Steve October 29, 2020
star-trek:-discovery-embarks-on-a-brave-new-frontier,-but-all-is-not-quite-what-it-seems-with-new-non-binary-character-adira

Star Trek: Discovery makes trans history in its latest episode, with the non-binary actor Blu del Barrio making their exciting debut as Adira – and there’s a lot more to their character than meets the eye.

Warning: contains spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery season three, episode three: “People of Earth.”

After a big, bold start to the third season, Star Trek: Discovery continues at a clippy pace as the crew get their bearings in the 23rd century, a universe that’s vastly different to the one they knew.

Episode three sees the Discovery journey to Earth to learn what became of the Federation all those centuries ago. Enter newcomer Blu del Barrio as the teen genius Adira, an Earth inspector who boards the ship to investigate the curiously outdated technology of Stamets’ lab.

Del Barrio and their co-star Ian Alexander play the very first trans and non-binary roles in Star Trek‘s 54-year history, with Adira’s identity becoming a lot more nuanced as the plot thickens.

She is the embodiment of cocky confidence as she demands to know about Stamets’ spore drive, a marvel that’s still in a field of its own 900 years into the far future. A sneaky sabotage ensures the Discovery doesn’t go anywhere until she’s got the answers she needs.

Star Trek: Discovery to send Blu del Barrio’s Adira on an unexpected journey.

Her bluster turns to sheepishness when Stamets gently confronts her on her meddling, and she reveals an earnestness that clearly melts the scientist’s heart. As the two bond over the miracle of mycelium, Adira appears fascinated by Stamets’ spore drive interface and asks if there are others like him.

“There’s no one like me,” he tells her with a smile. “I know how that feels,” she replies, a throwaway comment that foreshadows the mystery still to come.

Because Adira isn’t just Adira: she’s also the elusive Admiral Tal, the last person in the universe who might know what happened to Star Fleet.

Technically speaking, she’s been joined with a Trill symbiont, a sentient and benevolent worm-like creature that lives inside a host’s abdomen, just in case you’d forgotten you were watching Star Trek here.

Once a symbiont joins with a person, that person has the ability to access the memories of all the former hosts, one of them being Admiral Tal. But because nothing is ever simple for the Discovery crew, Adira’s unable to access those memories – perhaps, as Captain Saru speculates, because she is human and not Trill.

That makes her something entirely new in this corner of the universe. As the series continues, Adira will explore what this means for her identity in a thoughtful and nuanced arc that draws parallels with the non-binary experience.

It’s the perfect breakout role for del Barrio, who pairs brilliantly with Ian Alexander as the two gender non-conforming actors take centre stage in one of the most iconic sci-fi franchises of all time.

The first three episodes of Star Trek: Discovery season 3 are available to watch now on Netflix in the UK and CBS All Access in the US.

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