Friday, July 1, 2011

My Favorite Character, Essay #3: Kevin Curran

Kelly's not the only one who took forever to hammer this one out. There are so many options, it's kind of intimidating. Let's break it down by series.

The Original Series

This pretty much comes down to Kirk or Spock. The remaining characters, with the exception of McCoy just never get enough screen time to get sufficiently developed characters to really compete for "favorite." Kirk is a good captain and certainly the most developed character in TOS, but I wouldn't say he's my favorite. Matt's point in his post about his favorite character is well taken; Kirk is the embodiment of Rodenberry's universe and its ethos, but somehow, I never quite connected with Kirk the way I did with Spock. It's probably as a nerd-child, I identified more with his academic, outsider-ness than Kirk's bravado.

I'm going to go with Spock, and I don't think that should shock anyone.  He is the Grand Poobah of Nerds and with good reason.  I think he also gets the best arc of any character from TOS.  I just rewatched Unification, and seeing the character after experiencing so much was really great.  The Spock who appears in TNG is comfortable with himself and his decisions in a way that young Spock wasn't, and I have to say, it makes watching the TOS Spock more interesting, knowing where he goes.

The Next Generation

TNG is handily my favorite series, and with a more ensemble cast, there are a lot more options for me to choose from. Let's work our way up the command chain, shall we?

I have softened my position on Wesley Crusher over the years. I was never a member of the alt.wesley.die.die.die usenet, but I did usually find him to be a bit...much. Over time, I have come to realize that was writing more than acting, and grownup Wil Wheaton is a pretty uniformly awesome guy, and that did make me retroactively like Wesley more. In the end he can't be my favorite character because, while the the character did achieve the goal of reminding me of myself, it did so in a way that made me think "God, is that how I come off to other people?"

Worf is a serious contender. Klingons generally are a favorite species of mine, and I'm a sucker for any honor-based/bloodbath story arc. Characters like Data, Spock, Odo, and maybe even the Doctor are the standard go-to men for exploring humanity through the eyes of an alien, but they all approach humanity from a position of cerebral detachment. I liked watching Worf try to fit in from the flip side of the coin. He gets more fleshed out in DS9, but it was always fun watching him balance his personal desires against Doing The Right Thing.

Counselor Troi could have been my favorite with even marginally better writing. I'm an emotional, empathic person. It's how I approach the world and relationships. I readily detect other people's emotional states and tend to adopt them as my own unless I'm consciously trying not to. And I need those things to be able to do my job properly, so in a way, my real life is closest to that character over any other. It's only its lack of development that keeps her character from really singing for me. When she got to something other than sense obvious deception, I thought she had potential to be a really interesting character. The character really comes into her own in the Titan novels where, as head counselor and first contact specialist, he abilities both make sense and provide a more substantial reason to give her a chair on the bridge.

Geordi is in a bit inthe same boat as Troi in that he doesn't get a ton of actual character development, and it's a crying shame, because LeVar Burton is a damned good actor, and when given the opportunity, he really shined. The only non-technical character trait he seems to have is that he is all thumbs with women, and that joke got pretty old pretty quickly. Same goes for Dr. Crusher. I always liked her, and among all the cast, save possibly Patrick Stewart, her theater background pays dividends. She handled all her props like a master. She wasn't just holding a gizmo, she had a clear picture of how it was used, and it may sound silly, but that actually endeared both the character and the actress to me. I always felt I was watching an actual, caring doctor at work, and it's really a dearth of Crusher-focused storylines that keep her out of the running for favorite.

Data is definitely a serious contender for my favorite TNG character. I think Riker sums it up best. For an emotionless being, he sure inspired emotion in others. Brent Spiner always did an amazing job with whatever he was given, but when the writers gave him A-material, he really shone. It's hard not to watch Data's Day and not just be charmed. Data's otherness was always framed in his relative innocence and it makes him almost irresistibly appealing. I agree with Matthew that the show eventually came to rely too heavily on Data, but that's not exactly a mark against an interesting character well-portrayed.

The comparisons between Riker and Kirk are numerous, and it kind of has the same impact on my relationship to his character. His charming bravado made Matt want to be him, but it tended to remind me of the people in high school I didn't really like. I understand Riker is the New and Improved Federation Jock, but still, it always kept me at a bit of a distance. Maybe I would have identified more if they were bagging all the hot green boys instead of the hot greem girls. Hmm.

Last, but certainly not least, is Captain Picard, and it really shouldn't surprise anyone that he ends up my favorite. Patrick Stewart imbued Picard with depth and compassion, but also a hint of the wild child that got his punk ass stabbed by a Naussican at the Bonestall Recreation Facility. I connected with him when he broke down in his family's vineyard after the Borg attack and I connected with him when he was looking for buried treasure with Vash. Most of all, out of any character in the franchise, he is the person I would most like to be.

Deep Space Nine

While TNG is my favorite show, DS9 runs a close second. I'll get to this is more detail when we start reviewing them, but DS9 ran concurrent with my teenage years, and I think I responded so powerfully to it because it felt like the maturity of the plotlines developed at the same time I did. Even moreso than TNG, I think DS9 made a concerted effort to give every character a fully developed storyline and opportunity to display their characters. It also gave their characters more overt flaws, which in a way, does endear them to me.

