by Tess Adair
It’s been grey and rainy in Seattle all weekend. I don’t normally mind rain too much, but it does start to seem a little oppressive when you wake up in a bad mood anyway.
So what do I do to combat that? Usually I exercise. But I’ve been sick all week, meaning it would be inadvisable to try to cardio my way out of the funk this time. What then?
Voyager, of course. Star Trek: Voyager.
And what do I inevitably end up doing when I watch Voyager? Ranking the characters from worst to best. What else?
(I’m leaving Seska off the list. She was...meh. That’s all I have to say about her. I’m also leaving off Loder. He was kind of interesting, but his run was too short to compare with everyone else.)
I will start with the worst character. He’s the Wesley of Voyager. His incompetence fuels a number of plotlines, often causing Voyager to need to rescue him or deal with one of his screw-ups, but for some reason, all the other characters love him and seem to think he can do no wrong.
Neelix. Fucking Neelix.
Gross. Look at his face! That is always how it looks. Even his facial hair is terrible. He’s constantly overwhelmed by everything, and for some reason appoints himself “Morale Officer,” because self-appointed morale officers are everyone’s favorite thing.
Also, his main love interest was Kes. Kes’s species only lives about 9 years, so even though she looked and acted like an adult, she was technically about a year old when they got together. So… technically he’s a pedophile.
See I told you about his face.
Anyway, you could kind of logic away the pedophile stuff with Star-Trek-alien talk, except that he’s also a severely emotionally abusive boyfriend. He’s insanely possessive of her and goes into jealous fits every time she talks to...well, anyone else on the ship. Also, she met him when she was held captive by the Kazon, and she makes no secret of feeling indebted to him for rescuing her. All in all, those are some messed-up relationship dynamics.
Fortunately for all of us, he became much less annoying after she left the show. Probably because they stopped giving him his own storylines. Thank God.
Which brings me to the second-worst character. Kes. Who else?
Kes basically had two facial expressions: beatific, and confused.
As I mentioned above, Kes’s lifespan is only 9 years. Her people have some vague telepathic ability that they never use and apparently don’t really know about. This is because their civilization was kept in an infantilized state by a powerful entity called “The Caretaker.” Same guy who tossed Voyager into the Delta Quadrant in the first place. Long story.
Anyway, sometimes Kes’s powers came into play, and sometimes the writers seemed to pretend they didn’t exist. For the most part, Kes was little more than a lame feminine stereotype--emotionally in-tune and empathetic, endlessly forgiving of Neelix, and fairly helpless unless her powers were in play.
But one time, she got to be really cool. Some crazy old alien warlord took over her body, and she briefly became a badass.
You can tell because of the eyebrows. Those are the eyebrows of evil.
Naturally, Kes being awesome only lasted one episode. But hey, she broke up with Neelix that episode! And apparently that stuck, despite the fact that she was literally a different person when she did it. (But, you know, the universe offers you a way out of dating Neelix, you take it.)
Oh, remember how I said Neelix was crazy jealous of Kes talking to people? Well, mainly he was crazy jealous of Kes talking to Tom Paris.
Of course, there is never any reason to be jealous of Paris. Paris is the worst. He’s basically a lame conglomeration of frat boy stereotypes, sanitized through the Star Trek Utopia lens. Like with Neelix, we’re all supposed to love him despite his complete lack of redeeming characteristics. Ugh. Paris. (The actor also played an obnoxious character on Next Gen who got Wesley expelled or something. I try not to remember.)
About once a season, there’s a plot line that revolves around Paris being a little shit. One time, it turned out to be an act so he could infiltrate an enemy, but most of the time, it’s just because he’s an entitled white dude who thinks his life is too boring. You know, his life on board a technologically advanced Federation vessel exploring completely unknown space and constantly encountering potential enemies and life-threatening situations, and, oh yeah, dating an insanely hot and awesome Klingon. So boring.
Hilariously, Sarah Silverman shows up in a two-parter in season three and tries to bang him or something. Seriously. Sarah Silverman is in two episodes of Star Trek: Voyager. Wearing some very ’90s outfits. And being a terrible actor.
But probably the most galling part of Paris’s character is that he gets to date and eventually marry B’Elanna, who’s actually a decent character. And their stupid tortured romance plotline pre-empted any chance of her doing anything interesting for a solid two seasons.
Yeah, I don’t know, Paris might be worse than Neelix. Hard to say.
Anyway, just slightly better than Paris is Harry Kim.
