By the mid ’80s, the Star Trek franchise had long since proven itself profitable for Paramount. After three seasons of the original 1966 series, the show had found new life in syndication, becoming a television phenomenon spinning off a series of feature films. In 1986, Paramount announced that Gene Roddenberry would returning to TV to executive produce a new chapter in the world he created, Star Trek: The Next Generation, which celebrates its 28th anniversary this week.
In assembling a team to helm the new series, Roddenberry hired writer David Gerrold. Gerrold had previously written “The Trouble With Tribbles” for the second season of the original series, an episode regarded by Star Trek fans as being one of its best. Shortly after the new series was announced, Gerrold and Roddenberry attended a Q&A session at a Star Trek convention, where someone asked if there would be any representation of gay characters on the show.
So now Gene and I appeared at a Star Trek convention in November of 1986 and somebody asked “Will there be gay people aboard the Enterprise?” And Gene – to give him credit for knowing the right thing to say at the right time – said “Yes, it is time, we should show gay people on board the Enterprise.” This got a lot of applause. So then he repeated it in a staff meeting and balled out one of the producers and said “No, it’s time.”