I was watching the TOS episode “Court Martial” yesterday and was taken aback by the amount of then-impressive diversity on display. I hate to be all tick-the-boxes but was there another show in 1967 that featured a white man put on trial by a black man (who outranked him), and cross-examined by a woman prosecutor? Plus, bit parts by an Asian woman as a witness and an Indian judge (actually played by a Punjabi actor, not brown-adjacent like Khan).

The “forward-thinking” of the Federation is often pretty ham-handed in TOS, but this kind of blew me away.

I’m also noticing that TOS is pretty good about at least giving minor characters Latinx or Asian surnames. And, heck, did any American in 1967 even know that Swahili was a language before Uhura mentioned it in an episode?

(Apologies if this is old-fogey, un-woke thinking. I’m just pleasantly surprised the deeper I get into season one.)


22 thoughts on “I was watching the TOS episode “Court Martial” yesterday and was taken aback by the amount of then-impressive…

  1. We always think of the past as more conservative/less progressive than the present but whenever I go back and watch television and movies from the 60s-70s it’s obvious to me that we slid backwards since then and are still digging our way out. We can easily find issues or problems to be sure but I think when compared to a lot of modern media it’s no contest.

  2. My father (who was a WWII vet) used to argue, strongly, that the “problems” were with the wealthy sorts that controlled studios and ran for senate, not the average joe. Star Trek, he said, was TV catching up.

  3. Bret Gillan I’m reminded of recent deconstructing of the ’80s nerd-vs-jock trope, and how real diversity/oppression was traded for the fake oppression of said trope.

    DItto how “think-y” films of ’70s were replaced by morally black-and-white blockbusters of the… well, of every era since then.

  4. Yeah, going deep into horror movies was what made this really stark for me. We tend to think of horror movies as regressive because, frequently, they are, but when you go back and dig into some of the classic horror movies of the 60s and 70s you have a competent black protagonist (Night of the Living Dead), frank and open conversations about abortion (Black Christmas), etc. I was startled to find things like that in movies from “back then” when they were totally absent from the movies of my youth and the movies of the present.

  5. Mark Delsing Bret Gillan
    Places in the Heart; Country; Atlantic City; Dogs of War; Taps; etc.
    There was a LOT of good cinema saying important things in the ’80’s.
    Remember! The most popular films of the ’70’s were things like Grease and Jaws.

  6. Bret Gillan I’m absolutely ignorant of the era, but do you think the reason horror movies were (and sometimes still are?) so progressive is because they’re a genre that can get away with it? As in, horror has a penchant for being counter culture so those movies can bring this stuff to the table easier than, say, action flicks or dramas?

  7. Adam Day I don’t think it was just horror that was more progressive, that’s just the genre I know the most about. You definitely see it in horror movies of the 60s-70s, then the MPAA added PG-13 in the 80s and started being enforced by theaters, movies started becoming more conservative to appease the MPAA so they wouldn’t get slapped with more “adult” ratings and miss out on their main demographic which was teens. Maybe they wouldn’t slap a movie with a racially diverse cast with an R, but one which discussed things like abortion or had queer characters? I think horror movies were not the only genre impacted.