Character: Mirasta Yale
Episode: “First Contact”
How would I react to a first contact situation? I hope with as much bravery and heart as Mirasta Yale from the Star Trek The Next Generation episode “First Contact,” played by Carolyn Seymour.
Marista is the perfect embodiment of a real Star Trek fan; open minded, interested in the sciences and with an insatiable curiosity to explore. When I got older I also recognized she was a smart, strong and independent female character, something we didn’t always get so nicely realized in early 90’s.
When a first contact assignment goes south, Riker is injured and stuck in a medical facility. Mirasta, the head of Malcor III’s fledgling warp program, is the liaison to the Enterprise to try and get him back. It’s a real joy to watch her revel in Data being an android, seeing her planet from space and the special emphasis she puts on the world beam, when beaming back down to the planet. When her planet’s leader decides not to pursue relations with the Federation, she seizes the chance to visit the stars, even though it meant leaving everything she’d ever known behind.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard:
I have to believe that you cannot be fully prepared for the realities of space travel.
I have been prepared for the realities of space travel since I was nine years old and sitting in a planetarium!
…What Trek fan hasn’t felt that?
Character: Captain Styles
Movie: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
Bravado, arrogance, supreme self-confidence, and unmitigated gall. If I were to ask you which Starfleet Captain comes to mind using only those adjectives, you are likely to arrive at one name: Captain Styles. Wonderfully portrayed by James Sikking, Styles became the Captain we all loved to hate when he shared his first scene with Captain Scott, who had been assigned to the Excelsior’s engineering team, by insulting Scotty, and our beloved Enterprise, as he looked forward to breaking some of the Enterprise’s speed records the next day.
His bravado was on full-display in his second scene, where Captain Styles is seen filing his nails in his quarters when he is alerted that the Excelsior has gone to yellow alert because someone is stealing the Enterprise. Here is a man that knows he has the cushiest assignment in all of Starfleet: he has been chosen to Captain the fleet’s most advanced vessel during trial runs to test its experimental transwarp drive. Unlike other captains, he can afford to relax in his quarters and ensure his nails are properly manicured.
However, when Styles bursts into action to stop the Enterprise from escaping, he grabs his swagger stick. Many Americans associate the swagger stick with General George S. Patton, a man for which his authority was well-deserved. As Captain Styles came to the bridge, he displayed not the slightest degree of alarm at the escaping Enterprise. Instead, he marveled at the great experiment, famously remarking “incredible machine” as his first officer informed him that all speeds were available through transwarp drive.
His most memorable line, however, was his attempt at a prophetic declaration as he hailed the Enterprise: “Kirk…if you do this, you’ll never sit in the Captain’s chair again.” Captain Styles was wrong, as the Captain’s chair was exactly where Kirk ended up. Our lasting impression of Styles are his looks of bewilderment as the Excelsior putters to a halt, its transwarp drive having been sabotaged. In a matter of seconds, the Captain with the best assignment in Starfleet became nothing more than a paltry man.
One has to wonder what became of the poor Captain Styles, especially his swagger stick.
Trek series: VOY
Episodes: “Year of Hell” parts 1&2
I’m here to focus on a villainous minor character! Kurtwood Smith’s portrayal of Annorax, captain of the Krenim Imperium’s temporal weapon ship. When Voyager comes upon Annorax, he is once again destroying an entire species so as to eliminate them from time in the hope of making his species dominant in the sector once again. Basically, this dude is running around making “temporal incursion” after “temporal incursion” and has been doing so for two hundred years. WHAT! Annorax had been a temporal scientist while his people battled with other races for dominance, and figured out how to eliminate elements (species, people, things, etc) from the timeline to alter history. His initial incursion worked really well but he accidentally wiped out the colony where his wife was living. Thus, he’s spent the last two hundred years trying to get her back. It is romantic yet insane. Thankfully, Janeway ended it all by crashing Voyager into the weapon ship and reset the timeline.
The best villains are those that are the most sympathetic to the audience, and Annorax caused entire civilizations to rise, fall, and become extinct all in the pursuit of getting back one person he loved. “Year of Hell” is also in excellent two-parter, and one that really stripped our heroes down to their raw emotions. It was so well written that producer Ron Moore wanted to keep Voyager in this state of peril and gritty realism, but Berman and Braga just wouldn’t let it fly. I’d like to think that Annorax and his relentless, single-minded pursuit led Ron Moore to give us yet another great sci-fi series – the reimagined Battlestar Galactica.
