Star Trek: Discovery Bechdel-Wallace Test Results (Seasons 1-4)

I stopped running the Bechdel-Wallace Test on Star Trek episodes after a few episodes of Discovery because it seemed like every one was going to pass. But I started to wonder whether there was still some use in running the test anyway, especially after reading “Star Trek: Discovery is a Show Full of Women Who Don’t Interact” at crudereviews.net. The author did some really interesting analysis on the networks each character has in Season 1 of Disco and it made me want to continue adding to my own dataset for the record and to found future analysis.

As a reminder, in order for an episode to pass, it must include:

  • Two named women characters
  • Who talk to each other
  • About something other than a man

I don’t apply other conditions, like the length of time that a conversation needs to last. Zane Dax has done this and shared their data at rpubs, as well as correlating with director gender, if you’re interested!

Overall thoughts

I’ve always noted that the Bechdel-Wallace Test has limitations, but Discovery was the first time in applying the test to Star Trek that I was forced to really think about how it fails to account for anyone who falls outside the gender binary. Even in their first episodes, when Adira was referred to as “she,” I didn’t count their conversations with women like Michael as passing the test. When Adira asserts their pronouns, they say they’ve always felt that way, so I didn’t want to misgender the character by way of the test. Under the Bechdel-Wallace Test, my only options were to count Adira as a woman or not a woman, so I chose the latter, reasoning that it doesn’t necessarily mean the other speakers are men.

Another character I needed to think about was Zora. I’m inclined to count Zora as a woman because she’s a named character, voiced by a woman, gendered as “she” by the rest of the crew, and in the short treks “Calypso” we’re given reason to believe she embraces a feminine gender identity. But as I’ve noted below, in most episodes where Zora has meaningful conversations with women like Michael, it’s not the only conversation between women, so the episode would pass anyway.

On the plus side, I had significantly fewer episodes that just barely passed or that were close to the line (though I’ve noted the few that were). When I analyzed shows like Deep Space Nine and Voyager I included two percentages. The main set of results were based on a requirement that the two women clearly addressed each other, even in group scenes. The adjusted results allowed a pass for any episode where two women characters had back-to-back lines about something other than a man, as in a bridge scene where two women speak but it’s not clear whether it’s to each other or the group. It’s so nice to feel like we’re not in the era of Star Trek where you had to really split hairs to pass an episode.

Season two had the most episodes that were close to the line, because Michael’s arc was so intertwined with her search for her brother, Spock. Still, they all passed in the end.

There were also often many examples of conversations between women in episodes, so in my notes on episodes that pass, I’m only noting the first example in the episode, not every conversation.

Results

Total: 96% Pass


Season 1: 93% Pass

Saru, Burnham and Captain Georgiou on the bridge of the Shenzhou
EpisodePass?Notes
The Vulcan HelloPassBurnham and Georgiou talk about their mission
Battle at the Binary StarsPassIn flashback, Georgiou and Burnham meet for the first time and talk about the Shenzhou
Context is for KingsPassBurnham and Psycho talk about how many people Burnham killed (Psycho is named in the credits but not on screen). Burnham also talks to Landry and Tilly.
The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s CryPassBurnham has work exchanges with Landry and Tilly
Choose Your PainPassBurnham and Tilly
LethePass Burnham has conversations with Tilly and Amanda
Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go MadFail Burnham and Tilly talk at the party about Tyler and the kind of guys Tilly is into
Si Vis Pacem, Para BellumPassL’Rell and Cornwell yell at each other
Into the Forest I goPassBurnham and Cornwell
Despite YourselfPassBurnham and Tilly talk about the Klingon data core and how Tilly needs to behave as Captain Killy
The Wolf InsidePassBurnham talks to Mirror Detmer about firing torpedoes
Vaulting AmbitionPassBurnham has dinner with Mirror Georgiou, who accuses her of treason
What’s Past is ProloguePassBurnham plots with Mirror Georgiou
The War Without, the War WithinPassL’Rell and Cornwell talk about the ongoing war
Will You Take My Hand?PassBurnham quizzes Emperor Georgiou to try to unmask her as an imposter

