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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sci-Fi Sunday: The Sisters Of Star Trek

I come from a Star Trek family. It's the only show my uncle and mother could watch together without scrapping. After I was born, my earliest sci-fi memories stem from mom's obsession with The Next Generation. I would merely pass through the room while she was in her viewing trance or, keep track of who's who while doing homework at the dining room table. I would even spend allowance money during Christmas time on Next Generation action figures that she would proudly display on her desk at work.

I didn't become a fan, but I grew a deep appreciation for genre television as a whole. Star Trek is a universe that is as vast in its storytelling as it is its characters. The Black female characters have had quite the impact and consistent visibility. I don't feel certain the the women below represent the full span of women of color in the Star Trek universe, but it's a great launching pad for discussion some of the more well known faces that have helped generations of Black girls into sci-fi feel inspired.

Nichelle Nichols as Lieutenant Nyota Uhura

Star Trek (1966-1969), Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (1982), Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (1984), Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)

Indisputably the most popular character of color out of the Star Trek franchise, Nichols' portrayal of Uhura was one of the first breakthrough African American characters on television and influenced generations of leaders in science, civil rights activism, and sci-fi fans.

Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan

Star Trek: The Next Generation (1988-1993)

Guinan was a bartender on the Enterprise, an El-Aurian (a race of listeners), and close companion to Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart). She had a mysterious, wise demeanor and a rich backstory that made her a full and complete character in the series. Guinan's presence spread the span of the show's run, appearing in a total of 28 episodes.

Victoria Dillard as the Ballerina

Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987) 

Appearing in a first season episode, "Where no One Has Gone Before," Dillard played a command division ensign who desired to be a ballerina and entered a section of space where that desire became a reality.

Lanei Chapman as Ensign Sariel Rager

Star Trek: The Next Generation (1991-1992)

In her few appearances, Rager has had quite the adventure as a ship pilot and abductee. Doesn't sound like much, but considering the odyssey Star Trek is known for being, her characters feat in those positions made her an important element in the story's arc for her four episode appearance.

Penny Johnson as Kasidy Yates

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1995-1999)

Not only the eventual wife of Captain Benjamin Sisko, but also a freighter captain and baseball player. Her high profile transporter reputation did land her in some hot water here and there as those who would do wrong used her status for their own motives. Despite it all, Sisko and Yates' relationship moved forward, but not without its share of trials and eventually sorrow. This is probably one of the first and only times 'Black love' played a large role in the Star Trek universe.

Fran Bennett as Fleet Admiral Shanthi

Star Trek: The Next Generation (1991)

Shanthi was intricate in certain decisions made with Captain Picard during the Klingon Civil War. Not much is known about her but she seemed to be a noble leader.

April Grace as Ensign Maggie Hubbell

Star Trek: The Next Generation (1990-1992)

Mostly known for being a transporter and unfortunately not much else. With such a broad universe and mythos to cover, it's not uncommon to have many characters are who only there to aid the larger story and main characters. Maggie was one of the casualties of this crack.

Deborah Lacey as Sarah Sisko

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1998-1999)

Sarah was Captain Benjamin's mother who appeared in the show's final season. She played a significant role in revealing and aiding Benjamin in his final destiny to defeat the Pah-wraiths.

Zoe Saldana as Nyota Uhura

Star Trek (2009) & Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

The Star Trek update in film form has been very divisive. The same can be said for Saldana's performance and then some. Personally, she fulfilled the role for the 21st century and new audiences. She didn't shine nor offend any sense of enjoyment I received, mainly from the 2009 film. Into Darkness for me was just a miss that I barely recollect.

Aisha Hinds as Bridge Officer Darwin

Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

Showing itself to be the truly unremarkable film I found it to be, I didn't even remember Hinds being on deck. Sure, her role was small but I'm not one to forget a face easily. She replaced Chekov in his former role and aligned herself with Sulu against Spock's orders to abandon ship.

Feel free to fill me in on more of these ladies and anyone I might have missed! I'm a Star Trek novice at best.

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  1. Far as TV goes, the only ST I paid attention to was the original series, so of course I know Nichols. She is flat out iconic. Of course, I also know Saldana took over the roles since I've seen both of Abrams' films. Other than that the only character I was aware of was Whoopi Goldberg's, but I couldn't tell you anything about her. Glad to see there were a few more who figured into the canon. Thanks for the education.

  2. I'm more of a classic Trek/DS9 person myself, so your article gave me a lot of info about Next Gen. A few other actresses were Janet MacLachlan as Lieutenant Charlene Masters in the classic Trek episode "The Alternative Factor." In movies Alfre Woodard as Lily Sloan in First Contact and in ST IV, Madge Sinclair as Captain of the USS Saratoga. Remembered the actresses, but I had to check the ST Wiki to get the character names.

  3. Cool read, good job:)

    Felicia M Bell as Jennifer Sisko on DS9

    Golden Brooks as Alicia Travers on ST: Enterprise

  4. Leslie Silva as Danica Erickson on
    ST: Enterprise

    Kristen Ariza as one of the Augments on ST: Enterprise

  5. The actress Renée Jones, who played Lt. Aquiel Unari, had an entire Next Gen episode devoted to her relationship with Geordi. The episode, from season six, was appropriately named "Aquiel".

  6. It's a shame you did not include the wonderful Janet MacLachlan in the TOS episode "The Alternative Factor" - MacLachlan was a popular actress on TV at the time, I saw her on a lot of shows and she was always a terrific screen presence. She always stood out. What is unique about her Star Trek character, Charlene Masters, is that it is the only time on the show where a female officer outranked male officers in her dept.

  7. Because Avery Brooks was vocal about wanting to be paired with Black women you had:

    Jennifer Sisko, his first wife who was killed during Locutus's (Borged out Picard) attack on Wolf 359. She's also Jake's mom and the Prophets helped Ben heal from this traumatic event.

    Fenna/Nidell from Second Sight DS9, played by Sali Richardson Windfield.


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