We’re So Close to Seeing Weird Alien Sex on ‘Star Trek’

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty Images/Paramount+
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty Images/Paramount+

As we’re all well aware by now, Star Trek is at its best when it’s horny. After all, if you dump a group of people on a tin can floating through space, you can bet they’re going to knock space boots. With its return after a two-and-a-half year hiatus, it’s a message that Star Trek Discovery now appears to understand—and it only took until its final season.

In Season 5, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Book (David Ajala) find themselves on an awkward break, having hogged the romance limelight in previous seasons. In response, Discovery gives us not one, but two other couples to sustain us. The first is a budding-yet-fumbling relationship between the ever-flustered Lt. Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) and Lt. Jax (Gregory Calderone)—who does not have a first name and does not need one with that jawline—while the more interesting is Captain-cum-Ambassador Saru (Doug Jones) and Ni’var president T’Rina (Tara Rosling), who are now an item, having spent much of Season 4 side-eyeing each other.

Discovery is no stranger to relationships. The series has reveled in the enduring love of Doctor Culber (Wilson Cruz) and Commander Stamets (Anthony Rapp) in prior seasons. More recently, it’s given us one of the Star Trek franchise’s most affecting relationships in Adira (Blue del Barrio) and Gray (Ian Alexander), as their respective transitions have pushed love on Discovery to its most human. Yet, therein lies the problem that Season 5 solves: Things are more charged this time around, maybe even sexier; but whether it’s face bumps, pointy ears, or that weird flat-face makeup they kept using in the ’90s, Star Trek has always skewed toward human-looking love interests.

Doug Jones as Saru and Tara Rosling as T’Rina.

Doug Jones as Saru and Tara Rosling as T’Rina.

Michael Gibson

Captain Kirk (William Shatner) never met a woman covered in body paint he didn’t want to escort to his ready room, while The Next Generation’s Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) spent seven seasons of primetime television getting down and dirty with every alien woman (and one non-binary alien) he met while inexplicably failing to lock down Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis). Yet, even at their most lascivious, neither ventured too far from the perceived norm; we were never going to see Kirk smashing a Gorn, except with his fists.

There have been moments when romances have involved those who are less than humanoid. Odo (René Auberjonois) and Kira (Nana Visitor) ended up getting gooey late in Deep Space Nine’s run, while Neelix (Ethan Phillips) and Kes (Jennifer Lien) had something going on in Voyager. Yet, even here these were recognizably human aliens. Though Tilly and Jax’s relationship is more of the same, and likely a preamble to the upcoming Starfleet Academy series, Star Trek finally gives us some hot alien-on-alien action through T’Rina’s thirst for Kelpian soup—insofar as Saru and T’Rina have obvious mutual respect and occasionally hold hands.

Honestly, it feels overdue. In a franchise all about exploring strange new worlds, the variety of aliens has been curiously limited. Whether it’s due to low budgets, limitations in makeup, or even a lack of imagination, we’ve been inundated with human-shaped aliens or balls of light, with little else in between. It’s one of the reasons Discovery immediately stood out upon its release. Not only did Discovery Season 1 prominently put aliens back on the bridge, Saru was an absurdly tall, weird-looking biped with top-tier makeup, driven by Doug Jonesprosthesis-heavy performance that never gets enough praise. Discovery dragged aliens out of their era of fake ears or putting ridges on their foreheads and made them different, cool, even kind of sexy. I mean, look at Saru’s little walk!

For all that, even as everyone else in Nu-Trek was getting sweaty—including Picard (Patrick Stewart), and that dude is, like, 100—Saru never had an opportunity to have someone knock on his hoof-shaped boots. That’s strange, when you consider Kelpians have superhuman strength and he’s so tall. Imagine what those arms feel like. Well, T’Rina doesn’t have to; she’s marrying him. Honestly, girl, we get it; it is logical to lock that shit down. The result is a relationship that is perhaps Discovery’s most interesting; not because it’s hot, but because it’s so vanilla.

Saru and T’Rina just really like each other. Despite how boring that sounds, they still feel like one of the more unique pairings in the illustrious pantheon of Star Trek bone bros. It may not have anything particularly bold to say and it may not work towards normalizing a wider spectrum of human love for undiscerning viewers, but in being a relationship between a human-looking alien and a bipedal space deer it remains true to a series keen to portray love that transcends difference. It’s a clever sleight-of-hand in a series that has explored modern love and beyond, to give us something vanilla in a non-vanilla package—to the point that Saru and T’Rina codifying their “mutual commitment in a more official capacity” somehow manages to be one of the most Star Trek-y relationships in Star Trek.

In fact, it makes for an interesting contrast with the mundane villains of Season 5 thus far, Moll (Eve Harlow) and L’ak (Elias Toufexis). Though L’ak momentarily looks like Flubber in “Red Directive,” and no one seems to know what he is, he remains a human-sized alien with that flat, putty face so many Star Trek aliens sport. L’ak is so bland that he and Moll have to steal from The Federation to get going.

How Did ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Become TV’s Most Boring Show?

We’re not about to see Saru and T’Rina smash (in part because I’m pretty sure they can’t kiss through that prosthesis). Yet, in a season that is one long, glorified treasure hunt, their relationship is a rare glimpse of a richer and more vibrant version of Star Trek’s universe—one that looks beyond actors painted blue and stuffed in ill-fitting wigs. While Discovery is often overwhelmed by human love, Saru and T’Rina instead wrap a basic relationship in spicier packaging. It’s one final act of novelty, as Discovery boldly boinks where no one has boinked before.

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