shaky ground right now and I think they are very much aware of that. Hopefully that awareness means they have something beautiful planned. You have my trust for the moment, guys, Treat it carefully.
A lot of other things happened in ‘Despite Yourself’ that I’d otherwise spend a great deal of time talking about. The fact that Michael left Lorca to be tortured for who knows how long is strange and will no doubt come up later. You don’t just let someone get tortured and not expect that affect your relationship down the line. Or how about Tilly? Or ‘Captain Killy?’ Had Culber not died, I’d probably have spent a couple of words over the moon about her. She would have been the highlight of the episode for me otherwise. As it is now, however, I’m just so incredibly bummed out I can’t think critically about the character dynamics between Lorca and Michael or how badass Captain Tilly was. I’m just… sad. Maybe next week as both of these two plot threads continue I’ll feel up for discussing them more. There’s a lot to say about both. I just don’t feel like diving too deep at the moment.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. She identifies as queer.
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