Tuesday, August 5, 2008

My Favorite Television Science Fiction Characters

Over the years, a surprising number of excellent science fiction characters have appeared on television. A memorable character requires good writing, superb acting and a little charisma. Usually, several memorable characters may be found on a good television series, one that meets the test of time. Often it takes several years to really buy into a character, because great characters are complex, developing or revealing themselves over several seasons. A critical mass of good writers is also essential; one good writer can’t carry a show year after year.

In any case, I’d like to describe a few characters that stand out in my mind. I enjoyed them when I first saw them, and I still enjoy them in reruns. Let me add that many fine characters, such as Captains Kirk and Picard, G’Kar, Boomer, Mal, Tasha, Crichton, Scotty and others didn’t make the list. They’re good, but I had to cut somewhere. My favorites are listed below as I thought about them; it’s not a ranking.

Admiral William Adama of Battlestar Galactica is a tough, honorable, natural leader. Capable of making mistakes, big ones, but also brilliant at times. A rough exterior hides his need to give and receive love, compassion and tenderness. Just looking at the man, you know he’s SOMEBODY. When he speaks in that low, rumbling voice, everyone pays attention. He’s the kind of guy I would follow into battle.

Well, maybe not battle.

Wouldn’t you like having Star Trek’s Dr. Leonard McCoy as your doctor? I know I would. This guy knows his stuff, he’s decent and loyal, and he has a great sense of humor. The friendly name calling between McCoy and Spock made the show both unique and realistic. I’ve always enjoyed mocking out my friends … although I haven’t seen any of them for a while. Sometimes McCoy’s conversation got into a rut (“He’s/she’s dead, Jim.”), but things would pick up as soon as he spotted pointy ears.

Then there’s Cylon Number Six, also from Battlestar Galactica. Blonde, slender but shapely, and legs that don’t quit. I’m beginning to drool already. Talk about an electric presence! When any version of Six turns up, you know there’s going to be plenty of action. Doesn’t matter if she’s making love or beating the stuffing out of someone, you can’t leave the room, even when your wife is shouting that dinner’s getting cold.

Is there anyone who doesn’t know the pointy-eared, super logical Vulcan named Spock? He was unique, complex and fascinating when he was introduced four decades ago, and guess what, he’s still interesting. An old friend, someone who doesn’t disappoint. There is still that struggle between human emotions and Vulcan logic, that sharp wit and that strong loyalty to friends. I understand that he will be in the Star Trek movie coming out next year. What an amazing career.

Battlestar’s Gaius Baltar is one of the most complex characters ever to appear in science fiction. He’s basically a villain, but you get the feeling he’s a pretty decent, if weak, character down deep. A genius, a womanizer, a leader, a manipulator --- they all apply to Baltar. He’s almost always on the wrong side of an issue, but you can’t help rooting for his good side to emerge. And those scenes with Six will melt your socks!

If Baltar were an all-powerful alien, he’d be Q. Star Trek TNG’s favorite villain, Q always presents Picard and the other Star Trek leaders with a fascinating problem to investigate. He’s self-centered, mischievous, and arrogant, but always amusing. You just have to smile when Q makes an appearance.

Captain Elizabeth Lockley was only on Babylon 5 for a year, but she really made an impression. Tough, smart, vulnerable, and very hot, she quickly established herself as the leader of B5. The woman dominates her scenes, too. Somehow, no matter who is talking, my eyes are on her.

And finally, there is Lando Molari, the Ambassador to B5 from the Centauri. Lando began the series as a lightweight villain, but gradually evolved into an honorable, brave man willing to sacrifice his happiness for the survival of his people. His relationship with G’Kar, the Narn Ambassador, gradually grew over the life of the series from mutual contempt to respect to a tragic friendship.

Okay, that’s my list. I have noticed that these great sci-fi characters become almost like friends over the years. That’s when you know a character was something special.

Check out SFSIGNAL to see the characters others have selected.

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