Women of sci fi #74: Captain Kathryn Janeway

Tonight’s contribution is from a new visitors/contributor to the site Elveray. Thanks so much, and here’s to further collaboration. She is filling a gap I have long been aware of.

Captain Kathryn Janeway Star Trek:Voyager

Captain Janeway is a unique phenomenon in the Star Trek Universe. There were female captains and even admirals in ST before her – but, you see, they never had enough appearances to get noticed. The very fact they finally give us a main character female captain is an improvement. Perhaps the idea doesn’t always work smoothly. Perhaps the show’s authors just can’t handle it sometimes. But let’s get to Janeway.

Kathryn Janeway finds herself in quite a difficult situation: on her very first mission as captain her ship is captured by a mysterious alien force and taken to the other side of the galaxy, thousands of lightyears from Earth. Under the circumstances that would make almost anyone give up, she is not only ready to take one-of-the-million chance to get her ship and crew back home, but she also is quite determined to keep the highest ideals of the United Federation on her ship. As she travels through an uncharted part of the galaxy and faces challenges the Federation doesn’t even know to exist, she shows herself as bold, intelligent, determined, resourceful and able to handle all kinds of emergency situations. She also shows excellent diplomatic skills, making contacts and negotiating treaties with alien races. Her interaction with her crew is also remarkable, even though she can sometimes give you an impression of a “mother” (remember me saying that the authors of the show do not always handle the idea of a female captain very well? That’s it.) but still, she does her best to keep them from going awry. She can manage battle too: she defeats enemies as deadly as the Borg or the Species 8472 and she is very good with a phaser rifle. (An interesting fact about Janeway: she actually managed to take out the Borg, while the male captains Picard and Sisko were only lucky to escape from the Collective with their lives.)  She gets her heart broken when her husband unscrupulously dismisses her as missing in action, but she won’t let this break her will. She has complexity, she faces hard choices, demonstrates remarkable compassion and understanding, and as far as I am concerned, she represents a positive depiction of a woman in SciFi.

And she is by the way the first explorer of the Delta Quadrant. Or, at least, the first one who actually came back in one piece.


There are three things to remember about being a starship captain: keep your shirt tucked in, go down with the ship, and never abandon a member of your crew.

100 women of sci fi #55: Ishka

Today’s contribution comes from TeaDrinker:

Ishka  Deep Space 9

Ishka is the mother of Quark and Rom, two of the main Ferengi characters resident on Deep Space Nine, the space station setting for Star Trek’s first spin-off series. Ishka enters the show as a comedy character, but develops over the series to become one of the most outspoken feminists in the history of Star Trek. Ferengi society is uber-capitalist and its females are oppressed, forbidden from wearing clothes, owning property, or, worst of all, earning profit – the activity that gives meaning to Ferengi life. Ishka rejects these constraints and sets out earning profit for herself in secret, almost getting her son, Quark, into serious trouble in the process. Not content to stop there, Ishka forms a romantic relationship with the Grand Nagus – the head of the Ferengi financial empire – becomes the power behind the throne and starts to work on changing Ferengi society from within. Ishka is a lot of fun. She’s resilient, positive and friendly, but ready to defend herself energetically when necessary. She loves both her sons, but is honest about their limitations. Her grandson, Nog, inherits her rebellious qualities, refusing to obey the “rules of acquisition” and choosing to join Star Fleet instead of earning profit.

I predict that one day, a female will enter the Tower of Commerce, climb the forty flights of stairs to the Chamber of Opportunity, and take her rightful place as Grand Nagus of the Ferengi Alliance.

100 sci fi women #51: Guinan

And so, on to the second 50. I don’t think they should be hard to find.

Before we start though, a link brought to me by Teadrinker: i09’s Top 20 Essential Science Fiction TV Shows. It is a good list, with many of my favourites in there, and only a couple I haven’t really seen.

Included on the list is Star Trek: The Next Generation and so it makes the next entry doubly appropriate – contribution, as it is, from Teadrinker.

Guinan  Star Trek: The Next Generation

Guinan is a mysterious alien who works as a bartender on the star ship Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  She is a member of a scattered species known as “listeners” who were decimated by the Borg.  The reason for her presence on Enterprise is never revealed beyond reference to her close friendship with Captain Picard.   Star Trek: TNG generally does badly with female characters and the two regular female characters, Beverly and Deanna, have little personality, are both in caring roles and appear to be slightly drugged most of the time!   In a series as attached to gender stereotypes as TNG Whoopi Goldberg’s cool and androgynous Guinan is therefore a great relief and every scene in which she appears is something to look forward to.   She and Patrick Stewart have some amazing chemistry.   Although Goldberg is known as a comedian, she plays Guinan as a serious character and brings a certain gravitas to the show.   Deanna is the official ship’s counsellor,  but Guinan does the real counselling, usually stepping in to challenge the officers when they most need to be challenged.   If I have any complaints, it’s that they didn’t use Guinan enough and that we never found out about her abilities, which the alien trickster Q suggests are considerable.   She can fight too – beating the Klingon Officer Worf in a shooting match and fencing with Captain Picard.

