On TOS Aliens of the Week and Race

Photo of Starlog article "An Interview with Fred Freiberger"

This is from a 1980 interview TOS Season 3 Producer Fred Freiberger did with Starlog Magazine (Issue 39)

Starlog Magazine: [David] Gerrold also criticized the lack of a racially balanced crew on the Enterprise.

Fred Freiberger: Nonsense. The second or third show I did starred France Nuyen, who is an oriental (“Elaan of Troyius”). We did “Let that Be Your Last Battlefield,” about racial prejudice. Sticking to this racial thing, if we were going to other planets, seeing black people there would be kind of nutty, right? We would see green or blue. It wouldn’t be science fiction if they were black.

If you’re talking about a show where you have six or eight format characters, you’re talking about putting some guy who is black in a Star Trek uniform in the background somewhere? A part that has some meaning, that’s something else again.

Freiberger’s totally brushing off the issue and attempting to defend TOS’s record kind of blew my mind. This was 1980. He could’ve easily said, “We could’ve done better”. But no…

You can read my review of “Elaan of Troyius” to see why I think it’s anything but racially progressive.

The excuse about how it wouldn’t have had “meaning” to put more visible minority actors in the background is similar to what later creators said about why they didn’t have gay or lesbian background characters. Since the alternative was no diversity in background or “meaningful” roles, I’d say it would’ve still been an improvement.

More than that, how incredibly ridiculous is his argument about why black people can’t play aliens because viewers expect our aliens to look  more alien? I’m assuming he forgot the numerous episodes that feature white people as “aliens” distinguished by little more than different makeup and wardrobe (and the white people playing Native Americans in “The Paradise Syndrome”).

Let’s take a look at “aliens” in Freiberger’s Season 3.

Behold the Eymorg from “Spock’s Brain”:

Kirk talks to three "alien" women who look exactly like white human women

The Romulans in “The Enterprise Incident”:

Two white actors with pointed ears and eyebrows

The white people-in-brownface Klingons from “The Day of the Dove”:

Kang and Mara

The Fabrini from “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky”:

Fabrini woman, white and very human-looking

“The Empath”, supposedly an alien from Gamma Vertis IV:

The Empath, another clearly white human woman

The Platonians from “Plato’s Stepchildren”:

Two Platonians who could've stepped out of a 1960s movie of ancient Rome

The Scalosians from “Wink of an Eye”:

Scalosians

Losira, a Kalandan from “That Which Survives”:

Losira, white woman in dramatic eye makeup

The Gideons in “The Mark of Gideon”:

Three white guys around a table

Zarabeth, a Sarpeidon from “All Our Yesterdays”:

Zarabeth, a white woman in a leather minidress

The Ardanons from “The Cloud Minders”:

Ardanon white people

And a Tiburonian and a Catullan from “The Way to Eden”:

White human (but alien) space hippies

So according to Freiberger, white people with wigs and eyeshadow = believable aliens. But black people as aliens = nutty.

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