L-R: Human/Borg, Seven-of-Nine, and Captain Janeway of Voyager.
Voyager: 1995-2001. Voyager is the series that turns the tables on stereotypical roles. The leading females in this series challenge every male-borne convention on power, leadership, villains, and positions. Catherine Janeway assumes the Captain’s chair, B’Elanna Torres, become Chief Engineer, and Seven of Nine assumes a former Borg, the bad-ass villain in Trek lore, who is reverting to her human self.
Engaging an entire series with three strong roles normally occupied by male actors alters expectations and opens new storylines.
Enterprise: 2001-05. This prequel occurs a century before The Original Series (TOS). The conundrum: While existing 100 years before TOS, it airs four decades after TOS. The balance is awkward at times. To wit: The males in this series reveal a more evolved relationship with females than do those on TOS (a century later).
The Vulcan, T’Pol, begins as a science officer sent by Vulcan to chaperone Captain Archer’s maiden voyage, then becomes a member of the crew. Initially, she questions the human instinct but soon grows as a wise leader of this crew.
Hoshi Sato as communications officer held the role when it demanded a linguist translator because universal translators had yet to be invented. Sato had to learn and translate syntax and grammar on the spot of many unknown species. Sato’s role is more central than was Lt. Uhura’s communications officer in TOS — for the series, that is (see Uhura’s role later).
In each Trek series, one character represented an “outsider’s” view of what it means to be human. These “outsiders” were the marginal, marginalized, or unique, trying to reconcile different realities against humanity’s norms. In each series, the outsider explored the ideals and limitations of humanity as they struggled to belong.
Spock as the first officer on Kirk’s original Enterprise (TOS) develops the Outsider Template: revealing, through his examination, what it means to be human. The half-human, half-Vulcan Spock dwelled in reconciling these two halves between emotion and logic, and in the process questioned humanity’s many contradictions.
Spock became more fully integrated through the Trek big-screen movie arc of Wrath of Kahn, Search for Spock, and The Voyage Home. On TNG and in the reboots, “Ambassador” Spock reveals an integrated being, less concerned about “emotions” with a Zen-like clarity and purpose.
Data is the unique artificial life form serving aboard Captain Picard’s Enterprise (TNG) that raises Spock’s template of becoming human to another plane: To reconcile artificial intelligence with life. In his quest to become human, Data whimsically explores the taken-for-granted aspects of humanity: humor, laughter, birthdays, kindness, and emotions such as anger and pleasure. He also grapples with larger issues such as life, love, ethics, and free will to reveal what’s most important.
I must confess, Data is a personal favorite. His approach to inquiry emulates a childlike wonder and refreshing humility. He explores his abilities and limitations in ways that often expresses more humanity than his crew mates. These episodes offer a view into data’s world: Measure of a Man, Data’s Day, The Quality of Life
Odo is a shapeshifter (Changeling) and DS9’s security chief, who deepens the Spock Template by reconciling worlds between solids (bodily forms) and formless beings. In this way, his presence – misunderstood and confusing – often reveals the bigotry that can surface when we do not understand.
Odo’s efforts are often personal and deeply felt in solitude and quiet desperation as he observes and questions humanity’s darker motives. Some of his struggles are revealed in these episodes Heart of Stone, The Forsaken, The Search Part II, and Chimera.
EMH Doctor is Voyager’s Emergency Medical Hologram, essentially a computerized tool to assist in medical emergencies. When Voyager was thrust 70,000 light years from home and lost its Chief Medical Officer, the EMH was activated into permanent duty. This presented a dilemma to Voyager’s crew and upended the Spock Template.
Unlike Data, The EMH was programmed as a tool, to engage a specific task (medical), and confined to space (sickbay), whereas Data was created to emulate humans.
The EMH’s challenge is to get the crew to experience him as an individual, understand his unique needs, and then to accept him as a member of the crew. This delicate balance between the purpose of the tool, needs of an entity, and rights of a living being offers comical and heartfelt stories as displayed in these episodes: Before & After, Retrospect, Living Witness, Timeless, Nothing Human, Warhead.
T’Pol is the Vulcan from the science academy as previously mentioned. Her role is a slight retread of Spock’s Template but delves into bridging the Vulcan wisdom of the universe with the nascent discoveries of humanity.
T’Pol deepens our understanding of Vulcans, which offers a view into what becomes Spock’s half human, half Vulcan a century later. This female outsider is revealed in episodes The Caretaker, The Expanse, Demons, The Forge.
Outsiders Embolden Diversity
Outsiders on each series offered viewers a lens to discover different norms that challenged our unexamined worldviews. From the inception of the Trek Universe, founder, Gene Roddenberry had a vision of inclusion. In a 1964 memo, he shared this sentiment for a possible series:
“I Welcome you to our fellowship. You come from many lands, some from other planets. You are of various colors and creeds, yet you must and shall become a band of brothers.”
In sum, the five series collectively presented many races (Black, Asian, and Indigenous People) and ethnic cultures (Russian, Korean, Swahili, Scottish, French, and Irish), and a differently-abled person (Geordi La Forge). This site explored each series.
- 40% of key characters were fully or partially non-human
- 33% were women
- 28% were played by non-white actors
We explore diversity in each series (below) also presented non-human species, capping at Voyager’s 55.64% alien species such as Vulcans, Klingons, Romulans, Bejorans, Cardassians, Ferengi, Andorians, Betazoid, Trill, and Borg.
Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination
Rodenberry’s vision of inclusion is epitomized in the Vulcan Symbol (below), IDIC – Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination. By the 23rd century, humans are a tiny minority of life in the galaxy, having only charted 11% of it.