When you think about it, Starfleet is one of the coolest fictional organizations ever created. It asks us to imagine a world where no one has to worry about their next meal or their healthcare and instead can focus on just having awesome adventures in space. Over the years, these fictional adventurers have inspired real life astronauts and other NASA officials to go explore the actual “final frontiers” of our universe. As Mr. Spock might say, that’s only “logical" -- with characters as awesome as this, people were inevitably going to be inspired towards greatness.
Star Trek is also a very venerable franchise -- very few franchises last for over 50 years, and it looks like it could easily make it for 50 more. That means we’ve got a lot of Starfleet members to idolize, but it unfortunately also means that we’ve got a few who were less than inspirational. With so many shows over so many years, we ended up with more Starfleet members than you can shake a phaser at, and while everyone is fully equal in the world of Starfleet, the blunt truth of our world is that some of these characters were created far superior than others. So, who is the best member of Starfleet and who should just stick to cleaning the waste extraction system? These are the kinds of arguments that make nerds fight to the end. So, put down those long sticks and stop playing that awful fight music, because we are bringing you the definitive list of the best 25 Starfleet members ever!
25 DEANNA TROI
We should start by saying that we love Deanna Troi. She is an interesting and original character, and Marina Sirtis is a highly gifted actor. However, this character is at the bottom of our list because the writers never quite knew what to do with her.
Her empathic abilities, when used correctly, could bring most episodes to an end before the opening credits rolled. Instead, she spent most of the entire series just offering vague emotional readings and walking around in non-standard uniforms. Also, hardcore Next Generation fans may never be able to figure her for crashing the Enterprise-D saucer section on a planet the first time she got behind the wheel!
24 HARRY KIM
Some fans believe that Voyager doesn’t get as much fan love because the characters are all one note. While that claim is debatable, it sadly applies to Ensign Harry Kim. He was basically “wide-eyed and goofy young dude” at the beginning of the show, and he remained that way for seven years.
When it comes to comparing him to others, Harry is a bright young man but he doesn’t have the charm of, say, a Wesley Crusher. He’s gifted at problem-solving, but he doesn’t have the gravitas of Spock or Data. Ultimately, he’s the exposition and deus ex machina guy, here to introduce problems and then give a techno-babble solution at the end of the episode.
Uhura is higher on our list than Deanna Troi, but not by much, as both characters suffer from some of the same issues. Uhura has one of the most important jobs on the ship and has been played by two unforgettable actors, but most episodes reduce her to background noise.
The shows and movies rarely showed Uhura actually using her impressing linguistic and technical skills. Instead, she was often reduced to the role of space secretary, making sure Kirk was able to say his piece to the latest alien threat of the week. Sorry, Uhura -- this is the opposite of empowering.
22 PAVEL CHEKOV
Chekov is another member of Starfleet who didn’t get enough love on the original series. In the rebooted movies, he is memorably portrayed as a kind of kid genius who got caught up in a dangerous adult adventure. Sadly, the other movies make him more memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Somewhere along the way, Chekov became simultaneously the punching bag and the comedy relief. We see him getting mind-controlled by Khan, injured on Earth, and just generally having a bad time. Ultimately, his most memorable line is him saying “nuclear wessels” in a silly accent -- not one of Starfleet’s finest moment.
21 BEVERLY CRUSHER
While a bit higher on the list than Deanna Troi, Beverly Crusher is another character who works better on paper than on-screen. She balances being a superdoctor with being a supermom, all while carrying Picard-related baggage from the past. Oh, and she dances, directs plays, and has many cool hobbies.
However, she just didn’t have much to do beyond basic medical stuff and her cool character history came off (more often than not) as her character being defined by men instead of defining herself. This culminates in one of the goofiest episodes in Trek history, when Crusher nearly abandons Starfleet because of her bizarre relationship with a Scottish ghost trapped in a candle.
We like to think there are no bad members of Starfleet. Rather, there are simply some that are written more strongly than others and there were few characters as hurt by bad writing in this franchise as the second in command of the Voyager, Commander Chakotay.
Due in part to consultation with a fraudulent expert on Native American culture, Chakotay often comes across as an offensive stereotype. When he’s not being outright offensive, though, he’s being offensively bland. The saddest thing about this is all of the missed potential that this character had for a whopping seven years on the show.
19 TOM PARIS
Speaking of missed potential, the next entry on our list is Tom Paris. This character was clearly conceived of as a roguish swashbuckler -- like someone drizzled a bit of Han Solo into a Starfleet uniform. Unfortunately, none of this quite went as planned.
Paris only seems interesting when he’s paired with Harry Kim, and that’s only because Kim is so lifeless. Otherwise, Paris is just a collection of weird one-liners and even weirder fixations, ranging from the Delta Flyer to recreating ancient serials on the holodeck. Too bad it's not possible to just ask the computer to delete Tom Paris for existence.
