Adult Trek is not for the faint of heart. Many writers ask themselves - what happens when the doors close, and the lights turn off? After all, most ships are loaded with young, single people, often in prime physical condition. If you think all they do is go to second base, ah, my friend, you are seriously mistaken.
While fan fiction, graphic novels and print publications are not covered by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), their guidelines on ratings do make some sense in this area. Per the MPAA, the NC-17 means the following: "NC-17 — No One 17 and Under Admitted. An NC-17 rated motion picture is one that, in the view of the Rating Board, most parents would consider patently too adult for their children 17 and under. No children will be admitted. NC-17 does not mean "obscene" or "pornographic" in the common or legal meaning of those words, and should not be construed as a negative judgment in any sense. The rating simply signals that the content is appropriate only for an adult audience. An NC-17 rating can be based on violence, sex, aberrational behavior, drug abuse or any other element that most parents would consider too strong and therefore off-limits for viewing by their children."
Hence it's not just sex, violence and/or salty language that can bump a rating up to the max. For most people, though, those three things are exactly what causes them to think of one rating over another.
Complicating matters is the fact that some sites use MPAA-style ratings, whereas others use gaming or television-type ratings. In general, MA and NC-17 are as far as you can go, with M and R being the next step down. One more step down is usually T and PG-13; then come K+ and PG. Finally, the rating for family-type viewing and reading is K or G. I use both ratings systems interchangeably in this article and, for fan fiction, I use whichever rating the writer has provided for his or her work. Keep in mind that writers are not necessarily perfect arbiters of their own ratings. However, I feel that all of the listed writers act in good faith to properly rate their works. But the usual caveats apply, and always proceed cautiously, particularly if viewing or reading while at work.
Beyond ratings, there are also the questions of character situations. We are used to seeing some highly intellectual themes in Star Trek. Racism was covered as far back as TOS. The ENT series showed a class of persons stigmatized by a disease they had contracted - that show's response to the HIV epidemic. DS9 covered, among other things, the horrors of war.
For what we tend to think of as Adult Trek, the themes are usually far more personal. Characters' sexualities are questioned and explored. Relationships are forged, or broken. Characters may deal with the death of a beloved, or perhaps an affair or a divorce. Written well, these scenarios can offer rich chances for exploration. Written poorly, they can be cringeworthy - but that is the case with all ratings levels. And then, of course, there's also PWP (Porn Without Plot).
But when sex or violence (or both) propel the stories, when they help the reader get to know the characters better, or amp up the tension - or even the comedy - or when they make sense in a greater context, these scenarios work as well as any other. Gratuitous sex and violence are one thing, but that is not what is being celebrated here. Let's look at adult themes in Trek, and their place in both canon and fanon universes.
Consider the possibilities.
As far back as TOS, Plato's Stepchildren covered a most uncomfortable scenario, as the captain and first officer are forced to perform for their captors. Included in the performance are kisses with the two main women in the show - Lieutenant Uhura and Nurse Chapel. Complicating matters are the nurse's unrequited love for Spock and the difference in races between Captain Kirk and Miss Uhura. The episode is remembered as being the first interracial kiss on network television. But what if the episode was made today? Would it stop just at kissing? Should it? Is that more or less powerful than going further? What happens if the partners are switched, and the pairings become same-sex? Fan fiction writers can explore this, if they wish.
In TNG, The Outcast was presented as an exploration of an androgynous society, allegedly devoid of sexuality. When Riker meets Soren, they hit it off - and it's rather convenient when Soren reveals femininity. But a classic question for fan fiction writers is - what if Soren had turned out to be male? In the end, Soren is forced to renounce her feelings and desires, and is allegedly "cured" of such messiness. Is Soren happy? Probably not, but she sure is safe and predictable.
In DS9, the Rejoined episode explores what it means for Dax to be moving from symbiont to symbiont, and sometimes shifting from male to female. This episode is also remembered as the first one with a female-on-female kiss, which shocked some fans (while encouraging others). For fan fiction writers, the scene can, of course, go a lot farther than that, and probably does.
In VOY, the Threshold episode runs in any number of directions (it is considered a somewhat problematic episode), but the upshot of it is that the captain and one of her crew members have had children together. Circumstances were certainly out of the ordinary. Fan fiction can fill in some of the gaps, perhaps not so much in terms of the mating act itself, but in terms of what should have probably been a great deal of fallout.
