Since it’s inception in the mid ‘60s, Star Trek has occupied a special place as a cornerstone of modern science fiction, pushing the boundaries of gender relations, political ideologies, and socio-economic dialogues. It used the science fiction genre as a means to explore these concepts and examine them with a critical lens that ended up affecting change in the real world. So much about Star Trek was groundbreaking for its time; interracial (and interspecies!) romances, interracial and international crews, and an environment of tolerance and diplomacy. In the future of Star Trek, humankind had moved beyond its need for currency, war, and disease. It could then be free to navigate the cosmos and bring the various species of the universe together under the banner of exploration.
Despite all that good stuff, you still have womanizing first officers, ship doctors treating patients like lab experiments, and entire episodes that take place on a planet devoted to getting laid. You also have the offensive things that come out of Quark’s mouth, and whenever Q is on screen. To contrast the massive strides Star Trek has made over the decades, CBR has rounded up 15 of the most offensive characters in the Star Trek franchise.
15. SEVEN OF NINE
Seven of Nine came to the series of Star Trek Voyager at a very specific time and for a very specific reason: ratings. Ratings were suffering, and one character needed to go in favor of bringing aboard a more attractive alternative. Voyager had a strong female lead for a captain so she couldn’t go, but the minor character of Kess was expendable; she left in the third season due to creative differences between the actress and the writing department.
Enter Seven of Nine, a Borg unplugged from the Collective, and serving as a member of the Voyager crew. She viewed all humans as inferior, routinely referred to their methods of operation as ineffective, and viewed their hobbies and pursuits of interpersonal relationships as a waste of time. However, the most offensive part about her character was that she existed purely to wear a skintight suit.
14. COMMANDER RIKER
One of the most popular characters in Next Generation if not all of Star Trek canon is Commander Riker. Known for leaning inappropriately on consoles and flashing a pervy smile at every female he comes in contact with, he’s the Van Wilder of Space. Having passed up countless opportunities for advancement, he constantly turns it down in favor of hanging out on the Enterprise like the 40-year old guy that hangs around college towns picking up girls from the local bar. Riker doesn’t want the responsibility of Captain but likes the power of authority he has as Number One.
Aside from skirting adulthood, he can’t manage to keep a steady relationship. He stood up Deanna Troi years ago and she keeps hanging around him hoping for scraps of affection, which he totally leads her on about. His greatest love is in fact a chick from a holosuite program.
Greedy, selfish, and cunning, Quark possesses all the best qualities in a Ferengi. A gambler, sometimes mercenary, sometimes spy, and purveyor of all manner of contraband materials, he also ran a popular bar on Deep Space Nine. Most of the fun and hilarity occurred because of Quark and the shenanigans he’d get into onboard, but sometimes his behavior had very serious consequences.
To say that Quark was offensive is putting it mildly. He revelled in finding exactly what off color thing to say that would push the buttons of his patrons and the inhabitants of the space station. His favorite person to terrorize is Chief Security Officer Odo. Like a true Ferengi, he thinks a woman’s place is in the kitchen or providing bodily pleasure, and provides the only holodeck “pleasure suites” on board the vessel.
Captain Kirk has smashed faces with a grand total of 19 women on the original Star Trek series. One of these women, Drusilla, was the personal slave of Proconsul Claudius Marcus. When Kirk is taken captive and made a prisoner on planet 892-IV, Claudius does him a solid and assigns her to be Kirk’s slave for the evening. Is Kirk that lucky? Since he’s to be executed in the morning, it’s thought that he should spend his last hours alive “as a man”.
To his credit, Kirk is suspicious about Drusilla’s presence; a beautiful woman, scantily clad, ordered to placate his every whim. But that doesn’t last long, because as soon as Kirk is convinced she’s not trying to pump him for information, he decides to pump her. Not only does she serve no purpose other than to be a notch in Kirk’s proverbial space belt, she doesn’t even get the satisfaction of being a spy.
