I’ve been a lover of sci-fi for as long as I can remember. The first television show I remember actively watching (that wasn’t targeted to audiences under 12) is Star Trek: Voyager. Now, I know Voyager gets a pretty bad rap among the Trek fans, but it will always be my favorite simply for the fact that the female characters in the series were my very first role models that didn’t wear tiaras. And nostalgia. And the fact that my dad and I really bonded over sci-fi during my adolescent years. Basically, it’s the start of everything for me.
Picture 7-year-old little me sitting in front of that TV in 1995, watching this woman captain a Federation ship through the far reaches of the galaxy & you’ll get it. That’s an insanely magical thing for a kid who, up until this point, had spent too much time watching Rugrats and Looney Tunes and The Little Mermaid. I’m not sure I had even actively watched a movie or TV show that was not animated at this point in my life – at least, I don’t remember doing so – but I distinctly remember the first time I watched Star Trek and I was instantly obsessed. My dad and I would sit down every week & watch it together while my mom did who-knows-what, because she was never into the Sci-Fi/ Fantasy stuff.
There’s a lot of talk in the media today about the shortage of strong, female role-models for young girls. It seems that many people just kind of brush off the subject, but I can attest that for a young girl to see a woman in a kick-ass position makes a huge difference in her opinion of herself and the world around her. Watching Kathryn Janeway kick ass and take names on a weekly basis made me realize that I could do big things. Even though my parents always told me I could do anything, I didn’t believe it until I saw it in action. Janeway cared for her crew the way a mother cares for her children. She respected them, guided them, protected them. She would (and did) do anything for them. In return, they respected her and followed her into uncharted territory on their journey back to Earth. It’s a pretty standard strong female character, but a good one, nonetheless. Then you’ve got B’Elanna Torres.
For anyone who is not familiar with the series, B’Elanna is a human-Klingon hybrid and Starfleet Academy drop-out who joins Voyager’s crew out of necessity after her Maquis (rebel group) crew got stranded in the Detla Quadrant with Voyager. B’Elanna had a rough childhood, and was teased by other kids due to her Klingon heritage and the appearance that comes with it. Unfortunately for her, part of being a Klingon also means an uncontrollable temper and difficulty respecting authority. She’s stubborn and brilliant and you can always see the rage bubbling beneath the surface. All of this contributed to her exit from the Starfleet Academy due to frequent disciplinary incidents. She is a surprisingly complex character, and by far my favorite female of the series. I could identify with her when they showed flashbacks to her childhood and the bullying she endured (I’m hoping that by the 24th century we’ve completely abolished bullying) and the isolation she felt growing up on a planet where she and her mother were the only Klingons. Isolation is something that every girl – or person, for that matter – experiences in their life, but when you’re 9 years old it’s hard to believe that anyone knows what you’re going through. Watching B’Elanna’s transformation from an insubordinate Maquis crewman to a full-fledged, respected, and loved member of a Federation crew was really therapeutic for a girl who just didn’t know how to connect to her peers.
This post would not be complete without mention of one of the other primary female characters in the series: Seven of Nine. Seven is a human who was assimilated by the Borg when she was 6 years old. She spent her whole life with them until her link to the collective was severed by Janeway when she was 24. She had to learn how to be human all over again & how to assimilate (see what I did there?) into a completely different culture than she was used to. She remained analytical and direct while trying to regain her humanity, with the help of fellow crew-members. She had many struggles and setbacks, but ultimately became a valued member of Voyager’s crew – one who saved all of their lives on more than one occasion. She is yet another great example of someone who is a complete outsider, but by opening up to the people around her, became part of a family.
There are lots of other things I learned from watching Voyager, but it was a really loud wake-up call on the girl-power front. This series sparked a love of sci-fi, which led me to watch other series of Star Trek (obviously), Star Wars, Stargate, and Firefly, as well as venturing into other realms of fantasy, like vampires…
Until next time ❤