The Star Trek franchise continues to grow and change in fascinating ways, and its latest growth involves the casting of the franchise’s first-ever transgender and non-binary characters. Star Trek: Discovery season 3 has added Blu del Barrio and Ian Alexander to its cast, putting Star Trek one step closer to creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision of an optimistic future in which everyone on this planet is viewed equally, regardless of race or gender identity.

StarTrek.com revealed the casting news today, providing a bit of information about the new characters who will be appearing on Discovery:

The Star Trek universe’s first non-binary character is Adira, played by Blu del Barrio. Adira is highly intelligent with a confidence and self-assurance well beyond their years. They will find a new home on the U.S.S. Discovery and form an unexpected bond with Lt. Commander Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz). The first transgender character is Gray, portrayed by Ian Alexander. Gray is empathetic, warm and eager to fulfill his lifelong dream of being a Trill host, but he will have to adapt when his life takes an unexpected turn.

While Adira’s character sounds largely self-explanatory from this description, the situation with Gray is bit more complicated. He’s a Trill, a species that, in Trek lore, is capable of co-existing with a symbiotic organism called a symbiont inside their bodies. The resulting joined Trill contains the memories and knowledge of every host the symbiont inhabited before. Example: there’s a Trill character in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine who is a young woman, but her commander calls her “Old Man” because he was familiar with the previous host, who was an elderly mentor. Their relationship picks up instantly because she retains all of their old friendship from the previous body.

Del Barrio is making their screen debut here, while Alexander has previously appeared on Netflix’s The OA and played Lev in The Last of Us Part II. This casting news is one small step for a fictional universe, and one giant leap for the industry creating it, which is historically slow to enact meaningful, lasting change. Here’s hoping this will inspire similar decisions to be made at other networks and studios moving forward.

Star Trek: Discovery season 3 premieres on CBS All Access on October 15, 2020, with new episodes dropping on Thursdays until the season ends.

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