Time for a disabled starship captain?

As you might expect, I currently look for news of the new Star Trek series quite frequently. Every day or so, big trekkie that I am, I just punch it into Google to see if there’s anything new. Predictably, there’s not much to go on yet; the debate among most fans is over which universe it could be set in – the original which we all know and love, or the rebooted one began by JJ Abrams’ 2009 film. The question I find myself asking, though, is whether the new series could have a character with a disability in it. Back in 1966, the original series was revolutionary in having an African-American as a major character – Roddenberry’s future was one where race did not matter. I now wonder whether Trek could make a similarly powerful statement in terms of disability. Of course, TNG had Geordie Laforge, but his blindness was largely mitigated by his visor. Think what a statement could be made by having a starship piloted or even captained by a wheelchair user. Surely it could be just as powerful and resonant as having Nichelle Nichols on the bridge of the original Enterprise – it would send a huge message of acceptance and value. People will ask, of course, whether disability would exist in such a utopian future, but that is still seeing disability as something negative, a burden to be overcome rather than an aspect of human diversity. I like being who I am, Cerebral Palsy and all; and I would love to participate in a future where man explores the galaxy. Having a disabled person on the bridge of a starship would imply ‘we’ can contribute to the future as much as anyone else, and don’t need to be healed or fixed to do so. The question is, are the execs at Paramount ready to take that step?

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