While Star Trek, like most products that come out of Hollywood, is a mans world… over the years and multiple series of Star Trek there have been some lovely accomplished female characters…
The Characters: The Enterprise Computer, The Voyager Computer, Federation Computer on Deep Space Nine, Deanna Troi’s Mother, and Nurse Christine Chapel (all played by Majel Barrett)
There’s too much to say here. I could, and should, probably write an entire article just on Majel Barrett.
In brief she was the voice of the Federation computers in the Star Trek series. Which aren’t exactly characters…
Majel was Deanna Troi’s mother, Lwaxana Troi, who made her first appearance in Star Trek The Next Generation and the character continued into Star Trek Deep Space 9 where she had a little love affair with our dear Constable Odo.
Christine Chapel was a nurse from Star Trek The Original Series and I really don’t have much to say about that character.
Majel Barrett… What is there to say about Majel Barrett.
She is a goddess. An actress of the highest quality. She was god’s gift to us all. Without this woman, this person, we would not have the Star Trek that we know today. She was the voice of the Enterprise D computer, the Voyager computer, the Federation computer on Deep Space 9… SHE IS THE COMPUTER VOICE WE ALL KNOW. THAT IS HER. MAJEL BARRETT.
As mentioned, Majel also had a role as Deanna Troi’s mother in The Next Generation and in Deep Space 9.
While her roles may seem small, may have been thought of as small at the time, and while people may not understand how important she really is… Majel Barrett provides a backbone to the entire Star Trek universe. She cumulatively and directly contributed so much to that Star Trek universe that if you were to take her out of the picture, it just wouldn’t be the same.
When you read about Majel, you get the impression that she was an intelligent and powerful woman. And while Majel is now gone, having passed way in 2008, her contributions to the Star Trek universe will live on… and I will always have respect for somebody so willing to do all the little things that make a grand piece of art what it is.
The Character: Captain Janeway (played by Kate Mulgrew)
You’ll either know her from Orange is the New Black or as Captain Janeway of the Starship Voyager. I personally hate how they wrote the character of Janeway. I think she’s a terrible leader. But, she was the first Star Trek series Captain that was female. That sets her apart on the “Notable women of Star Trek list”. Captain Janeway was portrayed as a decisive captain who stood up for the morality of the Federation and Star Fleet. She was not weak, not a push over, and not some hyper-feminized character. I suppose this was one of the characters that slipped past Hollywood’s simple-minded sexist fingers.
The Character: Deanna Troi (played by Marina Sirtis)
Deanna Troi was the loveable, attractive, soft voiced ships counselor… while Marina Sirtis was reportedly was chosen for the role of Deanna because of her good looks, she became a somewhat interesting part of the crew. She provided guidance throughout the series and helped the character Rej Barkley (from The Next Generation into his role in Voyager). She was the focus in several episodes, but she was mostly a secondary character. She wasn’t exactly shallow like most secondary characters are… but she wasn’t exactly a forceful or deep character in the Star Trek universe. She was also a strong character but ultimately she had nothing on Captain Janeway.
The Character: Seven of Nine (played by Jeri Ryan)
Seven of Nine replaced the previous secondary female character Kes (Jennifer Lien) in the 3rd season finally of Star Trek Voyager. She became a sort of miracle worker for the crew, transforming and shortening their time in the Delta quadrant with her Borg knowledge. Seven of Nine was an extraordinarily human character. By that I mean her character displayed a wide range emotional problems, problems fitting into social groups, and she was depicted sacrificing herself on several occasions for the benefit of others. Seven of Nine was a powerful and human character that I think broke the mold for female character depth in the Star Trek universe. Her uniform, outfits, however may have been purposely sexualized… But despite that her character wasn’t some fragile flower only to be looked at.
The Character: Lt. Commander Jadzia Dax (played by Terry Farrell)
Jadzia Dax was so… bad… Just such a terrible character. Her blatant displays of sexuality were annoying… not because of what they were, but because they just didn’t seem to fit into any of the story lines or the Star Trek setting in general. I had many “WHO CARES!???” moments when I was first introduced to the character of Jadzia Dax.
