I am almost a bit intimidated by the topic I chose for today’s sci-fi month post. Memorable sci-fi characters?! Where do I begin?!
I think one of the misconceptions about sci-fi is that it is all boring science babble and space battles, but as most you are probably aware (because I think I have pretty intelligent and awesome readers!), it really explores humanity in a way no other genre does, and it does this largely through its characters. There’s no way on Earth I could create a list that would true justice to all the fabulous characters in science fiction, but I’m narrowing it down to 2 characters from each of my top 3 sci-fi series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Firefly, and Babylon 5. These aren’t necessarily my favorite characters, just ones that I find extremely memorable and extremely interesting in their character arcs.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Elim Garak
Garak is in an enigma, which is what makes him such a great character. The first time I saw Garak, the Cardassian tailor exiled on board Deep Space Nine, I found him extremely odd, and in a more annoying way rather than an interesting way. But after the first season episode “The Wire,” which I won’t give away for those who have yet to see the show, everything about him made so much more sense, and I liked him so much more afterwards. Is he telling the truth? Is he on your side? Just how many back-up plans does he have? Garak is true Cardassian, sneaky and smart, and he never ceases to amaze me with his spy skills.
“Truth is in the eye of the beholder, Doctor. I never tell the truth because I don’t believe there is such a thing. That is why I prefer the straight line simplicity of cutting cloth.” – Garak
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Dukat
I really hate Dukat, which is exactly why is the perfect villain. He’s creepy and manipulative, always striving for a position of power. He’s a complex character who goes through a lot on Deep Space Nine, and though I always saw him as evil, he certainly presented himself to others in shades of gray, but I don’t want to get into spoiler territory so I’ll leave it at that. He’s exactly the sort of character you want to see go down at the end of the day.
“One man’s villain is another man’s hero, captain.” – Dukat
Firefly: Shepherd Book
Shepherd Book is such an interesting character because he’s a preacher who lives on board a ship with criminals and a companion (essentially a prostitute, more on that later), and while he doesn’t agree with what they do and they know it, he doesn’t condemn them for what they do. He’s an interesting man who clearly has a past apart from the ministry that unfortunately, we never learn. What we do know is that he is a man of conviction and a man who loves people, the way I think we all should be.
“When I talk about belief, why do you always assume I’m talking about God?”
“I don’t care what you believe in, just believe in it.” – Book
Firefly: Inara Serra
Inara is a companion, which in the world of Firefly, is basically a high-class prostitute, a part of an elite group who go through training and screen their clients. Inara also clearly cares for the Captain of Serenity, Malcolm Reynolds, even though she claims she doesn’t. But a large part of the reason why I chose Inara for this list, and it might be cheating, is that I learned that if we had gotten more Firefly, we would have learned that she actually had an incurable disease that she was dying from, which of course shapes her. What the what?! So fascinating. It’s too bad that, like Shepherd Book and the rest of the Serenity gang, we did not get to know them as well as Whedon had intended for us to.
“A companion chooses her own clients, that’s guild law. But physical appearance doesn’t matter so terribly, you look for a compatibility of spirit.” – Inara
Babylon 5: Londo Mollari
I was continuously floored by Londo’s development throughout Babylon 5 as I watched it. I can’t even scratch the surface of his development in this short paragraph. When we first meet Londo in Babylon 5, he just seems silly, and he somewhat reminded me of Quark on Deep Space Nine. Then things took a turn for the serious. His drive for power, greed, and his hatred for the Narn drove him to make poor choices that went from bad to worse and took him down a dark path. He does find some redemption, but there is no easy out for Londo, and he does get a lot of what he deserves. To sum up Londo’s character development = WOW.
“The quiet ones are the ones that change the universe… The loud ones only take the credit.” – Londo
Babylon 5: Alfred Bester
Bester is one of the best villains ever in my opinion. Though he is only in twelve out of 110 episodes of Babylon 5, he goes through quite a lot and we learn a lot about him, about his past and what drives him. He’s frustrating to deal with, he hurts a character on the show that you will love so much more than him, but he has a story too, and that’s what I love so much about the characters on Babylon 5: they have amazing stories. You’ll never root for him, but by the end of the show, you do understand him better than you did at first sight.
