Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Casts Its First Nonbinary Character For Episode That Already Had LGBTQ+ Ties

Jesse James Keitel in ABC series Big Sky
(Image credit: ABC)

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is halfway through its run, and it’s quickly become a fan-favorite among fans of the sci-fi franchise. While we already know Strange New Worlds has scored a second season, during which we’ll meet Paul Wesley’s version of James T. Kirk, there are plenty of other characters for Paramount+ subscribers to meet in Season 1’s back half. This includes the show’s first nonbinary character, who’ll appear in an episode that already had LGBTQ+ ties established.

Big Sky and Queer as Folk star Jesse James Keitel has landed a guest spot on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ seventh episode. As revealed by Variety, Keitel, who is a trans woman, will play Dr. Aspen, who used to be a Starfleet counselor, but became a humanitarian aid worker following their experiences on the Federation border. Aspen will form a “surprising connection” with Ethan Peck’s Spock, one of the Enterprise’s science officers. This episode, which drops Thursday, June 16, was directed by trans filmmaker Sydney Freehand, who has helmed episodes of shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Fear the Walking Dead and Reservation Dogs.

Jesse James Keitel’s casting in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds marks another major step for LGBTQ+ representation in the Star Trek franchise. On the acting side of things, Star Trek: Discovery has particularly made great strides in this area, with notable examples including Anthony Rapp’s Paul Stamets and Wilson Cruz’s Dr. Hugh Culber being married, as well as Blu Del Barrio starring as nonbinary character Adira and Ian Alexander recurring as transgender character Grey. Star Trek: Picard has also featured Michelle Hurd’s Raffi Muskier and Jeri Ryan’s Seven of Nine in a romantic relationship, and in last week’s episode of Strange New Worlds, Jess Bush’s Christine Chapel mentioned dating both men and women.

As already noted, Jesse James Keitel’s Dr. Aspen is only set to be a guest character in the upcoming Star Trek: Strange New Worlds episodes, but if the series ends up running for a long time, perhaps there’s a chance they could be brought back in a future season. Along with the aforementioned TV shows, Keitel’s other credits include Alex Strangelove, Younger and Miller & Son. The actress shared on Twitter that getting to “be part of the Star Trek family” is “an ACTUAL life long dream come true” for her, and then posted the following:

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Taking place after the events of Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, and a decade before Star Trek: The Original Series rolls around, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds follows the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise traveling to wild locations in the galaxy, running into strange phenomena, helping people along the way, all that jazz. Along with Ethan Peck and Jess Bush, the main cast includes Anson Mount as Christopher Pike, Rebecca Romijn as Una Chin-Riley/Number One, Celia Rose Gooding as Nyota Uhura, Babs Olusanmokun as M’Benga, Christina Chong as La’an Noonien Singh, Melissa Navia as Erica Ortegas and Bruce Horak as Hemmer. The series’ recurring characters include Adrian Holmes as Robert April, Dan Jeannotte as Sam Kirk and Gia Sandra as T’Pring.

Keep checking back with CinemaBlend for more updates on what Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has coming up, and learn what other shows are also currently airing or will premiere soon by scanning through our 2022 TV schedule.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore, Adam is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He started working for the site back in late 2014 writing exclusively comic book movie and TV-related articles, and along with branching out into other genres, he also made the jump to editing. Along with his writing and editing duties, as well as interviewing creative talent from time to time, he also oversees the assignment of movie-related features. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Journalism, and he’s been sourced numerous times on Wikipedia. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.