F-bombs on the starboard bow, captain! ‘Star Trek’ swears for the first time ever

Space cadet says what? Tilly (Mary Wiseman) and Stamets (Anthony Rapp)
Image: cbs

It may still be seeking out strange new worlds, but it seems the ongoing mission of Star Trek now also includes strange new words.

Star Trek Discovery has warped out of FCC-controlled network space and into the neutral zone of the CBS All-Access streaming service. That allowed the writers to fire the famously strait-laced franchise’s first ever F-bombs in Sunday night’s episode — boldly going where even the movies haven’t dared to go before. 

The groundbreaking swears took place during a discussion about the mycelium network — an intergalactic stream of mushroom spores that the mystery ship Discovery uses to transport itself instantly anywhere in the universe. So far, it has only been able to do so by torturing a poor giant space-bound tardigrade

But in episode 5, “Choose Your Pain,” our Starfleet heroes think they’ve found a way to travel on the mushroom express by using the tardigrade’s DNA — no torture required. 

“You guys, this is so fucking cool,” enthuses Cadet Tilly (Mary Wiseman), the nerdiest and most excitable member of the crew. She then apologizes for her language. 

“No, cadet,” replies Science Officer Lieutenant Paul Stamets, played by Anthony Rapp. “It is fucking cool.”

It’s not entirely clear why the scene warranted the language — except that it spiced up what was otherwise a scene heavy with scientific jargon, and may perhaps persuade Star Trek‘s younger viewers to pay more attention to STEM. 

“I imagine there are scientists in their labs who might do that any time,” Rapp told IndieWire. “These people just put their brains to work in a really tough way and they had a breakthrough.” He added he was proud that the first f-bombs in Star Trek were  in the service of science, rather than being used to tell a character “to go fuck themselves.”

Star Pride

The F-bombs overshadowed another first for the franchise, something which already feels blessedly low key: at the end of the episode, Stamets is revealed to be in a relationship with the ship’s male medical officer. We see them in their quarters, in their PJs, brushing their teeth together. 

The movie Star Trek Beyond showed its Sulu character to be in a gay relationship, but only at a distance (he is seen from afar reuniting with his husband). By contrast, Discovery has given us the first gay characters we’ll be following as intimately as any couple.

George Takei, who played Sulu in the original TV series and came out as gay in 2005, said the Sulu scene in Beyond was “really unfortunate” because  late Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry — a proud progressive — had nevertheless envisioned Sulu as heterosexual. 

Better that Star Trek create a new gay character from scratch, Takei said. And now that Star Trek Discovery has done exactly that, Takei is thrilled.

Star Trek Discovery will continue to boldly go where no space show has gone before, Sundays on the $6-a-month CBS All Access — and on Netflix for lucky international viewers. 

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