So, despite what some clickbait grifter on YouTube will have you believe, Star Trek is alive and well. This past decade has given us three feature-length movies, two full seasons of Star Trek: Discovery, and of course, the debut season of Star Trek: Picard just closed out, and that was just as enjoyable. And that’s not to mention that Discovery’s third season is coming our way later this year, alongside the debut of Star Trek: Lower Decks. And even still, that’s not factoring in the growing rumors of a Pike series, the eventual start of the Section 31 series, a couple animated shows, and other live-action shows that are all getting talked about and are hopefully still on the table, despite the current global situation. Everything I’ve seen so far has not only given us a lot of fun stories and concepts, but I’ve been focused a lot on the characters of these shows, their stories, and what they would contribute to each show.
I have been anything but disappointed.
There’s a reason I said that Star Trek: Discovery had given us some of the best character development and overall characters since DS9 in the 90’s, and honestly, Star Trek: Picard may be following suite. With so many new characters to follow and get invested in, it’s time to talk about them. So I’m going to rank what I believe are the best new characters of these shows and films. Now it needs to be said that aside form one notable exception (who I will talk about why I include when I get there), I will not be talking about characters who were established prior to 2009. As much as I love Ethan Peck’s Spock in Discovery’s second season, as much as I love seeing Picard and Seven return to the small screen, as much as I love Kirk and his crew in the films, I won’t be talking about them really since they’re already known and beloved. I’m here to talk about why the new characters are awesome. Let’s get started.
(Be warned of potential spoilers here!)
15. Narek (Star Trek: Picard)
Admittedly, the young mysterious Romulan Tal Shiar agent took a bit longer for me to warm up to. It wasn’t until a bit after the debut season’s halfway point that I started to warm up to him, and admittedly, he still has some work to do in development, but I am very eager to see if that development will improve in the eventual Season 2. Narek shows a lot of promise as the next memorable Star Trek villain, maybe in some ways similar to Dukat in DS9. He’s shown to be manipulative, careful in approach, and very devious. That’s not to say he’ll be the same caliber of villain as Dukat, but I mean, he’s here, isn’t he?
Outside that, I actually found myself very drawn to a few small traits that I actually related to about the character. His meditative fidgeting for one thing is something I actually quickly grew a soft spot for. I loved his toys. I want a tan zhekran. Thanks to him, I bought an infinity cube, and still use it. It can help me focus, and can help calm me down when I need a little calm in my life. It definitely soothes my ADD mindset. It’s nice to see a character like this in Star Trek. It humanizes them and makes them feel more relatable. I mean sure, Narek right now is still kinda an antagonist, and I do believe they need to seriously flesh out his relationship with Soji more than they did for me to buy it, but for now, it’s a good start to the character.
14. Nero (Star Trek)
This choice might arguably make a few eyebrows raise since many consider Nero not particularly strong as a character, and admittedly, he mainly makes the list here because I absolutely love how external material fleshes out his backstory into just how this man thinks, and what life threw his way. I find his character fascinating in how he goes from an honest miner of the Romulan Empire, to a broken man hellbent on destroying the Federation because the pain he feels in the loss of Romulus is that great. And while his motivations may seem very shallow, I do believe that Eric Bana did a fantastic job in bringing him to life. One of the best scenes of the movie is when he interrogates Captain Pike on his ship, and his emotions boiling over when Pike tells him that Romulus wasn’t destroyed is borderline perfect.
And look, even if you throw out the external material, I think he’s a great villain (I still highly recommend reading Star Trek: Countdown, and Star Trek: Nero to get a better picture of this man). Sure, some may see him as this guy who just yells “FIRE EVERYTHING” a lot, or whatnot, but I see a truly grief-stricken man who has nothing left to live for, and nothing left to lose. How he spares Ambassador Spock’s life just to make him watch the destruction of Vulcan is a level of deviousness I’ve never seen in Star Trek before, and I do find it truly tragic that he is so broken, that when offered assistance in his final moments, he outright denies it. I certainly understand if he’s not everybody’s cup of tea, and certainly understand that a few scenes that were cut from the film really should have been left in the film, but regardless, I believe Nero deserves a mention here, and I will always find him a truly fascinating character.