18 JADZIA DAX
Jadzia Dax is another Starfleet member whose character is cool on paper. She is bonded with a lifeform inside of her that has lived many different lifetimes and in many different bodies. Thus, despite being a young woman, she has memories of being an elder mentor of Benjamin Sisko.
However, the writers never knew what to do with her. Despite her many years of supposed wisdom, she often seemed immature and reckless. She was only really fun after she hooked up with Worf, and even that fun relationship was cut short by her untimely demise. Even after six seasons and several lifetimes, it felt like we barely knew her.
17 HIKARU SULU
It would have been tempting to put Sulu higher on this list. After all, he’s full of entertaining moments, from being a topless swashbuckler in The Original Series to uttering his legendary meme, “Oh, my” in the movies. Unfortunately, there’s just not a lot beneath that.
In the Original Series, Sulu didn’t have much to do because the show constantly focused on Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Despite eventually becoming Captain of the Excelsior, Sulu didn’t have much to do in the original movies, either. It’s pretty bad when the character gets more attention in the reboots than he ever did originally!
16 JULIAN BASHIR
If we were handing out awards for “most improved,” Julian Bashir would be the clear winner. He starts off as a pretty creepy and offensive character, and then he graduates to being sort of bland. By the end of the series, though, he’s got a crunchy and complex new history when he’s revealed as being genetically modified. Oh, and did we mention he becomes a spy?
Despite how cool he becomes, though, Bashir mostly oscillates between being annoying and offensive for a good chunk of Deep Space Nine. Also, watching his attempts to be a “nice guy” stalker in the first season of the show is about as bad as Trek can get.
15 MILES O’BRIEN
We’re getting towards the middle of the list and that’s a perfect place for Miles O’Brien. He ended up getting a pretty significant bump in his prominence, going from the occasional cameo on Next Generation to a starring role on Deep Space Nine but his portrayal was often pretty mixed.
For instance, much of his character development is that he’s a family man. Yet almost every onscreen interaction with his wife shows them as the unhealthiest couple in the quadrant. He’s much better in the company of characters like Bashir, but it rarely feels like we get to see the real O’Brien.
14 B’ELANNA TORRES
B’Elanna Torres was one of the better characters on Voyager. One reason is that she had a lot of conflict baked into her design. Not only was she one of the former members of the evil Maquis group, but she was constantly battling her Klingon heritage.
We can’t say much about her besides the fact that she made every character interaction stronger. The relationship between her and Paris was only believable because of her performance. As a member of Starfleet, you could argue that she had the toughest job -- keeping the engines going when the ship was absolutely stranded in the Delta Quadrant.
13 GEORDI LA FORGE
Geordi LaForge had many roles on Star Trek: The Next Generation, ranging from helmsman to Chief Engineer. He also ended up being every bit the heart of the show, just as the warp core that he kept running was the heart of the ship.
Geordi was instrumental in helping Data to explore his humanity; furthermore, him and his crew of misfits (including Reginald Barclay) were also heartwarmingly hilarious even in the most serious of times. He's a smart guy and if you don't end up agreeing with him on that, he’ll probably just program a holo version of you that does.
12 WILLIAM T. RIKER
William Riker is a fan favorite character from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and why wouldn’t he be? The man is gracious, generous, and can be downright funny. Add that to the fact that he’s just as engaging as a smooth-talking jazz musician after hours as he is a strong and commanding officer.
In fact, the only reason that Riker isn’t higher on this list is that he has a weak start and a weak dismount. Beardless Riker was just a stick in the mud when the show began, and when the movies were wrapping up, he was just a caricature of a generic action hero.
11 LEONARD MCCOY
He famously insisted that he was a doctor and not a bricklayer. However, fans know that Doctor McCoy was so much more than this. In fact, he formed one of the power trio on the Original Series show, and he was the character fans could most easily relate to.
Spock had his cold, alien logic and Kirk had the cool distance of command, but it was McCoy that always reacted as the audience would react to whatever outlandish thing was happening this week. McCoy only got cooler over time, culminating in a major role in Undiscovered Country and a fun Next Generation cameo.
10 KIRA NERYS
Casual fans might be surprised to see Bajoran officer Kira on a Starfleet list. However, she was given a rank and uniform in the final episodes of Deep Space Nine as she helped foment resistance on Cardassia. This resistance would ultimately play a critical role in the Dominion losing the war.
Despite her short stint in Starfleet, we were truly impressed by Kira. She was able to work alongside her sworn enemies in a cool and efficient way. She was also able to survive on a planet full of people who wanted her dead. Finally, she did more damage to the Dominion with her mission than entire fleets had done before.