11. COMMANDER CHAKOTAY
While Star Trek can be praised for doing a lot of great things for ethnic equality, with ships populated by aliens and humans of every skin color, the characters themselves can still fall into the trap of stereotypes and lazy writing. An example of this is First Officer Chakotay on board the USS Voyager.
Chakotay is the first First American shipmate on Star Trek, and he is second in command under Captain Kathryn Janeway. While that’s pretty impressive, his character arc doesn’t span the breadth of development enjoyed by other members of the crew because the writers just couldn’t get past the “noble savage” motif. He has a stoic demeanor, is generally humorless, goes on vision quests, and his traits involve honor and integrity. Despite having previously been the captain of his own vessel of rebel freedom fighters, there’s nothing dastardly about him and sadly, nothing very complex.
10. MARDAH, THE DABO GIRL
At Quark’s bar on Deep Space Nine, you can enjoy a good time in one of his “pleasure suites” as part of a holosuite program, drink some Romulan ale, or gamble the night away surrounded by Dabo girls. Dabo girls are the cigarette girls and cocktail waitresses of the future, who have no problem blowing on your pieces when you play the popular game of Dabo.
One special Dabo girl, Mardah starts a relationship with Captain Sisko’s teenage son, Jake, who’s been on Deep Space Nine for only two years and doesn’t even need to shave yet. It’s not specified by how old Mardah is, but she’s clearly a woman even if she’s in her early twenties, and if the roles were reversed it’d be considered entering pedo territory, where no Star Trek episode had gone before.
Star Trek Beyond featured a very arresting performance by Idris Elba as the villain Krall, who is more than the violently gruesome alien commander he appears. He has murdered, captured, and enslaved hundreds of citizens of the Federation. When the crew of the Enterprise track him to his hideout on a distant planet, it’s with the intent to stop his onslaught of civilized space.
At the climax of the film, when Kirk and Krall have a climactic fight outside of Starfleet headquarters, his master motivations are revealed; a once decorated officer in Starfleet, he became Krall due to exposure to a deadly toxin while on a mission. He was abandoned by Starfleet. And rather than explore the effects of PTSD on essentially intergalactic veterans, as well as the complexities of an altruistic person who loses their convictions, they reduce him to a war mongering thug.
8. THE DOCTOR
The lovably grumpy EMH (Emergency Medical Hologram) on Star Trek Voyager had the bedside manner of Dr. House. After being activated during an intense space battle in which the human doctor was killed, he proceeded to treat human patients as inferior lifeforms that he begrudgingly had to help. Though he was supposed to be deactivated once a patient left sick bay he was often left on (much to his annoyance), and because of this ended up spending time teaching himself subroutines that would help him interact less malevolently.
He has been compared to another form of artificial intelligence (Commander Data), but unlike Data never wanted to be more human, though he grew to admire their intrepid spirits. His character arc throughout the series from mean spirited hologram to compassionate crew member is one of the best examples of dramatic development, especially given how offensive he was through much of it.
Some characters exist to cause destruction and drama for other characters, and some exist to show the contrast in integrity of other characters. Q succeeded in both. Being an omnipotent and omnipresent immortal, he could go anywhere and do anything, and yet despite that, his favorite thing to do was mess with the crew of the Enterprise. Why? Because it made for a more exciting narrative, and because he was so offensive, everyone else looked like pillars of morality by comparison. Plus he enjoyed terrorizing Picard.
Q had no tact, no concept of privacy, and no scruples when it came to how dirty he would play. On a petty whim, he might transport crew members to worlds light years away, or steal their partners, or destroy their interpersonal relationships because it was more fun than his endless existence.
6. LWAXANA TROI
We all know Deanna Troi to be a compassionate, caring, and empathetic person. Given that she’s a telepath that makes sense. Given that she’s also the Enterprise’s counselor, it’s also in her job description. Given that her mother is Lwaxana Troi, it’s a no brainer. Many of us have vowed to not turn out like our mothers, but in Deanna’s case, the phrase has never applied better.