13. Michael Burnham (Star Trek: DIscovery)
Okay, so I might not be completely out of the woods yet as far as controversial characters are concerned. Of all Star Trek’s lead characters, I can’t think of one that has generated more controversy than Michael Burnham. Whether people whine about her being a Mary Sue, or whatnot, I really could care less. While admittedly, she didn’t exactly shine in my eyes, over the last two seasons, she has very much grown on me in all the right ways. Not only did I enjoy her redemption arc in the debut season for her actions in instigating a deadly war between the Federation and Klingon Empire, but seeing her relationships and friendships with other crew members, the nature of her relationship with her foster brother, Spock, it’s all really well done, and I find myself invested each time.
There’s also something very awesome about the fact that despite being responsible for some atrocities in the Federation at the start of the series, Despite nearly everyone in Starfleet being distrustful of her, despite many having a reason to hate her, she never loses faith in Federation principle. She never tries to excuse herself, she never tells anyone that they’re wrong. She willfully accepts what’s to happen to her, and it makes her redemption and development through this show all the much better. And it makes it that much more satisfying when her friends and crew finally start to forgive her for past transgressions. Is she a perfect lead? No, and there are still a few characteristics about Burnham that I don’t exactly care for, but I am very excited to see where this third season goes, and I cannot wait to see what she brings to the table in that season.
12. Gabriel Lorca (Star Trek: Discovery)
Gabriel Lorca is a character I hope we see more of very soon. Maybe not in the same iteration as we saw in Season One, but he’s definitely a character I hope to see brought back in another iteration. I mean come on, I’m hardly the only one saying “Find Prime Lorca.” And of course that pretty much gives away that the Gabriel Lorca we know is a bit of a baddie. And it was a twist that admittedly… I never saw coming, despite many people theorizing it beforehand. But before the big twist reveal, I absolutely loved the stern short temper of Gabriel Lorca. Granted, before everything, we got a picture that revealed that Lorca wasn’t exactly the best person. He was a broken man, battle-scarred, reckless, defiant, and it was what made him so fascinating. There is something undeniably charming when his officers ask to do a task, cite their specialization, only for him to say “I don’t give a damn. I just want it done.” And that’s not to mention the intimidating presence he gives with his fascination of weapons of war, and his mindset which feels like an antithesis of everything the Federation stands for. But the reason this works is because he’s serving on a ship in a bloody war, and one can understand how that might change a man’s outlook to life.
And this is precisely why I didn’t see the Mirror Universe twist happening when it did. And arguably, after this twist, Lorca does kinda get weaker as a character in an obvious parallel to Trump, going as far as saying that he will make the Terran Empire glorious again. It definitely doesn’t exactly hit all the right marks it should have. But regardless of how it played out, the buildup to this twist is something I will never forget, and I do stilll believe that despite the weak twist, Lorca was a great character. And I am right there with the many who are curious as to whether or not we’ll eventually see Prime Lorca. Time will tell.
11. Laris & Zhaban (Star Trek: Picard)
I don’t care if this is technically two characters, you just cannot separate these two. The two Romulan housekeepers for Picard demonstrated that they were instantly likable from the time you first see them. Not only does it show you just how much Picard touched some Romulan lives during the events leading up to the tragic destruction of Romulus, but it shows that despite Picard having lost himself in this time, that many Romulans hold no ill feelings towards Picard in his failure. Laris and Zhaban, two former Tal Shiar agents, show just this as they help Picard in his day to day routines, and their heartwarming approach to their new life won me over instantaneously.
And though they live a quiet life now, they show that they can still kick serious ass and take names, like a Tal Shiar agent likely should. And despite kicking ass and taking names, I love that they make an attempt not to resort to their old Tal Shiar methods. They feel like a small antithesis for what a Tal Shiar agent should be, even if we’ll get to the true antithesis of the Tal Shiar later. The dialogue they share with Picard in each scene hits the spot each time and you truly feel like the three are family. The only negative thing I can say is that it’s a damn shame these two characters weren’t seen again after the third episode. I have hopes we will see them again soon.
