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One Thing About His Character That LeVar Burton Wishes 'Star Trek' Had Explored: 'His Sexuality'

by Tambay A. Obenson
July 11, 2012 2:56 PM
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LeVar Burton
LeVar Burton on "Star Trek: The Next Generation"

I thought we'd recently posted a similar statement from another black actor who worked in a past TV series, but I can't remember who that actor or what the show was. 

Or maybe I'm just imagining things.

Anyway... the subject quote came from an interview LeVar Burton did with io9, posted earlier today, leading up to the Blu-ray release of Star Trek: The Next Generation later this month.

And when the interviewer points out that Geordi La Forge (the character Burton played) did have a couple of romances, Burton quickly replied:

Yeah, one [romance] was with an entity that was actually a monster. And the other was with a holographic representation of the woman who designed the Enterprise engines. Neither of which I would necessarily call a healthy relationship. I just wish [the writers] had allowed that part of Geordi to evolve... Because there were a couple of one-line gags that were present in the character — the first one being, "The blind guy flies the ship." And we solved that by giving Geordi a specific area of expertise from which to contribute, when we moved him to engineering. And the other stereotype was that of the nerdy guy, the engineer who is inept around women. And we just never had the opportunity — we ran out of time, I guess — we never had the opportunity to evolve beyond that. And I believe with the core of my being that Star Trek is better than that. Star Trek is better than stereotypes.

Indeed. I think many of you who are fans of the entire family of Star Trek series and films feel the same way - its vision of a better future for humanity that's diverse, and in which humans are expected to progress beyond prejudice, aggression, and self-interest.

But, no matter now. It's all in the past. Can't change anything.

I think Data's sexuality should've been explored more too :)

The beloved series will be transferred to high-definition for the first time ever and released on Blu-ray on July 24. All 178 episodes from seven seasons will be transferred to true high-definition 1080p for release on Blu-ray and eventual runs on television and digital platforms both domestically and internationally.

Currently, you'll find the entire 178 episodes from 7 seasons streaming on Netflix, but in sub-par, though watchable quality. It's just not quite the same experience when compared to true high-definition 1080p. So yes, I'll likely be purchasing this when it's released.

Of note, in addition to Burton, Whoopi Goldberg and Michael Dorn were series regulars, and even, on occasion, the central focus in episodes written around their characters specifically; Burton and Dorn were there through it all, from beginning to end; Whoopi came in a year after its debut, and left a year before its finale.

LeVar even directed 2 episodes.

TNG won 18 Primetime Emmys during its run, by the way.

You can read the entire io9 interview HERE.

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  • lauren | July 12, 2012 5:44 PMReply

    No offence but Lavar (in that role especially) aint got it like that.

  • Donella | July 12, 2012 12:53 PMReply

    Worf had some things going on. But yeah, if Data could get with Tasha Yar, then Geordi could have had someone.

  • JC | July 11, 2012 11:08 PMReply

    No one had more than 2 "sexual" partners in TNG... so I think he should be happy. lol Besides its Star some romance in space, 90210 deal... I think it had just enough, to much would have taken away from the show. Look at the original Star Trek, every show Captain Kirk was banging ladies..(sorry to be crude). The engineer is usually the nerdy is what it is..

  • Adam Scott Thompson | July 11, 2012 5:07 PMReply

    There wasn't a whole ton of sexual stuff going on in TNG anyway which is cool with me (don't want "Grey's Anatomy" in space). That said, I feel like the only one who was really supposed to get consistent play on the show was Riker. They couldn't have another Kirk in the captain's chair (Picard was more restrained, cerebral [but only after getting stabbed in the heart as a cadet]), so they transferred all of James T.'s qualities to "Number One." Go back and do a count of Riker's lovers vis-a-vis every other main character on the show. Even Worf couldn't hang, and he was actually more of a brotha than LaForge (Counselor Troi went "black," then went back -- to Riker).

  • Ben Reichman | July 11, 2012 3:32 PMReply

    "I think Data's sexuality should've been explored more too :)"

    Actually, what makes the treatment of Geordi La Forge even worse is that they DID explore Data's sexuality. He slept with at least two crew members, if I remember correctly, and one story was all about him learning what a healthy loving relationship could be--and what his limits were.