9 MONTGOMERY “SCOTTY” SCOT
Scotty is one of those Original Series characters that became a cultural sensation. Not only is everyone familiar with him from the phrase “Beam me up, Scotty” (a line never uttered in the show), but fans love to imitate his faux Scottish accent when it comes to bringing Kirk bad news about the ship.
As an actual Starfleet member, Scotty is the original “miracle worker.” He was able to save his captain and crew from certain doom countless times. Later, he’d cheat his demise yet again with a transporter buffer, allowing him to survive beyond his years and into the time of Captain Picard’s next generation of adventures.
Worf began as more of a symbol than a character -- he represented Starfleet’s new relationship with their once-mortal enemies, the Klingons. However, he began in the shadow of Tasha Yar. After her demise, he began his journey to being a fan-favorite.
Basically, there’s nothing to dislike about Worf. His serious Klingon backstory produced some of the best episodes of the franchise. Meanwhile, his weird sense of humor led to some weirdly quotable lines (such as “I am not a Merry Man”), and thanks to him joining the cast of Deep Space Nine, he’s logged more Trek hours than just about anyone!
For the most part, the Next Generation crew did their own thing; Gene Roddenberry wisely realized that he shouldn’t try to do new version of classic characters. Nonetheless, Data -- an eminently logical and emotionless android -- clearly followed in the footsteps of Mr. Spock.
Data became a fan-favorite for many reasons. First, he’s easy to root for, as his child-like innocence combines with his genuine love of humanity. Second, he’s had an amazing arc and he grows more than anyone else over the series and movies. Finally, Brent Spiner breathes life into this character in a way that no one else ever could. Overall, he is an amazing and unforgettable character.
Finally, we’ve gotten to Mr. Spock. Or, as Dr. McCoy might call him, that “green-blooded bastard.” While McCoy often saw Spock as cold and robotic, longtime fans of this Vulcan character have learned to spot and appreciate his moments of quiet humanity.
As a Starfleet member, he’s absolutely legendary, taking part in multiple generations of universe-defining adventures. As just a character, his arc is equally amazing. We see him go from thinking logic is everything to telling his pupil that logic is only the beginning of wisdom but not the end of it. It’s good that he eventually learned to appreciate emotions, as his demise always leaves us bawling.
5 JONATHAN ARCHER
Star Trek: Enterprise isn’t the most beloved Trek show,, and as a prequel to The Original Series, it was often stuck between paying homage to what came before and boldly going into new adventures. One thing everyone can agree on, though: Captain Archer was amazing.
Scott Bakula gives an absolutely charming experience as Archer. This versatile actor showed us the many sides of the captain, from vulnerable son to fatherly confident to tough guy supreme. By the time the show ends, it’s clear that Archer helped to shape the kind of men that heroes like James T. Kirk aspired to be.
4 KATHRYN JANEWAY
What makes a good Starfleet captain? One could argue that it comes down to making tough decisions on a moment’s notice. If that’s the criteria , then we’ve got to tell you: Captain Janeway is one of the best captains to ever command a Starfleet vessel.
When her crew is lost in the Delta quadrant, Janeway follows in the footsteps of Kirk, turning certain demise “into a fighting chance to live.” Her tough calls kept the crew safe and the galaxy on its toes. At the end of the day, she’s the only person to ever look the Borg Collective in the eye and force them to blink.
3 BENJAMIN SISKO
There are many reasons to love Benjamin Sisko. One reason is that he is a classic reluctant hero -- he takes command of Deep Space Nine with little enthusiasm, thinking of it as a nice and simple assignment. When a stable wormhole appears, he balances commanding the most important real estate in the galaxy with being a religious icon to an entire people.
It sounds tough, but Sisko makes it look easy but over time, we see him lead fleets into war, fight rogue aliens, and basically save the galaxy. So while everyone is hyped about a new Picard show, we can’t help but wish we could get a new Sisko show instead.
2 JEAN-LUC PICARD
Everyone thought it would be impossible for there to be another Captain of the Enterprise after the heyday of James T. Kirk. However, Captain Picard won over both casual fans of science fiction as well as the hardcore fans of sci-fi’s most hardcore fan community.
While there were flashes of “action hero Picard” (especially in the movies), Picard mostly came across as a different kind of captain. He used his brains rather than his brawn, and laid some hard truths on viewers that still hold up after the decades. He is ultimately more than just a great Starfleet officer -- Jean-Luc Picard is a genuine inspiration.
1 JAMES T. KIRK
Was there any doubt as to who would be at the top of this list? When measuring Starfleet characters against one another, the truth is that Captain Kirk essentially set the standard. Without him, we would never be able to tell a good Starfleet officer from a bad one.
Over the years, Kirk handled it all: from cloaked Romulan invaders to angry Klingons to an entire mirror universe filled with evil. Through it all, he exemplified courage and command. And while some fans mock Shatner’s over-the-top betrayal, it was clear that Kirk was in charge of every situation, no matter how insane it got.