In ENT, the Unexpected episode goes where, perhaps, no one ever throught Trek would go - to male pregnancy. A simple game involving immersing one's hands in a box of what look like pebbles results in a pregnancy for, of all people, Commander Tucker. The episode is played for some humor, but it also touches upon the idea of love 'em and leave 'em - something that Kirk did quite a bit of. It should also make the typical fan fiction writer wonder just what kinds of games the Xyrillians really do like to play.
Star Trek fan ficcers pretty much invented slash, which is when two male characters (both, or one, or neither, can be canon) are linked romantically, and often graphically sexually. The original slash pairing in Star Trek is Kirk/Spock. The counterpart is femme slash (also spelled as femslash), which is female on female pairing. The Janeway/Seven of Nine pairing is typical.
Adult Trek is not just slash, of course. It also takes the shape of graphic novels, often with nudity or partial nudity, or fictions where little or at least less is left to the readers' imaginations. For fiction which opens the door to the bedroom, what does the reader find? There is the standard, of course, within marriage and committed relationships. Surely no one thinks that Miles and Keiko produced Molly via test tube!
Then there are committed couples who aren't married, such as T'Pol and Trip, or Will Riker and Deanna Troi before their wedding during Nemesis. Still other scenarios involve more mismatched couples, such as Worf and Deanna or Worf and Jadzia, or Quark and Grilka. Dr. Bashir ends up treating the latter two couples after nights of passion - these cannot just be a few chaste kisses, and it should make some curious viewers wonder about the mechanics of it all.
In DS9, as previously noted, there is a bit of femme slash. In ENT, there is a bit of bi-curious behavior (Rajiin) and alien-curious behavior (Cogenitor). And do the parts always fit? Are they always compatible? Not according to The Undiscovered Country, where Kirk fights an alien on Rura Penthe who keeps his genitalia in a fairly unexpected location.
Enterprise is well represented in fan fiction writers' imaginings, possibly because the show had a confirmed sexual relationship and an unfulfilled promise of a gay character (the show's writers ultimately decided to not make Malcolm Reed gay). It may also be because it's the most recent show, and was shown in an era of and near such fare as The Sopranos, NYPD Blue and The L Word. Audiences have come to expect more on television.
Written as a response to the Delphic Expanse's 2011 Valentine's Day Playlist Challenge, Persistence of Touch is a missing-moment story set in Season Four during Trip's brief "escape" to Columbia. Trip learns that he cannot run away from his feelings for T'Pol no matter how far he goes – thanks to the as yet undiscovered bond asserting itself and pulling him into the white space. One night, Trip and T'Pol repeat their favorite mistake – but is it real? Winner of five Delphic Expanse Awards, including Best Story and Best Het Sex Scene. Rated NC-17.
Aquarius's She Wore White. Wedding nights are supposed to be bliss, but they come with their own special anxieties. Set post- "These Are the Voyages", Archer and T'Pol marry and face their first night together as husband and wife. It's not their first time around the block, but making it official brings a degree of change. Archer contemplates true love and absent friends in reflection of this life-changing event. Received Honorable Mention for Best Archer/T'Pol Story Under 2000 words at the 2011 Delphic Expanse Awards. Rated MA for graphic heterosexual situations.
A mini-sequel to Mistress Euclid's ground-breaking "Equilateral", in which the events of "E2" have unfolded differently: the Enterprise is lost in time, and the crew has colonized a Minshara class planet while trying to maintain good relations with their galactic neighbors. Jon, Trip, and T'Pol have formed a stable, loving polyfidelic relationship. POV takes place in the distant future of this universe. T'Pol relives the joy of love and the pain of loss as she finds a datapad containing a long-forgotten "home movie" made by her husbands. Rated NC-17 for graphic sexual situations, including a threesome.
A Kiss at Midnight by Honeybee. It's New Year's Eve on the Enterprise, and Trip and T'Pol use the occasion to "out" themselves as a couple. Anxious about the expected public display of affection at midnight, T'Pol sets a most logical scheme into motion to ensure that she and her date get some alone time well before then. Everything goes well until Captain Archer unwittingly foils her plan, and T'Pol finds herself with a dilemma: to kiss or not to kiss? Rated NC-17 for graphic sexual situations.
For my own fiction, I offer a transuniversal romance in Reversal. On our side of things, Chef's assistant begins having erotic dreams while, in the mirror, Empress Hoshi finds an intriguing way to keep her male senior staff members in line. Rated R for sexual situations and some violence.