Character: Hugh of Borg
Episodes: “I, Borg”, “Descent” parts 1 & 2
“Resistance is not futile.”
The Borg were terrifying when we first saw them in “Q Who?” and even more so in “The Best of Both Worlds.” They were relentless, and merciless. They seemed irredeemable. And then came Hugh.
Hugh started out as comedic foil for Geordi. “You will be assimilated,” he told him. “Right,” said Geordi. “But before that happens, could we maybe ask you a few questions?” But Hugh slowly went from being Geordi’s straight man to something we’d never seen from the Borg: a being with a personality, capable of individual thought. On a large scale, he made us realize that there was some humanity under all that technology, and on a small one, we watched him evolve from a mindless automaton into a lost soul. He was young. He was alone. And when he learned that there were people like Beverly and Geordi, his whole world opened up. As his transformation took place, he had a profound effect on both Guinan and Picard, changing the very foundation of their beliefs about the Borg. He told Guinan she was lonely; he told Picard that Geordi was his friend. He gave the equivalent of a Borg wink when he said farewell to Geordi, and in “Descent,” he led a revolution. I would also dare say that without Hugh, there would have been no Seven of Nine.
Hugh achieved the impossible: he made the Borg relatable, adding a new dimension to a single-minded villain and doing what Star Trek does best…revealing infinite diversity in infinite combinations.
Runners-up : Robin Lefler and Thomas Riker
Character: Kevin Riley
Episodes: “The Naked Time”, “The Conscience of the King”
We first meet the plucky Lieutenant Kevin T. Riley (as played by Bruce Hyde) early in the first season of The Original Series, in the episode “The Naked Time”, where people act out in uninhibited ways. Riley is part of a group of buddies that includes Sulu and “poor Joe” Tormolen. Riley seems a reasonably likable fellow and a good part of the ensemble of the junior ranked staff that we encounter on the ship. Of course by the end of episode Riley has re-discovered his Irish ancestry and we find “Captain” Kevin Riley caterwauling “I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen” while he’s jammed the controls in the engine room and the Enterprise is circling downwards into the frozen planet below.
Thankfully, the second time we meet Mr. Riley in “The Conscience of the King”, we learn a bit more about him and find out he has ties to Captain Kirk’s past, which immediately makes him more interesting. Riley and Kirk were both on Tarsus IV when Governor Kodos had 4,000 of the 8,000 colonist killed so the other ½ may live due to diminished food supplies. Riley’s parents were among the group murdered. Kirk moves our friendly little Lt. Riley down the bowels of engineering on a swing shift, which is supposed to keep him out of harm’s way (this is odd logic, since this puts him alone in a remote part of the ship). So naturally while being sad about being shoved off the bridge and put below decks he’s poisoned and almost dies. Dr. McCoy pulls him through, unlike so many other future minor characters to come, he doesn’t get killed. However, like many of the future minor characters, he’s never seen again.
Character: Crewman Muñiz
Episodes: “Starship Down”, “Hard Time”, “The Ship”
Enrique Muñiz was very junior member of the engineering team, but it was clear that he was a respected and loved member of the crew. His largest and most memorable appearance is in “The Ship”. In the episode, O’Brien and Muñiz are always bantering and teasing each other, more friends than coworkers. When Muñiz is injured by the Jem’Hadar, it is Miles who attends to him. Even as his condition deteriorates, he and Miles continue to tease each other and downplay the seriousness of his injury, each trying to keep the other’s hope and spirits up. After many hours of assault by the Jem’Hadar, he goes into shock, calling Miles “Papa” and deliriously seeing beautiful fireworks whenever another shell explodes outside the ship. He smiles and begins speaking Spanish. Miles plays along for his friend’s sake.
When the crew’s attempt to get the crashed warship flying fails, Miles turns to and tells him they could use his help, only to realize that the engineer has died. The crew takes it hard, and Sisko resolves to get the ship back to DS9 so the families of the five killed crewmembers families won’t feel that their loved ones died for nothing. Kilana’s words to Sisko seem to touch him deeply: “Duty? Starfleet, the Federation? You must be pleased with yourself. You have the ship to take back to them. I hope it was worth it.”
