When we see our new Star Trek series, I am curious to know who the breakout character will be.
You see, every series aside from Enterprise, had that one magnificent character who became very popular with the show. Interestingly, all series had that one really annoying character as well.
The characters that have become fan favorites in each series was:
Spock, from TOS
Data, from TNG
Quark, from DS9
Seven Of Nine, from Voy.
The reason these characters became so big, is because they offered something new, something "alien". On a show that's all about flying through space meeting aliens, the one interesting thing is that the aliens didn't seem so alien to us. Sure they looked different, but other than that they were mostly relatable.
Spock was something we hadn't seen before, a smart humanoid creature that had no emotion.
Sure we seen robots in sci fi, but these robots were normally good at math, and magical things computers are apparently good at, but they were stupid in every other way.
It was fascinating to see a highly intelligent living being, who didn't talk in a robot voice, exist without emotion, and yet still behave in a way that was relatable (as opposed to a silver box shaped robot flailing his arms and speaking all monotone).
An interesting thing was the morality angle: without emotion, how can you know what is moral? Would you be amoral without emotion? If you followed a religion, than your only moral comprehension would be your interpretation of a written morality.
But if you used only logic, was morality a logical thing?
This is interesting, and I think it's one of the reasons Spock was appealing to us.
Then came Data. Data was like Spock only with the difference that he deeply wanted to be human, and simply could not be. Unlike Spock who didn't care to sit around hearing and telling jokes, Data wanted to hear jokes, he wanted to understand them, and to know what made something funny. And he wanted to tell jokes, but without emotion, the best he could do is spout a pre-written joke in a serious voice, as if he were giving a lecture on the history of botany. But what of his morality? He was programed with a code of ethics with his positronic brain and thus a reference to Asimov robot morality principals which are as such:
1. A robot must not harm a human being or through inaction allow a human to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the commands given it by a human except where such commands would conflict with the first law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence except where that would conflict with the first two laws.
Data had the same quality as Spock, he could exist without emotion, yet provoke emotion in the audience.
Then came Quark. Quark had feelings, but his code of morality was so alien to everything we knew about morality.
Bravery and honesty were not good and noble. Being really good at deception was noble.
The Ferengi society was a greed based culture that objectified women, making them property, and placing the most patriarchal misogynist standards on them.
It would appear that Ferengi are the opposite of our morals, and yet, there is a code of conduct, and we do see some Ferengi, such as Quark, being "the good guy" in spite of his bizarre code of morality.
Then came Seven Of Nine. She was more like Data and Spock in that she wasn't a social person ruled and control by emotional impulses. But unlike Spock, her emotional regulation wasn't the result of a disciplined mind, and unlike Data, she was able to feel emotion.
She chose to self segregate from the rest of the crew, and for the longest time didn't want to be human, and then slowly began exploring what it is to be human, and the audience was taken on a ride with her self discovery. There was also a moral conflict that lingered in the background, only showing itself a few times, that moral conflict was doing what is right for the majority, and doing what is right for a minority you cared more about. The collective vs the independent.
It is unfortunate that Enterprise never had such a character. We had what was supposed to be a sexy female Spock, but just ended up being really annoying.
The only character on Enterprise I felt was interesting was Hoshi.
She was a beautiful woman that wasn't playing the role of tight spandex and leather catsuit type of sexy, she was just naturally beautiful and wore the same clothes as everyone else. They never tried to turn her character into the smoking hot woman bending and contorting her body like a female comic book character, or turning her into a sexy dominatrix.
As for her personality, she was full of anxiety, easily frightened and had phobias.
The closest thing we'd seen to that in Trek was Lt. Barclay and his social anxiety and social awkwardness.
But Hoshi had a different kind of fear, a sort of fear we could relate to. The ship starts shaking and she gets afraid. Well, she wasn't a highly disciplined soldier, she was just a linguistics teacher, the average person. If you put me in a star ship and said "OK, we're new to space flight, but we're confident this ship will fly at warp speed with no problem" and when you take off the ship starts shaking, yeah I'd be scared too.
And the time she screamed when she seen that alien strung upside down having it's body fluids pumped out on an alien spaceship. She screamed in fright, and then spent the rest of the episode angry at herself for being cowardly. But what else is to be expected from her, she's not a highly trained astronaut or soldier. And seeing what she seen was in fact very scary. And to know who ever did might be coming back any minute now, is very frightening.
I could relate to her. How many people in the real world can walk aboard an alien spaceship, see dead bodies strung upside down having their body fluids pumped out of them, and not get scared?
She was also unique in that showing a cowardly female was a bit risky in the age of girl power. It seems to me that every show had to have a woman who either had super powers, or was beating up men. Tough strong women were in style throughout the 90's and especially the first decade of the 2000's.
So Hoshi was something different on TV, and yet, a person we could identify with.
There wasn't much of a morality struggle, but there was a struggle with emotion. Her desire to do her job, and yet all the fear and phobias she had to battle to do it.
The only reason she didn't become the breakout character is because the writers simply shoved her in the background after the first season. She eventually just became another Uhura.
And so the question now is, what would it take for a breakout character in a new Trek?
Certainly we can create all sorts of alien characters that have two hearts, or evolved from plant life, or has x-ray vision. But none of those things makes the personality unique. And a unique personality must also be intriguing.
Will we ever have another unique character or have we exhausted all the ideas?