That’s the wonderful thing about crayons – they can take you to more places than a starship.

100 Sci Fi Women #40: T’Pring

Today’s entry comes from All Day SCI Fi. If you would like to make a contribution, please email it to me at godardsletterboxes@gmail.com

T’Pring  Star Trek (original series)

Is T’Pring the ultimate Dragonlady of science fiction?

To what extent is television a mirror of the culture and can tell us things about ourselves?  A very curious thing about Star Trek was that the first pilot was rejected and the character, Number One, played by Majel Barrett was rejected and she became the wimpy nurse Chapel.  It was the 60s and the Enterprise crew women ran around in mini-skirts.

But have sci-fi women had to become MACHO to attain equality with men?  Is that what has been actually happening in our society?  So we got Ripley and Starbuck.  But does macho tend to be somewhat dumb in the real world if not in sci-fi?

The Amok Time episode gave us a very different woman, but of course she was an alien.  She comes into the picture because of Spock, her husband, who hasn’t mentioned her existence  suddenly cannot literally live without her.  Spock has been running around the galaxy with some human and the human was in charge.  It looks like more 60s culture with Tonto following the Lone Ranger and Kato kowtowing to the Green Hornet.

T’Pring is supposed to have been a good little Vulcan wife calmly waiting for her husband to return but apparently she has not been following the script.  Or at least Theodore Sturgeon, a highly respected science fiction author, came up with a whole new script.  T’Pring has decided that Spock needs to be dumped out of the nearest airlock.  Everything is finally explained in the dialog near the end.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
SPOCK: T’Pring. Explain.
T’PRING: Specify.
SPOCK: Why the challenge, and why you chose my captain as your champion.
T’PRING: Stonn wanted me, I wanted him.
SPOCK: I see no logic in preferring Stonn over me.

[Spock fails to see the obvious logic that Stonn was there and he wasn’t]

T’PRING: You have become much known among our people, Spock. Almost a legend. And as the years went by, I came to know that I did not want to be the consort of a legend. But by the laws of our people, I could only divorce you by the kal-if-fee. There was also Stonn, who wanted very much to be my consort, and I wanted him. If your Captain were victor, he would not want me, and so I would have Stonn. If you were victor you would free me because I had dared to challenge, and again I would have Stonn. But if you did not free me, it would be the same. For you would be gone, and I would have your name and your property, and Stonn would still be there.
SPOCK: Logical. Flawlessly logical.
T’PRING: I am honoured.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

What a FEMALE being flawlessly logical!?  Oh, she’s a Vulcan.  That’s OK then.  LOL

But then and now T’Pring is usually regarded as a B-T-H by most Trekkies.  She was supposed to put up with the ridiculous situation of being left alone on Vulcan year after year with the HONOR of being the consort of a Legend that was never home.  She is in the wrong for wanting more purpose in her life than waiting on someone that was never coming.

Dragonladies don’t take that crap.  By bringing Kirk Spock gave her the opporunity to put herself in a win-win situation with no risk to her paramour who couldn’t figure it out.  And the dummy Kirk fell right into the trap.  Of course Spock might have gotten killed fighting Stonn.

A very thought provoking episode once looked at beyond the superficial.  A true Lady without being Macho.  A manipulator of the Macho.

An old dictionary said lady meant “sophisticated woman” and sophisticated meant “knowledgeable of the ways of the world.”   Should that now be “ways of the galaxy?”

100 sci fi women #37: Lwaxana Troi

Another contribution from the awesome Tea Drinker.

Lwaxana Troi Star Trek: Next Generation

Lwaxana Troi is the daughter of the Fifth House of Betazed, the Holder of the Sacred Chalice of Rixx, and Heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed.  She is also the mother of Counsellor Deanna Troy who works on board the star ship Enterprise.

The evolution of Lwaxana Troi is a great example of a talented actress breaking the limits originally set by the Star Trek writers.   From a feminist perspective, her character’s first appearances are not at all promising.  She begins as a figure of fun, the sexist humour being based on the idea of an older woman expressing her sexuality.   But, over the course of the series, Lwaxana becomes something far more interesting, a woman who refuses to conform to the emotionally repressed, well-behaved world of Star Trek the Next Generation, a world in which she cannot be anything other than a highly disruptive force.   As a result, Lwaxana becomes a point at which emotional authenticity can enter the show, loudly expressing anger, grief and desire, as well as implicitly and explicitly criticising other characters for their conformity, insipidity and self-repression.  The only episode of The Next Generation that makes me cry is a Lwaxana Troi episode.   Although she plays an alien, Lwaxana is often more ‘human’ than the human characters; she messes up all the time, but her mistakes are always based on genuine feeling.   By the time we reach Deep Space Nine, Lwaxana has become a figure of dignity and emotional courage.

Plus her outfits are awesome.

I’ve lived a full life. Sometimes its overflowed a bit, but I enjoy living.

