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Friday, 23 October 2015

Editorial: The Top 5 Star Trek Characters (Who Aren't Captains).

Editorial: The Top 5 Star Trek Characters
(Who Aren't Captains).

You know, I was originally going to do an editorial on why I've soured to the Star Trek films. I would've talked about the whitewashing, and the weird misogyny, and the storm of cliches, and how I don't think Star Trek really works as films - and I'll probably do that at some point, but on a day when I have food poisoning and a splitting headache, it's not ideal fare.

So, instead, let's do a lighter, fluffier Star Trek editorial, and count down the top five characters who aren't captains. Why aren't I including captains? Because if you had to make me pick between Picard, Janeway, and Sisko, I wouldn't be able to. Yes, I know that Sisko is technically a commander.

5. Julian Bashir, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Bashir might take a prize for 'character who undergoes most character development', because in the earliest episodes of DS9, it's really only his adorable pep that saves him from being totally unlikable, as he rambles on about 'real frontier medicine', acts incredibly self-important, and falls in love with Jadzia, a woman he barely knows. In fact, fans hated him enough that their distaste for him would sometimes get brought up in interviews with Alexander Siddig.

It was quite unusual, because Star Trek didn't usually do characters who were unlikable or poor role models up until that point.

While he changes slowly, he does change, though, becoming a much more pleasant, much more understanding person. In later series, when DS9 became about the Dominion War and characters started to slip into moral-greyness, it was usually Bashir (and O'Brien and Jadzia) taking the role of 'person who has to remind the rest of the crew of the morals and ethics they've momentarily forgotten.' It's a development that feels entirely natural, and in a way fits with Deep Space Nine as a very character-driven, introspective show.

Also, he's played by Alexander Siddig, and Alexander Siddig is great.

4. Q, Star Trek: The Next Generation & Star Trek: Voyager & Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Everyone loves Q. Everyone. The recurring fan favourite is best known for his interactions with the crew in TNG, but he makes appearances as a sometimes-antagonist sometimes-ally in three different series, along with being a major character in what is functionally just a video game about him, Star Trek: Borg.

While a large part of why he's popular is probably just that the combination of 'godlike powers' and 'John de Lancie' is an inspired, Q is also popular because, more than any other character, he demonstrates how different each captain is.

Picard puts up with him with impeccable dignity if not at least a tinge of irritation, and occasionally tries to teach him life lessons (one which Q sometimes even seems to learn); Janeway reluctantly finds herself on good terms with him, humouring his whims while still being straight-talking and honest with him, something that makes her more or less his go-to person when he's having problems with other Qs; and Sisko punches him in the face, and then Q never appears in another DS9 episode ever again.

3. Tuvok, Star Trek: Voyager.

Tuvok is the most sarcastic character in all of Star Trek, and he does it while being totally stony-faced all of the time. He's so sarcastic he makes Spock seem earnest and forthright, and that's glorious.

I'll be honest, I don't really have any additional points to this, but if you don't love Tuvok's endless supply of world-weary, dry snark, then I really don't know what to tell you.

2. Jadzia Dax, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Jadzia is, in a way, the antithesis of every other Star Trek science officer. While Data is a tiny, delicate labradroid, Harry Kim was extremely generic, and Spock was a sharp, logical Vulcan, Jadzia was canny, warm, and playful (and, as is usual for Star Trek science officers, usually the one with the solution to whatever glowy space glow they had encountered that week).

What made Jadzia really interesting, though, was her Dax symbiote - a sapient being that had lived in a dozen different hosts before Jadzia, its presence led to an interesting situation where Jadzia was essentially the melding of two (and a dozen) people. The Deep Space Nine writers were always keen to use that to full effect, having Sisko be an old friend of Dax while simultaneously being a new friend of Jadzia, and giving her no shortage of episodes where she had to struggle with her symbiote's memories of its past lives.

The Trill remain one of the most interesting species in Star Trek for me, and Jadzia's character is a big part of that. While I never really warmed to her successor, Ezri, in the same way, I would love to see more Trill characters in Star Trek media.

1. Data, Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Data was so beloved by TNG's writers that you could be forgiven for thinking he was the main character, as he got more focus episodes and critically important roles in ensemble episodes than just about any other member of the crew, bar possibly Picard.

But it's not difficult to see why: Data being an android meant that he had interesting plotlines about the nature of humanity, the rights of artificial intelligences, and the ability of an unemotional being to relate to others - but he was also an example of that most rare type of character, a character who is purely and wholly good while still being engaging to watch.

In many respects, Data was just a walking, silver labrador, only instead of retrieving sticks or water fowl he usually retrieved the solution to whatever the swirly space swirl of that particular episode was.

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