Top 10 Star Trek Characters, from Spock to Picard
Star Trek has been going strong for 56 years. Morality plays dressed up as classic sci-fi stories, the episodes are made possible by the characters. While other sci-fi franchises depend on action and metaphor, Star Trek is essentially character driven. We as fans truly invest in these imaginary people, sometimes using them as role models to look up to. If we don’t go that far, they’re at least entertaining.
With the final season of Picard underway, here’s a look back at 10 of the best and most popular people the franchise has to offer.
10. Michael Burnham
Michael Burnham (Star Trek: Discovery) is a kick-ass woman of color and a wicked smart xenoanthropologist, but she also has a really solid backstory. Raised by Spock’s parents after her real folks were killed by Klingons, she learns the ways of Vulcan and straddles the line between two worlds, much like her foster brother.
She quickly rises through the ranks at Starfleet, eventually serving on the USS Shenzou. Her decision to mutiny against her beloved captain and strike the Klingons leads to disgrace and a prison sentence.
She is then recruited onto the USS Discovery, where her bravery and scientific skills lead to reinstatement and honor. Not since Deep Space Nine‘s Nog have we had a character develop so much over the course of a series. And the thing that makes it work is the top-notch performance of Sonequa Martin-Green, expertly conveying equal measures of loss and hope.
Worf has been in more Star Trek movies and episodes than any other character. Before he came along in The Next Generation, Klingons were mostly bloodthirsty hotheads with a penchant for plagiarizing the works of Shakespeare. But with Worf came a more developed Klingon culture, a system of honor, and a wealth of rich storylines.
Orphaned by a Romulan attack, Worf was raised by human parents on Earth. He received a vision from Kahless, the Klingon Messiah, and was convinced that he would do something no Klingon had done before. He joined Starfleet, and like several other characters, toed the line between two cultures.
In addition to his incredible combat skill, Worf shows loyalty, determination, and righteous morality.
8. Gul Dukat
The Cardassians are one of the franchise’s more interesting villain species. Despite their regal and complex attitude, they were viewed as brutal and suspicious by the rest of the galaxy.
No Cardassian was more feared than Gul Dukat (Deep Space Nine). He led the Cardassian military for a few years during their occupation of Bajor, which crippled Bajoran culture and left millions dead. He saw himself as a fair man, even as a savior. But beneath his calm, polite exterior beat the heart of a merciless man who wanted to keep the Bajorans down forever. He just couldn’t stand it when they became an important power in the quadrant, much less when their spirituality became integral to the fate of the galaxy.
Dukat is one of the most complicated villains in science fiction. He had good in his heart, but he rejected it all for power. His reward was damnation.
7. Seven of Nine
In season 4 of Star Trek: Voyager, the writers added a new character to attract a wider audience. Seven of Nine, formerly Annika Hansen, was a human assimilated by the Borg at a young age. She spent years as a mindless drone before being liberated by the Voyager crew.
Logical to a fault, she struggles to regain her humanity. At first, she wants nothing to do with humans — she was separated from the Borg Collective involuntarily. But eventually, the guidance of Captain Janeway and friendships with the crew lead to the return of a scared child who then evolves into a kind and headstrong woman.
She was brought back in the newest Star Trek series, Picard, now more human than robotic. Also a fierce warrior, her arc is very engaging.
6. Captain Janeway
Another Voyager character, Captain Kathryn Janeway was the first woman to lead a Star Trek series. Portrayed by Kate Mulgrew, she led her crew through the Delta Quadrant, an area of space 70,000 light years from Earth.
What makes Captain Janeway interesting are her selfless and unconventional decisions. Voyager was tracking a splinter cell called the Maquis that split from the Federation to fight the Cardassians. They were pulled into the Delta Quadrant by an alien being, and she could have used his device to return home.
Instead, she chose to destroy it so that a species called the Kazon couldn’t use its power to oppress the Ocampa. She essentially stranded her whole crew decades away from their families, which led to some complex emotions. Despite her guilt, she never doubted herself, and she showed herself to be one of the strongest captains in all of Starfleet.
