When Star Trek: Discovery centers the story of Michael Burnham, the franchise changes course forever. Some fans were ready for the change of perspective, while others were not. Now, with Discovery warping towards its final season, the fracture in the fandom seems wider than ever.
Claims that some Star Trek fans just disagree with the writing of Discovery and are not really employing problematic views require a lack of knowledge about the show’s early press and continued fan interactions. Charles Pulliam-Moore notes that the first showrunners, Bryan Fuller and Heather Kadin, wanted to incorporate Gene Roddenberry’s vision of an inclusive future in Discovery. This action led to what some fans called “white genocide.” Producer Jenny Lumet explains some negative reaction to the series: “…[W]e had Michelle Yeoh and Sonequa Martin-Green on a planet walking around.” Lumet goes on to note, “The hate mail! ‘There are no Black people or Asian people in space!’” (qtd in Miller). The idea that people of color—exist—in the future world of Star Trek, from the Original Series on, counters that fan reaction but ultimately illuminates the rift in the Trek fandom.
The larger issue in the Star Trek community, it seems, comes when people of color thrive in the future, and Burnham’s story arc in Discovery is one of success and self-determination. For some, it is this change from existing to thriving that contributes to some of the continued strife. While Roddenberry was ahead of his time for diversity, Discovery foregrounds the concept of Afrofuturism and provides a more rounded view of inclusion. Whit Frazier Peterson argues that the core of Star Trek is built on colonial ideas, and it is up to fans to rethink these beliefs.
Miller, Leon. “Star Trek Producer Discusses the Racist Hate Mail Directed toward Michelle Yeoh, Sonequa Martin-Green.” CBR, 15 June 2022, www.cbr.com/star-trek-discovery-racist-hate-mail-michelle-yeoh-sonequa-m....
Peterson, Whit Frazier. “The Cotton-Gin Effect: An Afrofuturist Reading of Star Trek: Discovery.” Fighting for the Future, eds. Sabrina Mittermeier and Mareike Spychala. Liverpool UP, 2020, pp. 201–220, https://doi.org/10.3828/liverpool/9781789621761.003.0012.
Pulliam-Moore, Charles. “Racist Star Trek Fans Decry Discovery’s Diversity, Revealing They Know Nothing about Star Trek.” Gizmodo, 24 May 2017, gizmodo.com/racist-star-trek-fans-decry-discoverys-diversity-revea-1795506110.