“…you’re curious. Kill me and you’ll never know what brought me all the way out here. I think if you weigh that against the brief satisfaction of blowing me out of the sky, you’ll do the right thing.” – Bester
As mentioned before, this list could go on! So tell me, who are your most memorable sci-fi characters?
I have never really watched Babylon 5 (shame on me – I know lol!) but I totally agree with your choices for Deep Space Nine and Firefly.
I have always been fascinated by the Cardassian characters and Garak and Dukat are certainly the most interesting (though i have a bit of a soft spot for Damar as well!). Garak is such an enigma throughout the series – I always wanted to know more about him but i suppose that would ruin his appeal. Dukat was also interesting to me – I really loved to hate that guy!!
Shepherd Book and Inara were also really interesting characters in the sense that you never really could figure out their motivations. They were not my favourite characters in Firefly but I was left wanting to know more about them. I still wish Firefly had been given more time even after all these years lol. 🙂
Damar is great too! I love how he was in season 7. The Cardassian characters really are fascinating.
And yes, I totally agree with you about Book and Inara, they weren’t my favorite characters but they felt the most mysterious to me (besides River maybe, but we find out a lot more about her on Setenity).
I LOVE Shepard! Favourite character of the series, and I really want to know what his background was… And I never knew that about Inara – it grieves me that we will never get more Firefly =( Such a brilliant show.
I think everyone wants his back story! There is definitely more to him than meets the eye!
Awesome post, Amy! Garak and Dukat are also two of my favorite characters on DS9. I have this weird fondness for Dukat, and I think it’s because every time he appears, he has this great air of authority and intelligence about him. Often, he actually makes good points, which makes him all the more intriguing and scary to me.
Oh, Shepherd and Inara! I loved them both. Shepherd kinda reminds me of my dad, so there’s some familiarity and comfort there. <3 I didn't realize that about Inara's past, but that lends so much more depth to her story and explanation to her actions and choices! I wonder if any of the Firefly books delve deeper into the characters, beyond the show.
I haven't watched Babylon 5 (yet), so I can't comment on those two characters — but now you have me even more intrigued!
Intriguing and scary is a great way to describe Dukat!
I do know there are some Firefly comic books but I don’t know what kind of stories they have or how in depth they get with the characters.
Great list. I think I would have added Sisko, since I find him to be the captain with the most depth. And of course The Doctor, Rose and Amy Pond from Doctor Who.
Sisko is definitely a memorable character with a lot of depth, and he plays a much larger role than Captain, which is really great for the overall story of DS9.
Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to watch Doctor Who yet, but one day! I know people really love those characters.
You’ll love The Doctor
So bummed that we never find out Shepard Book’s past! Damn you Joss Whedon!
It’s not his fault it got cancelled… though he could have told us in Serenity!
Maybe he is just even more clever than we thought and is going to do a Shepard Book origin story later on 🙂
That would be awesome! Or a Shepard origin movie! So many options!
Nobody remembers Silent Running. I still love that robot.
Never seen it, but I always appreciate a good robot character!
Nice choices with Garak and Dukat especially Garak. Babylon 5 is one show I really haven’t gotten around to seeing. I may check it out one day. Shepard was definitely one of the best characters from Firefly. It sucks he didn’t get to stick around much in Serenity.
I know, so sad that there was so little Shepard in Serenity! And Babylon 5 is super awesome. The creator/writer of the show had the storyline all plotted out beforehand so everything that happens is purposeful and wraps up… and it’s good stuff!
I wish there was more Firefly 🙁 They are the only two characters that I know on this list. I like Shepard 🙂
He’s awesome. 🙂
“it really explores humanity in a way no other genre does, and it does this largely through its characters.”
That is precisely why I love sci-fi so much. I love Firefly and ST:TNG but if I have to pick favorite sci-fi characters, all of them would probably be from BSG. Helo, Starbuck, Roslin, Athena…. they’re all so fantastic!
I haven’t watched BSG yet but I plan to one day!