100 sci fi women #35: Jadzia Dax

Another contribution from Tea Drinker:

Jadzia Dax Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Jadzia Dax is the Science Officer on the Federation station Deep Space Nine.  She is also a joined Trill.  Selected members of her species become hosts to symbiotic creatures who share their planet.  The host and symbiont experience a complete merging of personalities and retain the memories and aspects of the personalities of all the previous hosts.   Jadzia is the eighth host for the Dax symbiont.   Her previous host, Curzon Dax, was the best friend and mentor of the Station’s commander, Benjamin Sisko, and the two remain close friends after the Dax symbiont is transferred to Jadzia.

Terry Farrell is great in a difficult role in which she has to convey complexity while maintaining a coherent character.   She combines the exuberance of a young woman with the maturity of an older woman.   She’s very professional; cool under pressure, wise, as well as being a brilliant scientist.  She’s also one of the most playful Star Trek characters.  Dax likes to party.  She revels in relationships that the more buttoned-up characters find a bit incomprehensible, enjoying the company of Klingons and Ferengi along others.  Her pursuit of the Klingon officer, Worf, is a delight as she cracks through his reserve (he’s by the far the more neurotic partner in their relationship).  Dax and Worf marry during Season 6.

Unfortunately, Terry Farrell left the show at the end of Season 6 and was replaced by the inferior Ezri Dax (who the fans dubbed Ally McTrill), a more conventional character and a disappointingly sexist representation in general.  But let’s not allow that to detract from the achievements of Jadzia Dax.

Sometimes I like it when the bad guy wins.

100 sci fi women: #21 Kira Nerys

Another guest post tonight from Tea Drinker – and I insist that all you Nathan Fillion fans head over to her site right now because you will like what you see! OK, enough for the advertising segment. If you however have a woman to add to the list, please feel free to email me at godardsletterboxes@gmail.com and I’ll be happy to share with the world!

Major Kira Nerys Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Major Kira Nerys was born during the Cardassian occupation of her planet, Bajor.  She grew up in a labour camp and was recruited into the resistance when she was 13 years old.  After the Bajoran resistance chased the Cardassians off their world, Kira was given the important role of First Officer on the Federation Space Station, Deep Space Nine, from where the Federation hopes to guide Bajor’s entry into the United Federation of Planets.

From a feminist perspective, there are always problems with the representation of women in Star Trek due to the tendency towards a lot of unexamined sexism on the part of the writers.   For example, no matter how tough and self-reliant a female character is, there will always be bizarre episodes in which she acts like a terrified little girl.  Kira is no exception to this rule, but as Star Trek women go, she’s definitely one of the better representations and Nana Visitor is really great in the role.

Kira comes across as a complex, multifaceted character.  She has a hot temper and a violent past which haunts her; she’s a professional soldier but also a deeply spiritual person; she’s extremely loyal to her people and her friends.  She gets her heart broken more than once in the show — one of her lovers dies and another, the shape shifter Odo, decides to return to his people at the end of the series.   But Kira never lets this affect her professional life.  Over the course of the series, Kira develops a lot, dealing with her violent past, addressing her prejudices about the Cardassians and building strong friendships with the station’s federation crew.  She is promoted to Colonel and eventually Commander. Overall, she is an interesting, well-rounded woman of science fiction.

Typical Kira quote:  “I was thirteen when I joined the Resistance. Been hanging around the Shakaar base camp for a couple of weeks, you know, running errands, cleaning weapons, that kind of thing. And one night, they had an ambush planned and they were a man short, so I volunteered. But everyone thought I was too young, too small […] But it was… up to Shakaar and… he stared at me for a long time before he decided I was big enough to carry a phaser rifle after all. So we set the ambush up along the ridgeline, that night, and waited. I was so cold, my hands were shaking. I was so afraid that one of them would look at me and think that I was nervous, that I kept biting my fingers to keep the blood flowing. We must have waited there three or four hours before the skimmer appeared, set down right where Furel said it would. And when that hatch opened and the first Cardassian appeared, I just started firing. And I didn’t stop, until I’d discharged the entire power cell. When it was all over, I… I was so relieved that I hadn’t let anyone down, my head was giddy. Furel told me to stop grinning, that it made me look younger, but I couldn’t help it. I was one of them. I was in the Resistance.”

100 sci fi women #11: Nyota Uhara (both versions)

Uhara  Star Trekstartrek_uhura_

When Uhara first appeared on the bridge of the Enterprise in 1966, she was a complete ground breaking pioneer in the representation of black women in mainstream television. Unfortunately, even by 2009, when we see her on the Enterprise anew, there are still not enough black women in science fiction (or any form of mainstream film and television) – although there are obviously some. Uhara, as communications officer, proved a trusted officer to the original Captain Kirk, taking control of the helm on at least one occasion. Willing to face danger along with the rest of the crew, she was smart, resourceful and looked fabulous in a short skirt. She progressed through the ranks to be a senior officer at Starfleet command by the end of her career. Similarly in the 2009 representation, Uhara is smart and more than a little bit serious, immune to Kirk’s somewhat dubiously irresistable charm. She again proves herself to be as capable as her male companions and I am sure that, as the franchise no doubt goes on, will do her first incarnation proud.