Everyone talks about how sci-fi uses outlandish settings to veil their social commentary. The examples are often laughable, though. I can’t imagine anybody watching Star Trek‘s “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” and thinking “haha, what a ripping adventure which clearly has nothing at all to do with the civil rights movement!” Star Trek used the sci-fi excuse with people who didn’t understand the show, yes, but it goes deeper than those obvious plotlines. They — the showrunners, writers, actors — took more trouble than that. They slipped overtly-political stories in between wacky-space-hijinx episodes so people wouldn’t get too worried. They even popped a euphemistic gay-rights speech into an episode that was otherwise as boring as an episode can possibly be (“Metamorphosis”).
There are more examples of how hidden social statements actually worked, but the relevant one at the moment is how slightly-sexualized costumes for the female characters allowed them to disguise how revolutionary those characters’ positions really were. I talked about this way back in May before Comparative Geeks went self-hosted, but I’m now expanding on it because although I covered the recurring characters decently well, some of Star Trek’s edgiest stuff came from its guest stars. My favorites are T’Pau of Vulcan, the Romulan commander, and Dr. Miranda Jones.