Season 2: 100% Pass

Spock, Burnham and Pike talk on the Discovery bridge
EpisodePass?Notes
BrotherPassAmanda introduces herself to a young Michael
New EdenPassTilly talks to May
Point of LightPassTilly tells May she’s not real. Burnham congratulates Tilly on her run time.
An Obol for CharonPassTilly introduces herself to Reno
Saints of ImperfectionPassMichael and Georgiou talk about Section 31.
The Sound of ThunderPassMichael and Tilly talk about the sphere data
Light and ShadowsPass (close!)Repeats a scene of Amanda and Michael’s introduction from “Brother.” Amanda and Michael talk, but about Sarek and Spock. Barely passes due to two conversations between Burnham and Georgiou that are mostly but not exclusively about Spock – also about Georgiou’s mom and Starfleet.
If Memory ServesPassAdmiral Patar has an exchange with Georgiou. Vina explains to Michael who she is.
Project DaedalusPassTilly talks to Cornwell but Pike interrupts before she replies. Airiam watches a conversation between Tilly, Owosekun and Detmer about kadis-kot.
The Red angelPassCornwell and Georgiou exchange lines about the approach to the Red Angel Situation
Perpetual InfinityPassYoung Michael talks to her mom about the light in the sky
Through the Valley of ShadowsPassMichael and Amanda have a conversation about Michael’s mom
Such Sweet SorrowPass Po and Tilly talk about ice cream.
Such Sweet Sorrow IIPassDetmer and Number One discuss what Burnham needs to do to succeed

Season 3: 92% Pass

The Discovery crew hugs Burnham after they find her and Book
EpisodePass?Notes
That Hope is You, Part IFailMichael only interacts with men. The only other woman only talks to Book.
Far From HomePassOwosekun checks on Detmer after their crash landing and urges her to go to Sickbay
People of EarthPassDetmer asks Michael how many died in the Burn and she replies. After the credits, Burnham and Tilly have a longer conversation about missing home.
Forget Me Not Pass (barely)Barely passes when Tilly and Owosekun urge Detmer to do a haiku at dinner.
Die Trying Pass Burnham welcomes Lt. Willa aboard. Burnham talks to Nhan about the seed vault.
ScavengersPassBurnham and Georgiou talk about their mission to recovery the black box.
Unification III PassTilly and Burnham talk about science stuff and how to pinpoint the source of the Burn
SanctuaryPassBurnham and Georgiou talk in Sickbay about her condition and Georgiou’s mother. Culber is present.
Terra Firma Part IPassMirror Georgiou and Tilly talk in the mess hall. Georgiou is aggressive about how Tilly is not Killy, and Tilly offers support if she’s struggling.
Terra Firma Part IIPassMirror Georgiou talks to Burnham in her holding cell about whether Georgiou has gone soft and is intending to retire
Su’KalPassBurnham talks with Tilly to help her prepare to command the ship during her and Saru’s absence
There is a Tide…Pass Osyraa and Kanak talk about their attack on Discovery’s computer systems
That Hope is You, Part II PassBurnham and Osyraa negotiate over getting the Federation to pull their ships back from Discovery

Season 4: 100% Pass

Rillak and Burnham
EpisodePass?Notes
Kobiyashi MaruPassBurnham reassures Tilly she deserved her promotion
AnomalyPassT’Rina offers Ni’Var’s science help to the Federation, and Rillak and Burnham thank her
Choose to Live PassRillak and T’Rina discuss the Qowat Milat nun and Federation membership
All is PossiblePassRillak talks to Burnham about T’Rina and finding a compromise in the membership negotiations
The Examples Pass Burnham gives Nilsson an order and she replies. More significantly, Burnham talks to Zora in the turbolift about her feelings, then Burnham talks to Patri Doxica when she returns her family orb.
Stormy WeatherPass Burnham talks to Zora, then to Owosekun and Detmer on the bridge
…But to Connect PassMichael orders Zora to give them the coordinates of Species 10-C. If you don’t count Zora, Burnham also speaks to Ndoye and they congratulate each other on their promotions.
All InPass Burnham talks to Owosekun about why she brought her on the mission
Rubicon PassBurnham talks to Nhan about why she isn’t still on Barzan
The Galactic BarrierPassBurnham talks to Rillak about not questioning her in front of the crew
RosettaPassBurnham talks to Rillak about who needs to go on the mission, then to Ndoye about why they are seeking a diplomatic option
Species Ten-CPassBurnham talks to Rillak about the message they’re trying to send to the 10-C
Coming HomePassBurnham talks to Rillak and Ndoye about the person who sabotaged the ship.

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