At TERMINUS this year, presenters Stacey Palmer & Evelyn Olansky examined how Transgender people have been portrayed in Hollywood. Women at Warp's "The Outcast: A Very Special Gay Episode" is a perfect extension to that conversation.
Originally aired the week of March 16, 1992, Star Trek: The Next Generation's The Outcast was a well intended attempt to address LGBTQA+ issues thoughtfully and respectfully. While many at the time hailed the episode as a sign of progress--in both television and Star Trek--just as many expressed major disappointment. Even Johnathan Frakes, who played the episode's focus character Riker, complained that the episode didn't take any real risks. Most pointedly, that casting a woman to play Soren, Riker's romantic interest, and not a man, undermined the episode as an allegory. It was--and is--viewed by critics as a timid choice that wouldn't challenge viewers to the point of alienation.
Critiques of the episode as problematic and regressive have grown in the last 25 years. Women at Warp's discussion highlights that when viewed as an exploration of being Transgendered, Soren's story is powerfully resonant. That same discussion also reinforces many of the points Stacy and Evelyn made in their presentation about why getting the portrayal of LGTBQA+ right matters. And how those initial missteps have lasting impact, sending audiences the wrong messages, and, reinforcing in all the wrong ways, the exclusion and discrimination LGTBAQ+ audiences experience.