In Intolerance, a small medical school sends a class of doctors to the NX-01 for a resident rotation - and that means women. A competition is set up, and whoever gets the girl first wins. But the winner gets more than he bargained for, both in and out of the bedroom. How much can you tolerate? Rated R for sexual situations and unconventional sexual play, including mild BDSM.
Taking place in the TOS era (although not employing canon characters), PD Smith's 30 Minutes is a graphic novel about a female Federation captain who ends up running from a terrorist bombing with an Orion woman. There's a bit of femme slash in it. The drawings are superb; the artist has quite an eye for not only the female form, but also for fashion. No rating is listed; I would suggest PG-13.
His Species 571 story is another beautiful graphic novel. Again, the captain is female, and she has to deal with an attack on children. The adult themes include not only the violence but also her having to come to terms with her own daughter, who she is apart from. No rating is listed; I would suggest PG.
In Orion's Angels, bluesman offers an adventure for Merrick Dylan, a young officer under Christopher Pike's command. What happens when he meets the beautiful Dr. Veronica West - and a trio of wily Orion slave women? Rated M.
There is a dearth of TNG-era slash fiction that isn't simply PWP.
One fan fiction writer is doing terrific work covering the Picard dynamic from several angles - both gay and straight. And adult themes need not simply be bedroom antics. His stories are told in lots of ways - the characters aren't always horizontal and, in some stories, aren't at all.
MrPicard explores Jean-Luc's feelings in Lonely. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown! Jean-Luc Picard turns on a holodeck program and meets a very similar captain from the Enterprise's past. Rated T.
He then covers the Picard/Q conflict in It Happened for a Reason. This is a serious conversation between Picard and Q about Jean-Luc's abduction by the Borg. Q discloses that he actually witnessed it but was powerless to prevent it from happening. Rated K+.
Feel presents a dilemma for Deanna Troi - she can feel everyone's feelings, right? So what happens when she feels a certain crew member performing a very private act? And what happens when she gets addicted to that passion? Rated M.
Private Emotions is MrPicard's fully-realized story of an alternate universe progressive love affair between the captain and his XO. In the canon TNG episode "Parallels", a number of alternate universes are presented - this is the one where Data has blue eyes and Ogawa is the CMO - and the Federation is apparently in conflict with the Cardassians. Not only is the Picard/Riker relationship explored, Data/LaForge, Picard/Jack Crusher, Riker/Erik Pressman, Picard/Q, Picard/Troi are also shown, although its main focus is on Picard/Riker and it is the Picard/Riker love story which gives the story its shape and focus. Rated MA for slash and graphic heterosexual situations.
But there's also plenty of room for some very graphic work. Candice Green's work with character Candela Green leaves little to the imagination. Her Star Trek Crusader: The Deception offers a TNG-era story with plenty of extremely graphic sex. Her drawings are very good and she renders characters and scenery well - this is truly visually stunning work. There is no rating listed but I easily put it at NC-17; there's full frontal nudity and full arousal for every gender imaginable.
Her Star Trek Crusader: Of Friends or Foes also offers plenty of graphic action. Her renderings of a multi-racial, multi-species crew - in more than name only - are beautifully realized. Again, there is no rating listed but this one is NC-17, and again has full frontal nudity and full arousal shown for any gender you can think of (and possibly a few that are new to you).
It isn't just bedroom behaviors that make for an M rating. Sometimes it's about the violence. In The Hephaestic Oath, Nerys Ghemor cringingly presents a battlefield triage and treatment moment worthy of Saving Private Ryan. Rated M.
Isadorabelle's Lost: Revisited shows the death of Jadzia Dax in an alternate universe. Rated MA for violence.
For Enterprise1981, Through a Glass Darkly continues the Deep Space 9 Mirror Universe story line. Bashir gets a visit from a shadowy agent with even more shadowy cohorts. Rated M.
Adult themes don't have to be so somber all the time! Sometimes, a little humor is in order.
Odon writes humorous slash. The Killer Dame is based on "Allo Allo". Rated M for femme slash.
Another of his stories is Attack of the 50-Ft. Half-Klingon, a terrific parody (guess the plot!). Rated M.
The upshot of it all is, in a universe (or a few universes) of IDIC, diversity and combinations can be thought of in the context of mature themes. There is so much out there!
Exploration should not be confined to just the stars. Sometimes it comes from what's in a lover's eyes. And for all of us, it can also come from within.
Happy fantasies to all, and to all a good night!