20 Star Trek Women You Should Know

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LOS ANGELES – JANUARY 19: Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Nyota Uhura in the STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES episode, ‘Arena.’ Original air date January 19, 1967. Image is a screen grab. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

Look to the future with a guide to the greatest women from one of the oldest sci-fi franchises – Star Trek

Star Trek is essentially a hopeful vision of the future. In both the original and reboot of the series, humanity has managed to survive a sometimes horrific past and stake a claim amongst the stars. In the show, we are (generally) peaceable, fair, and more interested in justice and exploration than making war. Of course, once show creator Gene Roddenberry retired and eventually passed away, the succeeding series took on a consistently darker tone. Still, the central conceit of Star Trek is that our species will make it past our Earthbound trials and graduate to an interstellar existence guided in spirit by curiosity and compassion.

Star Trek is  often at its best when it’s arguing for a progressive worldview. In it, women play as much of a role as men, achieve much the same acclaim, and rarely have to worry about being dismissed or degraded simply because of their gender or presentation.

The shows aren’t perfect, of course. The original series, which aired from 1966 to 1969, has some of the most egregious examples when it comes to sexism. In “Turnabout Intruder”, Janice Lester unsuccessfully tries to take over the Enterprise from Captain James Kirk, driven mad by the unfairness of the command structure, which she argues is biased against women.

On the surface, it sounds like a provocative episode, but in practice it’s stilted. Lester is defeated and is quickly bundled off to a 23rd-century insane asylum. No one appears to contemplate how sexism and misogyny may have helped her there. Kirk doesn’t even deliver a grandiose speech, as he is wont to do. They merely seem to shrug their shoulders and carry on with their lives as before.

The franchise could also stand to write more queer characters, women of color, and transgender women as well. However, throughout the course of the show’s history, Star Trek writers, actors, and directors have created some truly admirable female characters. While I hope that the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery series (set to air May 2017) will do more in regards to female representation, there are already quite a few women of note in the franchise.

What follows is by no means a definitive list, and it is certainly not a ranking of characters. Also, while I’ll concentrate largely on the television shows and movies, I’m not adverse to dipping into novels and comics from time to time.