Ugh, Kim. Well, he’s not the worst. He’s just not great. And most of his episodes are pretty terrible. His main character trait is naivety, and his second main character trait is Being Tom’s Friend. He sort of becomes the stock womanizer after Tom gets married, but he’s not very good at it.
I kinda like him sometimes, though. When Seven of Nine shows up, of course Kim develops a debilitating crush on her that makes him almost completely incapable of normal human interaction. Because, as we all know, penises make men stupid.
With all the grace of a cow, Kim decides to get closer to Seven...by asking her to work on something with him. Sexy. When she shows up, the room they’re supposed to work in is full of low lighting and deeply awkward flirtation. At first, Seven is confused and irritated that there is insufficient light for their work, but because she’s not an idiot, she figures out that he’s trying to hit on her. And, awesomely, as a recently de-Borged Borg trying to figure out humanity, Seven jumps at the learning opportunity. She suggests they copulate on the spot.
Harry basically sputters and runs away. It’s the fondest I’ve ever felt of him.
So that’s Harry. Next is Chakotay. Chakotay’s alright.
I know what you’re thinking. Face tattoo. Face. Tattoo. It is unfortunate. But think about it this way...in one episode, it looked like this:
Yeah, the first one’s looking better now, isn’t it?
Over all, Chakotay is kind of an up and down character. On the downside, he spends a lot of time being little more than a Native American stereotype. For the first few seasons, pretty much every one of his plotlines involved a Spirit Guide or a Spirit Journey or the Great Spirit. We get it, writers. You have an incredibly shallow and limited view of Native American spirituality. Bravo.
On the upside, he’s one of the few male characters in Star Trek whose primary characteristics are empathy, intuition, and emotional understanding. He acts as a Troi-esque counselor to a number of crewmembers, and for Janeway, he’s kind of a combo of Troi and Riker...with, you know, some racist stereotype thrown in.
Another great thing about Chakotay? Dude got mad play.
No, seriously. Mad play. Tom Paris may have been the Womanizer, but Chakotay was the Ladies’ Man. Seska had a thing for him, this alien lady Kellin had a thing for him, a member of species 8472 had a thing for him, some lady from the future that never happened had a thing for him. And OH YEAH Seven of Nine freaking had a thing for him.
Why does this amuse me so much? Because it’s perfect, and perfectly understated. Nobody ever mentions the fact that Chakotay gets more play than almost anyone else. It just happens.
In my opinion, it makes absolute sense that women flock to Chakotay like flies. He’s calm and kind, caring without being paternalistic. I mean...racist stereotypes aside, I’d date him.
Of course, not a one of those ladies ever had a real chance with him. Chakotay has always loved, and will always love, Captain Janeway. He may spend his time with other ladies on occasion, but that’s only because the constraints of their respective ranks make anything else impossible.
Do a quick search for “Chakotay and Janeway,” and the very first search suggestion that comes up is “Chakotay and Janeway fan fiction nc-17.” Oh, internet. Of course it is.
If you just image-search their names together, you will find some adorably awkward fan photoshopping.
Why are they wearing matching Safari outfits for their picnic in that field from Twilight? Also, why do I get the feeling they want to convert me to Mormonism? Some mysteries are eternal.
Anyway, that’s Chakotay. Chakotay and his deep, deep love for his captain. (Seriously though, there’s an episode where they’re stuck on a planet together and they think they’ll have to be there, with each other and no one else, forever. SO HE BUILDS HER A HOT TUB. And he tells her a long (and stereotypical-Native-style) story about an angry warrior man who could know no peace until he found a fierce warrior queen to ride beside, and devoted the rest of his life to fighting for her. They spend the whole episode playing house together, alone on a planet which seems to have only one other resident--a Capuchin monkey. In the middle of the Delta Quadrant. Obviously. Eventually they must return to the ship, where they have to pretend that nothing ever happened. The episode ends with them both carrying on their duties in silent devastation.)
Oh yeah, Chakotay was also a Maquis, which brings us to our next Maquis member: B’Elanna Torres.
B’Elanna is pretty sweet.
Sometimes her hair was kind of stupid. That’s a common theme on this show. (Oh, Janeway.)
B’Elanna was a Maquis fighter, meaning she wasn’t originally a part of Starfleet. She did go to the Academy for a while, but she quit without graduating. Then she joined the Maquis, a gang of rebels with an arguably admirable motivation, who happened to be aligned against the Federation.
She’s half Klingon, and she’s got a bit of an anger problem. A lot of her storylines are about dealing with the duality of her nature--Klingon and Human, Maquis and Starfleet. She knows she has an anger problem, and she hates how much it gets in her way. Which, of course, makes her even angrier.