Whether it’s teaching Worf’s son to buck authority and not go to school in “Cost of Living”, or hitting on Commander Riker while he’s involved with her daughter, if there’s a way to be loud, obnoxious, and offensive, Lwaxana will find it. She has no regard for personal boundaries and is tactless, boorish, and a constant state of embarrassment for Deanna. Personally, her zest for life is refreshing, even if it’s not for everyone.
5. LIEUTENANT WORF
A fan favorite among Next Generation audiences, Worf was a Klingon that was the Chief of Security on the bridge of the Enterprise. He wasn’t as overtly aggressive as other members of his Klingon species, due to his extensive time in Starfleet. He is the only Klingon to serve aboard a Starfleet ship, a distinction that he holds with pride and distinction.
Despite being a brave tactical officer with experience, it became a running joke in the series just how often his stratagems, advice, or suggestions were shot down. From Deanna Troi, to Captain Picard, at some point or other every officer brushed aside his concerns. Why appoint the most practical person to the position and then don’t listen to them? He’s also the only alien on the bridge (and person of color), and watching him continuously get shut down is unsettling.
While Captain Kirk is certainly known for being a ladykiller, most people don’t consider Captain Picard in his class, and while the latter didn’t see quite as much action in that way, he wasn’t without episodes involving romantic interests. One such episode of Next Generation, “The Perfect Mate” involved a species called the Kriosians, whose female members mold their personalities to meet the desires of the men around them.
One such female, Kamala, is supposed to imprint on a particular Voltan male so that his species and the Kriosian’s can reach a peaceful conclusion to years of conflict. Picard, being the empathetic sort, doesn’t appreciate that her only role is to be forced into what amounts to sex bondage. Naturally, she develops feelings for her savior. The character literally doesn’t feel “complete” without male attention and desire, and will pretty much die without it.
3. CADET SYLVIA TILLY
The characters of Star Trek Discovery are as diverse as any in the Star Trek franchise, especially the roommate of the main character, Michael. Her roommate is a socially awkward, highly anxious, neurotic young woman named Sylvia Tilly. Sylvia appears very much on the autistic spectrum, and while it’s not stated outright in that way, she’s not supposed to have a roommate because of her “special needs”. It’s a loaded phrase with a specific connotation which, coupled with her allergy to “polyester and viscoelastic polyurethane foam”, makes her seem like some leper the Discovery crew stashed off somewhere.
Presenting someone on the autistic spectrum as a nerdy, socially awkward person that “cares too much about what other people think” conveys a very specific stereotype and causes viewers to judge Cadet Tilly before she has a chance to prove herself.
2. LENARA KAHN
In the tradition of pushing the boundaries of science fiction, Star Trek: Into The Darkness revealed that, at least according to its timeline, Hariku Sulu was gay. Star Trek: Discovery went so far as to explore that sort of complex personal relationship by having two main crew members have an intimate same-sex relationship on the ship itself. And then there was the episode of Deep Space Nine where two Trill kind of sort of had a thing for each other that executives refused to show.
Dax, the female host form of the symbiont Trill inside her, forms an attachment to another Trill named Lehnara Kahn, who is the ex-wife of Dax’s former (male) host. Apparently it’s taboo for the lovers of former hosts to be reunited. Star Trek had previously skirted around normalizing LGBT characters, and in creating the character of Lehnara Khan made same sex romance wrong and offensive.
1. CAPTAIN JAMES T. KIRK
Captain Kirk is good at two things; getting out of impossible situations and getting laid. He once decided to help kickstart a species because the males were having trouble getting the females pregnant. He once took Scotty to a bordello on Argelius II to “cure his resentment towards women”, because Scotty had been injured by some woman and suddenly they all sucked. Apparently learning to appreciate them as sexual objects while they feed and dance around you is the perfect solution. He threatens to spank female dignitaries, and takes over planets like Sigma Iotia Two, where he puts his own leader in power and wants a “cut” for the Federation.
Kirk is known for his “cowboy diplomacy” and flying by the seat of his pants style leading, but he’s also one of the most offensive, self serving, and reckless characters in the canon.
Which of these characters is the most offensive to you? Let us know in the comments!
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