    I think Burton's right--Star Trek at heart did aspire to be better than that, but when you look at their track record in this case and also with regard to homosexuality, they failed to fulfill their aspirations. (After years of pressure, they did a heavily allegorical show about homophobia and homosexuality, but they pulled their punches and took some easy outs, so even that one attempt wasn't very strong.)

  • Charles Judson | July 11, 2012 4:15 PM

    The Gender Neutral episode was definitely a punt. It was made all the less special as they had done the "I want to go against the wishes of my people but I can't" episode quite a few times. Data did explore a variety of relationships, including even being a parent. But what does it mean to be human is already built into the cake of an android character with no emotions and starts out as the only one of his kind. There were places for the writers to go from the outset. Although, in terms of STAR TREK, it seems they could have pushed that exploration to be more what does it mean to be alive and not been so human centric. We can't also ignore that in terms of character setup Geordi's job was the least likely of all the regular cast to put him in contact with new people on an ongoing basis. Captain, Ship's Counselor, First Officer, Doctor, Security and Science Officer (on a ship whose partial mission is exploration), all jobs that realistically would require characters to meet people on a regular basis with each new mission and each new planet. And the show relied HEAVILY on technobabble heavy plots, so Geordi's character often spent more time in episodes having to solve that week's problem than actually having a life. It's a problem that shows up in other shows and movies: The smart Black guy who is so indispensable to the plot, but not the story, he's rendered inert. The characters are not stereotypical, but the writers in going against stereotype back themselves into corners and don't achieve anything meaningful in that "reversal". The Black Guy in DIE HARD suffers from this to an extent. He's pretty much stuck in that room the entire movie and he as some of the less memorable moments of the film and doesn't influence the story as strongly as the other characters. In DEEP SPACE NINE Sisko is a leader, fighter and father, who is also shown to be infallible, quick to anger when pushed and sometimes loyal to a fault, while also being deeply committed to Star Fleet, and he starts the show with conflicts (his being the emissary, a single father and a recent widower) that could be explored. So I wouldn't lay blame this at the feet of inherent bias alone.

  • Charles Judson | July 11, 2012 3:19 PMReply

    I'm not sure this fell into the stereotype of the nerdy guy not getting the girl. As show full of technobabble, everyone was pretty much a geek in TNG. However, outside of DEEP SPACE NINE, STAR TREK has had some troubling issues with developing the love lives of human characters of color like Geordi or Ensign Kim. Part of that lay in the nature of the shows though. DS9 being set on a station allowed for ongoing plot lines and relationships, TNG and VOYAGER as ship based shows didn't have that same luxury. But, even a reoccurring character like O'Brien got married and that marriage spanned two shows.

  • Charles Judson | July 11, 2012 11:18 PM

    Just did a complete rewatch of DS9 two weeks ago. So a combo of rewatch and geek memory. I volunteer for the Dragon* Con film festival every year for a reason.

  • JC | July 11, 2012 11:10 PM

    I pray all those "facts" you have enlightened us with were not all from memory.....if so that is some scary ish...

  • Melissa | July 11, 2012 3:10 PMReply

    Yup. This is a problem many black people face on television, being neutered. With black women, we are shown as sexual mostly with white men, nowadays at least. Black-on-black sexuality is a no/no. Black male sexuality... as in love scenes with non-black women or even black women... very very rare. On TV and in movies I mean. However we are more visible than Asians.

  • Orville | July 12, 2012 5:38 PM

    I agree with Melissa and this goes beyond Star Trek. There is a fear of black male sexuality on television for some reason.The only time you get to see black men being sexual is on BET or a black themed movie. Black women interestingly, are allowed to be sexual but with white men mostly like Kerry Washington's character on Scandal. I guess there is less fear of a black woman being paired with a white man than the other way around.

  • No | July 11, 2012 3:31 PM

    "Black-on-black sexuality is a no/no" -- except in porn. And what does that tell ya?

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