At some point, unfortunately, the writers decided that she should get together with Paris. In an effort to create dramatic tension, they decreed that the main obstacle in their way would be B’Elanna’s fear of making herself vulnerable to someone else. And since Paris has zero communication skills whatsoever, it takes a full two seasons to resolve this.
Luckily, B’Elanna gets to have a few more storylines outside of her terrible love interest. In season four, the crew gets a transmission from home, and it contains some devastating news for B’Elanna and Chakotay. It turns out that in the four years since they disappeared, the Maquis not only lost their war--they were completely annihilated. Almost everyone that B’Elanna and Chakotay knew are dead. (In theory, there are more Maquis aboard the ship, but nobody really brings them up after season two.)
This is a pretty dark storyline, and it’s a pretty dark turn for her character. She takes to dealing with her emotions about what happened to her friends by running insanely dangerous holodeck programs with the safety protocols off and severely injuring herself...and telling no one that she’s injured. Just keeps going about her duties with broken ribs and internal bleeding. Klingons, man.
Well, that brings us to our next crew member, who is also a member of an iconic Star Trek species marked by their intense cultural philosophy. Tuvok! (Quick final side note on B’Elanna...that is a difficult name to type over and over again.)
As you can see, Tuvok is not amused by this list, or anything else. Tuvok is great. Also? Not a racist stereotype. That’s always a plus.
But the main thing that’s really great about Tuvok is how mean he is to Neelix. The only thing that made Neelix bearable for the first few seasons was Tuvok relentlessly taking none of his shit.
Of course...then there was that one episode. Tuvix. Oh, so, so weird. And so stupid. Basically, Tuvok and Neelix were in a transporter accident (of course) and they became one person, who called himself Tuvix. It was super weird and creepy, and thankfully, once it was over, we never spoke of it again.
But back to Tuvok. He’s Vulcan, and he’s the Chief Security Officer on Voyager. But in the first episode, he starts off on the Maquis vessel, apparently a member of their crew. Once everyone’s been thrown into the Delta Quadrant, he gives up the ruse and rejoins his crew--and more importantly, his beloved Captain Janeway. Turns out, he infiltrated the Maquis on her orders.
Unlike Chakotay, Tuvok is not in love with the Captain. But he is ceaselessly loyal to her. On more than one occasion, he makes it clear through action or speech that she is his closest friend, and he goes to extreme lengths for that friendship. In that sense, he is a great throwback to TOS--another Vulcan brought to humanity through his loyalty for one of its captains.
The only sad thing about Tuvok is that he seemed to get far fewer storylines in the later seasons. I’m guessing that had something to do with the introduction of the show’s greatest character, whom I’ll get to later.
Still, Tuvok is cool. I love Vulcans. He did wear this unfortunate do-rag one time though.
I guess it was supposed to cover his ears or something. I blame Tom Paris.
Anyway, it’s time to get to my favorite boy-character on the show. The Doctor!
Just like Tuvok, the Doctor is often fantastically mean to Neelix. In fact, he’s fantastically mean to everyone. It’s what I love most about him.
The Doctor also follows in the grand Star Trek tradition of the robot who wants to be a Real Boy. Sure, the Doctor is a hologram, not a robot, but the character who started the tradition wasn’t a robot either--he was Spock. After Spock, there was Data. Data is the only member of the tradition who’s actually an android (and he also happens to be my favorite.) Then there was the Doctor. And after the Doctor, of course, there’s Seven.
Fittingly, the Doctor falls somewhere between Seven and Data on the human-robot spectrum. He will never age, so he can never experience the mortal frailty of humanity. But unlike Data, he doesn’t need to hunt down a special chip to feel emotions. He was programmed with them, along with a rather irascible personality. (Actually, there’s not much of an explanation for why holograms can be programmed with a personality but Data can’t, but it wouldn’t be a leap to say that Noonian Soong, Data’s creator, wanted Data to come by his personality honestly--to earn it instead of receive it.)
My favorite Doctor episode is the one where he decides he wants to experience having a family. It’s called “Real Life,” toward the end of the third season. Initially, he programs the family himself. His family is an annoying 1950s-style concept of “perfect”: obedient and loving wife and children, with no discernible lives of their own outside of their adoration for the Doctor.
He introduces them to Tom and B’Elanna, and B’Elanna craps all over his fantasy, informing him immediately that nothing about his family is realistic at all. So, he allows her to reprogram them.
