Arriving on the heels of pandemic restrictions and a permanently altered world, the premiere of Star Trek: Picard’s second season sparked the entire spectrum of anticipation in fans, including myself. The first season ended with our ragtag team of characters assembling on La Sirena for yet-to-be-determined adventures.
Right before that, Seven of Nine and Raffi Musiker held hands in an equally open-ended move that sent the internet into a frenzy, confirming that both characters were bi. Many viewers tuned in to the second season full of questions — Would they still be together? To what extent would their relationship be acknowledged? Would they stay together? Would they survive 2024?
That last question may come across as a little dramatic, but fans of queer relationships in mainstream fiction know that the narrative does not often favor the queer characters, to the extent that “Bury Your Gays” is a well-documented trope. Audiences are conditioned to expect queer relationships to fail – or that one or both characters do not survive. We saw this on another series airing concurrently with Picard’s second season, when Killing Eve’s Villanelle met her untimely demise soon after she and Eve Polastri shared their first kiss.
Picard luckily did not fall into this trope; but saddled with this expectation, the second season was not the most comfortable experience. Seven and Raffi spent a large portion of the season in stressful, action-filled situations, but they also spent it in conflict with each other. They argued. Raffi brought up Seven’s commitment issues. Seven brought up Raffi’s problem with manipulating others. Amidst the backdrop of a high-stakes season, it was, at times, rough to watch.
Yet, that was not necessarily a bad thing.
Upon a closer watch, it was quite radical.
When Seven and Raffi went looking for Rios, they disagreed about how to approach their search; but they talked it out and occasionally deferred to the other’s point of view. When Seven brought up the issue she has with Raffi’s manipulation, Raffi not only agreed to talk through the issue but also trusted Seven with a vulnerable moment regarding Elnor that contextualizes – and importantly does not excuse – Raffi’s actions.
At points throughout the season, Seven and Raffi set aside their conflict to be there for each other, including Raffi’s struggle to come to terms with the loss of Elnor, compounding issues with her estrangement from her son Gabe, and Seven’s triggering experience of having to think like the Borg Queen in order to locate Agnes.
Through Seven and Raffi, Picard not only makes the significant move of showing us a queer couple that survives but also depicts individuals in a relationship that that works through conflict with intention, respect and non-resentful compromise.
That their story was told is important – not only from a representation perspective within fiction, but also because in real life, templates for functional relationships between queer individuals are scarce. People who have managed to enter and stay in long-term relationships know the slight discrepancy between reality and fiction – that is, partnerships rarely reach a “happily ever after” type of ending.
In reality, the relationships that work are the ones that thrive through endless obstacles, not despite them.
Around the world, queer couples encounter obstacles to our relationships that extend far beyond representation in fiction – our hurdles are also institutional. Last year, within the US, 13 states signed anti-LGBTQ bills into law. This summer’s repeal of Roe v. Wade has placed similar privacy-based laws, including the right to a federally recognized same-sex marriage, into jeopardy. And depending on who we are and how we grew up, we may experience limited access to resources like support from our families and the communities we were born into.
For these reasons, Seven and Raffi’s story is vital – not just the part where Seven and Raffi both survive the season but for audiences of all orientations to see a queer couple on-screen talk through conflict, argue, compromise, and deeply respect each other’s points of view. Seven and Raffi provide us with a story that helps fill a scarcity we have in fiction and in reality — a template for a queer relationship in which each individual lives and lives through conflict, together.
I ardently hope to see more of it – for me, for the people I love, and for people I don’t know who look to Star Trek for guidance in this turbulent time in history.
Kylee M (she/her) is a writer based in Singapore, where the bulk of her work covers tech, science, and medicine. Find her on Twitter @ejkyleem.
Star Trek: Picard streams exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S. and is distributed concurrently by Paramount Global Distribution Group on Amazon Prime Video in more than 200 countries and territories. In Canada, it airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave.
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