Back on the station Sisko reflects on this. He shares personal memories of Muniz with Dax and has remorse over the loss of 5 lives. Meanwhile Miles is holding vigil over his friend’s casket and Worf tells him he is performing the Klingon ak’voh, protecting his friend until his soul will exit the body and enter Sto-vo-kor. He offers to help O’Brien protect Muñiz, to which the chief responds, “I’m sure Quique would have liked that.”
Character: Helen Noel
Episode: “Dagger of the Mind”
“Find me someone with psychiatric and penology experience.”
Why Helen Noel? She is the very first smart, strong and independent female character I had ever seen portrayed on screen. During the episode, she is not afraid to speak her mind, defend her ideas and even get her hands dirty. She is not defined by her gender, but by her abilities in her field as a doctor and Starfleet officer. She is instrumental in their escape from the penal colony, and despite being overwhelmed physically, never stops fighting. How can I not be impressed by Helen Noel?
“You tell McCoy she better check out as the best assistant I ever had.”
She has several strong moments during the episode, none more fun than when she first appears. Taking advantage of her history, she puts Kirk in an uncomfortable position, and enjoys that she has that power with her knowing smile as she keeps moving her eyes in his direction while on the transporter pad. Also, you can tell professionally how she grows concerned when she makes Kirk think he’s hungry. She then offers an unusual suggestion to verify the machine’s influence on Kirk. While it could be seen as a stereotypical moment, as a doctor she places a strong suggestion to ensure Kirk was really being influenced by the beam.
“Yes, Captain, I know my profession”
I agree with everything you say about Helen Noel. She was beautiful. Very enticing to a young viewer.
If we’re talking characters on the periphery that never got explored,….I always though Dr. M’Binga, who interned on a Vulcan ward, was a very interesting side character I always thought more of.
Yes, I would have loved to have learned more about M’Benga! How and why did he do his internship on Vulcan? Was this common in the TOS era, or was M’Benga one of only a few who did this? Did he have personal reasons for choosing Vulcan?
Agreed about your thoughts on Dr. Helen Noel, Andy P.. But the writer in the article who chose her seems to go out of the way not to even mention what one can’t miss about her appeal; the fact that she is drop dead gorgeous, with classically beautiful features and a body that fills out the starfleet miniskirt-style officers’ uniform and boots like pretty much no other woman in the 23d century (at least until we meet Alice Eve’s young Lt. Carol Marcus in ST ID whose sheer camera presence is wonderful and breath-taking, something which she makes use of in her strong, underrated performance).
I don’t mean to sound “sexist” (everything else the writer mentions about Helen Noel is dead on; though the details of the half-memory, half-sexual fantasy she impresses on his mind when testing the Tantalus mind-machine isn’t touched upon and is, in fact, part “stereotype” but also telling of her inner life), but contemporary thinking aside, Star Trek originally joyfully embraced and idolized women’s sexuality and physicality as well as being one of the few legitimately groundbreaking series of the late 1960s in terms of all manner of integration in the “workplace,” even the military, as well as placing women in roles of properly reespected experts and leaders.
Dr. Helen Noel, it should be mentioned, is played by actress Marianna Hill (who, I believe, is still with us), and among her many other credits is genuine classic film, The Godfather, Part II, in which she played Fredo’s boozy cheating showgirl-wife.
Never understood the purpose of the swagger stick but it certainly conveys a “heel-ish” demeanor. Did you know Patton’s concealed a blade? I liked Styles too and what I liked was he was a Captain who, with very little revealed, conveyed an image of an experienced and capable commander…even if we didnt much like him.
Loved Hugh, one of my favourite episodes.
Oh, “swagger stick”, that’s what is called!? And I have always wondered what that thing even is! (My personal theory was that it’s some kind of horse whip minus the whip part…)
“Swagger stick” is just a euphemism to avoid the Vulcans and other animal rights advocates vocal disdain for the crop, i.e. whip, that it is. More specifically a riding crop, i.e. horsewhip, used mostly in hunts to spur the steed on.
After having just rewatched DS9, Muñiz is my favorite. His character tie into the story of “The Ship” was impactful and makes me think about trust and family. One of the many reasons why I love Star Trek!