Let's go down the command chain from the top this time. I agree with Matt's assessment that Sisko was a bit over the top for me. I always enjoyed the moments with Jake, as I thought those were the most credible, but the combination of his more bombastic command style and being a Messiah kind of distances him for me emotionally.

Major Kira is definitely a strong contender. Once the writers stopped giving her the dialogue they clearly meant for Michelle Forbes' Ensign Ro, I really think the character came into her own. I always thought Kira's emotional state was closer to the surface that the other characters, even if she didn't want to acknowledge it, and that drew me in. In fact, I think her best moments as a character and actress were when she was just barely suppressing a powerful emotion, like Darkness and the Light or Ties of Blood and Water. I think Kira also had the most interesting and completely developed character arc on the show. Over the seasons, she became more comfortable with herself in a way that season 1 Kira would have not thought possible, and she did it in a way that didn't sacrifice character aspects established early on.

Also, let's not underestimate the appeal of someone who can clearly and easily kick your ass.

Worf gets fleshed out here quite a bit, and if he were going to be a favorite character, I think he might have to be it for this show. He gets a few more layers in this series that elevate from more than merely gruff and the strong, silent type, and I enjoyed watching him and Jadzia together.

The Daxes are fun, and I really liked them both. Once they stopped asking Terry Farrell to play Trill as detached, which she couldn't really pull off and is kind of boring, she really came into her own. Her impish grin was always endearing. I liked Ezri too and think she got a lot to do considering her short run on the show. There are strains of Barclay there, and I always liked Barclay. It's nice to see someone who is a little intimidated by the Star Trek world instead of excelling in it. It's hard not to empathize, and it makes the world seem more real.

I think Quark is one of the best written characters in the show hands down. Usually when we examine humanity through the alien lens, we find out how awesome humanity is. Quark embodies what we view as our own worst features and excels at it. He's also there to remind us when we don't exactly live up to our own ideals.

In the balance, I have to go with Kira. I enjoyed watching her grow as a person, and I empathized with her reactions more often than anyone else's. There's something I find appealing about someone who grows into being part of the Star Trek world, rather than being born into it. It's easy for humanity to eschew violence. Like Sisko said, they live in paradise. Kira doesn't, so turning away from violence as a solution really means something.


My other issues (numerous though they be) aside, I agree with Kelly that Voyager actually makes the biggest strides in portraying three-dimensional female characters. My problem with Captain Janeway were never about her command style or femininity, it was more I found her a little too perfect. Her solution was always to do things the Federation way, and she was always proven right. I would have appreciated a few more chinks in the armor, like sleeping with Chakotay for the love of God. But her empathy and compassion definitely shine through in a way even Picard's doesn't and that rates her pretty highly in my book.

B'Elanna has a lot in common with Kira, and I like her for the same reasons. It was really fun, especially on rewatching Voyager, to watch her grow and change, but still maintain a credible through line for the character. She wasn't more mature merely because the episode called for it; it actually worked for the character. One of my favorite moments with her is the first time she talks to her father over the comm line. You can really see the prior seven seasons of angst in her body language and the halting, B'Elanna like step of bluring out "I'll write you." Scenes like those, and episodes like Barge of the Dead really connected me to the character.

I hate to admit that I was not...optimistic...about Seven of Nine joining. I was not overly enammored of Kes, but in the end, I was happily proven wrong, and have to admit I engaged in the very stereotyping that I thought the producers were: that she was cast just for her looks. Jeri Ryan is a really good actress and aside from the fact the later seasons became the "Doctor and Seven Show," I was always compelled by her performance. Sure, she could have had "Captain, when you freed me from the Collective, you told me humanity was [X]. This current decision is in opposition to [X]," writeen on a t-shirt to save time on dialogue, but still, her humanity shines through. Particularly when it came to her family, it was hard not to like the character.

The Doctor is gonna be a close second for me. He also gets a great development arc, and Robert Picardo is always a sarcastic joy. I think they could have gone further and given him quarters once he had his emitter or something similar. It felt he plateaued about season 4, and became a sentient hologram, but they didn't explore it beyond a few polemics on hologram rights.

I'm gonna go with B'Elanna on this one. What can I say? I'm a gay. We like assertive women...socially


Tripp is my favorite Enterprise character and not just for his pecs. He by far gets the most development, and I'm a sucker for an "awww shucks, ma'am" disposition. I think moreso than any other character in the series, he really embodied the joy of exploration. He was just excited to be there, and that was infectious.


So, we have Spock, Picard, Kirk, Kira, B'Elanna, and Tripp. Wow. It's like the answer to the question, who would you invite to a dream dinner party. Two handsome , sophisticated nerds; two fabulous sharp-tongued women, and some man candy. This project has became a sharper picture into my soul than I am comfortable with.

I don't think it's a shock to say that overall, my pick is Picard. Maybe because he was the first character on the list I watched. He kind of embodies everything I like about Star Trek at once. Passionate, curious, compassionate. I like him and would most like to be like him.

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