Other bold decisions from Janeway included accepting the Maquis as part of her crew and forging a temporary alliance with the Borg. The latter was unheard of — no other captain would have thought it possible.
5. Dr. Leonard McCoy
Also known as “Bones,” Dr. McCoy was the first doctor of the main cast in the franchise. An adept surgeon with a dry wit, he often referred to himself as a “simple country doctor” but he was definitely being modest. He discovered cures for diseases, performed a Vulcan brain transplant, and made numerous attempts to sacrifice himself on behalf of his crew.
As the Enterprise made its way through the galaxy, Bones was there to perform surgery, encourage his captain, and spar with Mr. Spock. Their banter was often hilarious. Spock found McCoy highly illogical, while McCoy saw Spock as a “pointy-eared, green blooded” sourpuss that sucked the fun out of everything.
And where would Kirk be without Bones there to say his favorite catchphrase: “He’s dead, Jim.” Lots of people died on that voyage.
Mr. Spock is the face of Star Trek. His Vulcan salute, actually invented by actor Leonard Nimoy and inspired by Jewish ritual, is the franchise’s calling card.
Vulcans are the main species that comes to mind when we think of Star Trek. They are a logical people that seem to lack emotion, but this is a misconception. In reality, they are more emotional than most other species. To prevent their society’s total destruction, they embraced logic and began to think almost like computers.
But Spock is half-human, which creates a struggle in his soul. Every now and then a flash of emotion will remind the audience that this character is way more complex than he seems, and it even gives him a kind of sadness. These instances are among the best moments of The Original Series. Plus, he got a whole “death and resurrection” arc that remains one of the top events in movie history.
3. Captain James Kirk
Actually, there is one character that might be even more synonymous with Star Trek, depending on which fan you talk to. Captain James Tiberius Kirk was the most famous captain of the Enterprise, revered by the Federation as a skilled diplomat and brilliant tactician. His methods were diverse; he could talk or fight his way through any situation, and he was an expert on bluffing enemies.
No Star Trek character is as courageous as Kirk. His wry smile, dynamic expressions, and love of action make him a memorable character for anyone who has ever seen an episode. He’s a hero for the ages, and his morality and appreciation of culture make him even more inspiring.
2. Captain Benjamin Sisko
Benjamin Sisko started out as a commander on Deep Space Nine. He was in charge of the eponymous space station, and his life was riddled with loss and anger. But things changed when he had a religious experience with the Prophets and became almost a messiah of sorts for the oppressed Bajorans.
He was a key figure in the Dominion War, likely the most destructive war in Federation history. Promoted to Captain, he became even more influential to the fate of the Alpha Quadrant. But what really makes Sisko stand out are his familial relationships. His scenes with his father and son are quite emotional, and they make the story incredibly rich and realistic.
With his deep voice and intimidating presence, Sisko is a character to look up to. This was all made possible by the master actor under the uniform, Avery Brooks. He gave us some truly riveting scenes involving loss, racism, personal growth, and many other complicated subjects.
1. Captain Jean-Luc Picard
A bald Frenchman who talks in an English accent for some reason doesn’t sound like a legendary Star Trek character. The previous major captain the franchise had was Kirk, a rough-and-tumble player who would fight rather than talk and took all kinds of risks he probably shouldn’t have taken as captain. But the extremely cultured, empathetic, and intelligent Picard quickly became just as essential to Star Trek.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard is the best diplomat of the franchise, often stopping wars and saving planets with his wisdom as a mediator. He has the heart of an explorer, studying both the past and the present through his archaeological interest and his captaincy. He is guided by an unwavering morality, and he’s got an ample supply of courage and determination.
Any of the major captains could be number one on this list, but Picard seems to have connected with audiences on a wider scale. He’s also the only captain still appearing regularly in live-action thanks to a whole Paramount Plus series named after him.
Which Star Trek character is your pick for the absolute best? Share your thoughts with other fans at side.show/geekgroup, and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow!