Star Trek: The Original Series Bechdel-Wallace Test Results

Recently some movie theatres in Sweden have started rating movies based on the Bechdel Test. Seeing this being spread around the interwebz made me realize it was time to update you on my project of applying the Bechdel Test to Star Trek episodes (for background on that, see my original post on the subject).

While there’s still a long ways to go, I realized I could speed up the process by studying episode transcripts. That’s meant I’ve been able to finish testing every episode of Star Trek: TOS!

As a reminder, to pass the test, the episode must meet three conditions:

  1. There must be two named women characters
  2. Who talk to each other
  3. About something other than a man

Here are the overall numbers:

  • Of the 79 Original Series episodes, only 7 pass the Bechdel Test (8.8%)
  • The original pilot “The Cage” is not counted here but also fails the test

TOS episodes that pass the Bechdel Test:

  • 2X08 “The Changeling” – Chapel helps Uhura to speak.
  • 2X12 “I, Mudd” – Uhura talks to the Alice bots about immortality.
  • 2X21 “By Any Other Name” – Yeoman Thompson asks Kelinda abou the voyage her people made.
  • 3X05 “And the Children Shall Lead” – Chapel asks Mary how she liked ice cream from a computer.
  • 3X18 “The Lights of Zetar” – Mira asks Chapel what she’s recording.
  • 3X19 “The Cloud Minders” – Vanna and Droxine argue about Troglyte rights.
  • 3X24 “Turnabout Intruder” – This one is hard to arbitrate because do you count Janice Lester in Kirk’s body as a woman, or Kirk in Janice Lester’s body? Either way, though, this episode passes. Kirk in Lester’s body talks to Chapel and Lester in Kirk’s body talks to Lieutenant Lysa.

Episodes that are near passes but I believe don’t quite meet all 3 conditions:

  • 1X07 “Charlie X” – At one point Rand encourages Uhura to play her song again, but Uhura doesn’t reply so they aren’t talking to each other.
  • 1X09 “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” – Chapel and Andrea talk, but clearly only about men.
  • 1X27 “The Alternative Factor” – Masters and an unnamed woman talk about coffee in the recreation room.
  • 2X05 “Amok Time” – T’Pau and T’Pring briefly exchange lines, but I’d argue it’s about men since T’Pau is asking T’Pring if she is ready to be the property of the man who wins the duel.
  • 3X03 “The Paradise Syndrome” – Miramanee talks to Chapel but only about Kirk. Miramanee also talks to another woman but she’s an unnamed character.
  • 3X06 “Spock’s Brain” – Kara and Luma talk, but only about the male characters.
  • 3X14 “That Which Survives” – Uhura and Rahda have lines next to each other but they are both independently talking to Spock, not to each other.
  • “The Cage” – Vina, Colt and Number One speak to each other, but only about Pike.

If anyone wants an excuse to watch more Star Trek and would like to help me gather data for Bechdel Testing the other series (I’m most looking for help with Seasons 2-4 of Enterprise, Seasons 5-7 of TNG and all of DS9) send me a message here on Tumblr or on Twitter @jarrahpenguin.

*Note in response to a Tumblr comment by cracked-stars-shining: the idea that the conversation should have a minimum time I believe was an addition suggested by Anita Sarkeesian in a Feminist Frequency video (although she actually suggested 60 seconds). I like the suggestion but it’s not part of the original Bechdel Test and it was suggested for movies so you’d have to adjust for TV episodes. I’m not planning on doing that for Trek because it would take forever to go through and time the scenes. That said, I totally agree the test has its limitations and this shows them.

On the bright side, the fact that it’s such a low, low standard means it’s hard to argue there isn’t a problem when so few things (even today) pass.

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