20 Star Trek Women You Should Know

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(Left to right) Andrea Martin as Ishka and Wallace Shawn as Grand Nagus Zek on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (Image via Paramount/CBS)

5. Ishka (Deep Space Nine)

The Ferengi are not easy to love. Introduced in the early seasons of The Next Generation, they were intended to be the next “big bad”, the vein of the Klingons or Romulans. However, early characterizations of Ferengi characters fell flat for many viewers. Frankly, they seemed far too goofy to make good villains. Instead, they were later superseded by the truly terrifying Borg species.

That didn’t mean the Ferengi were entirely gone, however. Throughout most of The Next Generation, they were little more than annoying, clownish antagonists. Once creators moved on to Deep Space Nine, however, the Ferengi became far more interesting. They were still used perhaps too often as comedic crutches, but storylines involving them produced interesting comments on gender, liberation, and protest.

To put it bluntly: the Ferengi are incredibly sexist. Men in their society run absolutely everything. In fact, women are rarely allowed outside the bounds of their home. They aren’t even given the privilege of clothing; a number of male Ferengi on Deep Space Nine express innate disgust at seeing a clothed “female”.

But there’s light at the end of this terrible, misogynistic tunnel. That light’s name is Ishka. She’s the mother of Quark, a series regular who runs a bar on the space station Deep Space Nine. While Quark is a classic Ferengi man – sexist and pretty obnoxious – his mother is a tried and true suffragette. While she has no qualms with the ultra-capitalist Ferengi focus on making money, Ishka also wants women to have an equal share. To that point, she dresses in clothes, travels outside the home, and even becomes a de facto advisor to the Ferengi leader, Grand Nagus Zek.

Said Cecily Adams, one of the actors who portrayed Ishka: “I love and adore [Ishka]. How can you not? She just doesn’t care what anybody thinks; she’s so committed to what she thinks is right, and everyone else be damned.”