And man, B’Elanna does not hold back. I wouldn’t want to spoil it, so I’ll just say that the Doctor abruptly learns a number of harsh, harsh lessons about life and family. And at the end of the episode, he shuts the program off and never comes back.
Yeah, it’s kinda dark. Voyager at its best.
Anyway, it’s time to move along. To Captain Janeway. Oh, Janeway.
Oh, that hair. Mushroom cloud hair.
So remember before, when I was talking about that weird episode with Tuvix? Well, the one thing about that episode that is kind of interesting is the end. See, Tuvix declares that he is a unique individual, and that the plan to separate his two halves amounts to murder because it will end his existence.
It’s a weird argument for a weird episode. But...it’s not wrong. I guess.
Anyway, the crew seems kinda torn about it. They all want Tuvok and Neelix back (seriously though I still don’t know why anyone wants Neelix back but whatever) but no one is necessarily willing to commit murder to get them back.
No one, that is, except for Captain Janeway.
In fact, most of the crew seems tacitly ready to accept Janeway’s decision, even if none of them are sure they’d have the balls to do it themselves. The Doctor takes the clearest stance against it, refusing to do the procedure to separate them himself because it interferes with his vow to do no harm (not that that stopped him from helping them figure out how to do it, mind you.)
But when the Doctor refuses, Janeway steps the fuck up. Fact is, she seems to prefer it this way: she doesn’t want anyone else to do her dirty work for her. If she’s going to make a potentially morally dubious decision, she wants the full weight of that decision to fall on her shoulders, and her shoulders alone.
Actually, she does that kind of thing a lot on the show. If there’s a sticky moral question, Janeway makes the decision about it, and often carries out the deed in question herself. I love that about her.
Another thing I love about Janeway? Girl loved her coffee. I can get behind that.
Much better hair.
So that’s Janeway. Which means we have arrived at the end of the list. My all-time favorite Star Trek: Voyager character. Whenever I watch the earlier seasons without her, I feel like I’m just sitting there waiting for her magnificence to light up my screen.
Seven of Nine.
It’s kind of unfortunate that the woman they cast as Seven is insanely hot, because way too many people allow that hotness to overshadow her much more important awesomeness. And because the show kept her in stupid, impractical skintight catsuits most of the time. Seriously, she even had a spacesuit that showed off her boobs.
I mean, I get that she’s really hot, and I agree that it’s fun to look at hot people. But seriously, she is so much more than that.
Seven of Nine is the final Real Boy Robot, a complex interplay of contradictory needs and feelings, an evolution that plays out in front of you. As a former member of the Borg, she simultaneously believes she is better than everyone around her...and has a far greater, deeper need for connection than anyone else on the ship can even understand. She’s used to having thousands upon thousands of other voices in her head, all harmoniously working toward a common goal. To her mind, human beings are discordant. They fight and they play, and they engage in all manner of inefficient, unproductive activities. Even speech is inefficient when you’re accustomed to the hive mind.
Seven was assimilated when she was a child, about 6 years old. She has very few memories of her human life, and the ones she has are buried deep. So, despite the fact that she is physically human...emotions are new to her. Having a sense of self is new to her. Desire is new to her.
When Harry gives his awkward flirting a try and she figures him out, she does not understand why he bothered with a pretense at all. She thinks they should skip all that and get right down to banging.
(She’s got a point.)
Harry, of course, is terrified. Boys are weak.
And Seven is great. There’s also an episode where she gets drunk off a single glass of champagne. (She’s literally never had alcohol before.) She starts effusively thanking the Doctor for his attempts to help her smooth out her human interactions. And she starts clapping him on the back and proclaiming, “We are as one!” Kinda makes me wanna get drunk with the Borg, I don’t know.
One of my favorite Seven moments is when she plays Paris’s dumb Captain Proton holodeck program with him. She’s supposed to be the wailing female sidekick, and a big, clunky robot advances on her menacingly. She gives it a quick up-and-down, declares “I am Borg!” and rips out its circuit-heart. Hell. Yes.
Her ongoing power tug-of-war with Janeway is pretty great too. And I definitely think she would have been a WAY better match for B’Elanna than Paris could ever be. Sadly, the closest they ever get to that is an episode where she briefly gets taken over by a Klingon personality and IMMEDIATELY tries to engage B’Elanna in battle/mating. No, seriously, both at the same time because that’s how Klingons roll.
Anyway. Seven of Nine forever.
That’s her being super pissed that Janeway’s beating her at something, by the way. I can relate.
After my own heart.