By Matthew Breen
On the network that brought us Will & Grace, there's still resistance even to peripheral queer characters. Fuller says, 'There was a moment on the set where [Kring] was with an NBC executive, who shall remain nameless, and the exec said, 'Hmm, you need to watch [the cheerleader's friend] because that character could be interpreted as gay.' And Tim said, 'Why do we need to watch that?' '
Kring hints that there may be queers in the second wave of rotating characters. 'I am intrigued by a gay character front and center, and we are openly discussing it in the studio and in the writers' room now,' says Kring, undaunted by network resistance. 'It doesn't scare me at all to do that, and it's always been a battle with networks on that sort of thing. There's a subversiveness that you're forced to think about these things with. You try to come in through a side door.'
The queerest rebellion in sci-fi TV is doubtlessly the latest incarnation of the British classic Doctor Who, which recently aired its first season on the Sci Fi Channel, starring Christopher Eccleston and written by out Queer as Folk creator Russell T. Davies. The third season of the show is now in production in Wales.
'There's very classically and traditionally a strong gay fan base for Doctor Who, ' Davies told The New York Times recently. In the first season of the new Who, the Doctor and his assistant, Rose (played by Billie Piper), join forces with Captain Jack Harkness, a 51st-century bisexual time traveler played by out actor John Barrowman. Handsome and debonair, and as comfortable with his clothes off as with them on, Jack is at ease seducing both male and female characters.
As a sort of omnisexual James Bond of the future, Captain Jack is getting his own spin-off series created by Davies. Called Torchwood (an anagram of 'Doctor Who'), the show is billed as sci-fi for adults, and it promises not to shy away from the sex as Jack and company explore alien phenomena in modern-day Britain.
On this side of the pond, look for a Battlestar prequel series called Caprica, now in the early stages of development. Though it takes place on a distant planet, Eick says it will be 'more like Dallas than it is like Star Trek.' And in Battlestar's upcoming third season, Xena star Lucy Lawless, a bona fide lesbian icon, returns as a Cylon for 10 episodes.
Jamie Bamber's character, who begins the season married and 30 pounds heavier (thanks to prosthetic makeup), will no doubt return to his fighting form in no time. But Eick issues a warning: 'It is a war show first and foremost. The audience should never get too attached to any single character because you never know when they may not be around anymore.'