Her character was blatantly “strong” and sexual. Not sexualized mind, but sexual. Jadzia Dax was a very forward character supposedly because of the mix of the symbiant’s personality and her own personality.
At the very least her uniform was a normal Star Fleet issue!!! So that’s nice.
On character depth I think Jadzia is one of the more shallow characters…
And well I have little to say about her.
The Character: Female Shapeshifter (played by Salome Jens)
The Female Shapeshifter from Star Trek Deep Space 9 was the “face” of the Changelings throughout the entire series. Her first appearance was in the episode The Search: Parts 1 and 2. The character becomes more frequent as the series continues. You see quite a bit of the Female Shapeshifter in the last season of Deep Space 9.
Besides her and Odo, we rarely ever saw an actor play the role of a changeling. The Female Changeling was the prosecutor of the war in the Alpha Quadrant, acting as the supreme head of state throughout the ending seasons of the series. We do not know of her official role inside The Great Link (Changeling Society), we can only make assumptions based off of her always being the Changeling that interacts with everybody else in the show. But she always had a role of authority from the very first episode the character made an appearance in. The Female Shapeshifter also was the one who helped Odo begin to unlock his true potential as a Changeling.
Salome Jens role may not have been large but god bless her acting was amazing. Her voice was unique and you could feel that she was a changeling… which is kinda how you know she was a great actor. Salome is still around doing her ~ acting ~ work. You may even know her from something that isn’t Star Trek… Green Lantern perhaps…
You can read more about Salome Jens here: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0421300/?ref_=tt_cl_t9
The Character: Kai Winn (played by Louise Fletcher)
Kai Winn’s (Vedek Winn’s) first appearance as a character in Deep Space 9 was in the episode In The Hands of the Prophets (Season 1, Episode 19). At that time she was only a scheming Vedek attempting to position herself as the next Kai of Bajor.
Vedek Winn did actually become the Kai of Bajor (the world Deep Space 9 is adjacent to) in the show. This occurred in Season 2, Episode 24, The Collaborator.
Ultimately her role grew and grew and she became a supremely important character to the overall plot line of Deep Space 9. This occurred because the writers of the show shifted from a purely episodic structure to a mixture of episodic shows and an underlying long-term plot line starting around season 3.
As an actor I’d rank her skills with Salome Jens (who also appeared in DS9). She was fantastic at her role as the immoral, cruel, selfish Kai of Bajor. She played her role so well that to this day everybody still hates her… the Kai I mean. The Kai was so terrible because Louise Fletcher brought something to the character that made it complete. Without her I don’t think Deep Space 9 would really be the same.
The Women of the Star Trek Universe in Numbers
Honestly it’s a little surprising that there aren’t actually more women in the two later Star Trek series (Voyager and Deep Space 9) than were in the first two (Star Trek The Original Series and The Next Generation). Like you don’t even notice just how few women there were… until you dig into the cast list for each show on IMDB. It’s all a little surprising.
On The Original Series, only 2 of the top billed cast of 9 were women (22%).
On The Next Generation, 3 of the top billed cast of 9 were women (33%).
On Deep Space 9, only 2 of the top billed cast of 9 were women (22%).
On Voyager, an amazing 5 out of the top billed cast of 12 were women (41%).
On Deep Space 9, out of 41 recurring roles with 10 episodes or more 13 of them were female actors (31%).
On Voyager, out of 16 recurring roles with 10 episodes or more 8 of them were female actors (50%).
On The Next Generation, out of 17 recurring roles with 10 episodes or more 8 of them were female actors (47%).
I bet you didn’t think Deep Space 9 would come in dead last on female roles compared to The Next Generation and Voyager!
But it did… I believe this is because Deep Space 9 had a much more diverse set of characters due to the fact that it took place mostly on a space station.
Voyager did exceptionally well concerning female actors which I honestly hadn’t really noticed until now.
The Original Series is a joke while The Next Generation came in with an okay showing on female diversity.
Make of this what you will.
Anyways, times have changed… we can only hope that the new Star Trek series will include more recurring female actors than the previous series.
The Women of Star Trek – Part 1 by Jordan Wunderlich is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.