I for one think it wouldn’t have been the worst idea for the new Star Trek series to have been shortly post-TNG era and starring Ashley Judd as Captain Robin Leffler of the Enterprise-E or -F.
I’ve said elsewhere that if they make another Kelvin-timeline movie and don’t recast Chekov, they should bring in Kevin Riley.
Another one of my favorite minor characters is Naomi Wildman of VOY, probably the best child character in Trekdom.
Naomi? Oh, God. I absolutely hated that character. But to each their own!
ronny cox as capt jellico.
he really shook things up and did troi a favour by putting her back in uniform.
ds9’s eddington. got under sisko’s skin as much as ducat.
Wait where’s the Gorn?
Sorry no Gorn, it was originally going to be in the list, but the staff member who was going to write up the Gorn wasn’t able to contribute and asked to drop it.
Ah man! :(
Good choices. Have to add Joseph Ruskin as Galt, the head thrall in TOS “Gamesters of Triskelion.” With only a few lines and his black robe, he made a big impression.
Gotta give a shout-out to Jojo Krako! After all, Oxmyx didn’t offer us beans, but Krako always was a reasonable man, even when he was mad enough to chew neutronium!
I always thought Vic Tayback absolutely stole that episode.
I don’t know if she’s “minor” enough, but I would nominate Naomi Wildman. What could have been an annoying child addition to an “aged” show was instead a great character who had engaging relationships with Seven, Neelix, and Capt. Janeway.
I think we have a set number of episodes that a character could’ve appeared in and still be considered minor and she passed that number. But, we definitely talked about her!
Yes, it had to be under 5 episodes!
If it weren’t for Kevin Reilly & Helen Noel, I’d have thought for a minute this was a list of most annoying characters…
Janice Rand all the way. She should be on this list.
She was more of a semi-regular than a recurring character like Hugh or Riley. She was intended to be a regular like Scotty, Uhura and Sulu, but, it didn’t work out that way for various reasons.
What about Reg Barkley? Even those of us who are less than perfect can contribute.
How about Gary Mitchell?
One of my favourite minor characters is Mortimer Harren from ‘Good Shepherd’. I liked that he was a brilliant cosmologist who was relegated to a lonely, menial job on a starship stranded halfway across the galaxy. It gives us an otherwise unnoticed glimpse into the tragedy of the ordinary crewmembers on Voyager.
It’s a maligned episode but Dr. Sevrin before he was dismissed from his university post had to have been interesting.
I’d also like to know about Ayelborne, Claymare & Trefane from “Errand of Mercy”.
Jeffrey combs as shran and weyoun.
‘now you owe me one, pink skin!’
My vote goes to my personal favorite, Captain Ransom of the USS Equinox. He was a great contrast to the uptight Captain Janeway.
Another good one is the legendary Commodore Decker of the USS Constellation (or was it Constitution?)! The hero who destroyed the doomsday machine!
Oh yeah what about Ensign Ro Laren? LOL! Joking. No, I think Commander Tomolak deserves some recognition as a great nemesis. He should have been in Star Trek Nemesis, if only for a cameo at least.
Ro Laren and Naomi Wildman were my two first choices but they are in too many episodes! Decker was a great one. William Windom!
I’d have to go with Trelane. If Hugh counts as a “minor” character (having shown up in more than one episode of TNG), then Trelane certainly does (having shown up in only the one episode of TOS). I love the idea (put forth, among other places, by Peter David in the Trek novel “Q-Squared”) that Trelane was an adolescent Q.
Harcourt Fenton Mudd belongs here
It’s which characters we personally wanted to pay tribute to, not a comprehensive look at minor character :-)
he had a ‘pale moonlight’ moment when he sided with section 31 to protect a romulan asset.
he didn’t lose sleep over it.
matt frewer in TNG’s ‘a matter of time’.
hard as nails but I guess you had to be if you are handling affairs near cardassian space.
but picard did get her to soften in the end.
Whenever I watch “Star Trek III” and see Capt. Styles, I can’t help but think of James B. Sikking’s “Hill Street Blues” character, the gung-ho Lt. Howard Hunter.
ensign sonya gomez.
shame she never made it past season 2.
I liked her too! I thought they were adding a new semi-regular character when she first turned up.