10. Sylvia Tilly (Star Trek: Discovery)
Sylvia Tilly is quite possibly the most adorable character on Discovery right now. I hear a lot of people saying that they find her quite annoying, but to me, that just says that they really don’t identify with the very real struggle that many people have when handling a social life, or being socially interactive with other people. Sure, Tilly’s ramblings and stutters may sound annoying to the average human, but I’d argue that you really don’t understand just how much some people like that try to fit in, or try to work on their social skills. I see a lot of TNG character, Reginald Barclay in Tilly, and for the longest time, he was one of the few people I could truly relate to in this franchise.
I also feel that people who write Tilly off as annoying fail to see the bigger picture when it comes to her character. She’s one of the most optimistic characters on the show, and she’s rather humble when it comes to mistakes she makes, and the people she calls friends. How she’s at first very cautious and wary around Burnham, before becoming likely her best friend really goes to show this humble spirit in her. How she’s the first to forgive Ash Tyler after the things that happen in the last half of the first season, how open she is with Paul Stamets in his struggles, how upset she is when she learns that Burnham is willing to sacrifice her place in time if it means stopping Control, you can tell that Tilly has a very big heart, and it goes beyond her friends, as we see with her experience in the mycelial network. Her young eager persona won me over instantly, and I really do hope that she will eventually make big bounds towards a position of command. And that’s not to mention the light-hearted comedy relief that can come alongside her ramblings. It’s good for a chuckle almost every time. And hey, as the character to be the first speaker of an English F-bomb, why wouldn’t I include her here?
9. Raffi Musiker (Star Trek: Picard)
A lot of people really don’t like Raffi for reasons I just kind of laugh at. “Why does she call Picard ‘JL’?! It’s so annoying!” “She’s a pothead! What the hell?!” “She’s so abusive with alcohol!” Honestly, Raffi’s flaws are really what make her such a standout character. I find it truly fascinating that on Earth, she lives not so much in poverty, but definitely in a state that likely isn’t as desired by most people, and I’ve seen a lot of people say that this breaks continuity, as Earth has eradicated poverty, but the thing with Raffi is that she very much brought a lot of this on herself. The way I see it, Picard has said that humans work to better themselves and the rest of humanity, rather than focus on material gain. Raffi is the first character we’ve seen that shows us that people can fail in this aspect. It’s not unreasonable to assume that her addictions and thought patterns did not exactly do much to help her situation, and it’s obvious that no one took her seriously after the events that led to this life played out. So why wouldn’t Raffi be in such a state?
That and, her conspiracy jargon really hits home with this to the point where her own family wants nothing to do with her. How heartbreaking is that? But ironically enough, it’s this bizarre mindset that she has, leading her to come up with ideas and theories that no one else can see which also makes her a standout character in my eyes. And I feel this side of her isn’t explored nearly enough. We see way too many people complaining about nicknames, and who she’s holding hands with than we do the true essence of her character. I feel like that would be the equivalent of me saying I think Picard is a terrible character because he drinks Earl Grey, and doesn’t like children. It misses the true essence of the character. That and relationships can be platonic. Just because she tells Picard “I love you”, does not mean she’s looking to pursue a romantic interest. Just because she’s holding hands with Seven of Nine, does not mean there’s a serious love interest. I feel way too many people are jumping to conclusions and getting worked up about it when the full story hasn’t been told. And bite me. I think her calling Picard JL is adorable.
8. Paul Stamets (Star Trek: Discovery)
Star Trek’s first openly gay character (if you’re not counting Sulu in Star Trek Beyond) is one of the most interesting characters of Discovery right now in so many ways. Not only is it wicked awesome that his specialty, and work directly mirrors that of the real life scientist of the same name (just a little salt for those who think Discovery’s science is more fantasy), but his arc that he goes through in both seasons of Discovery can be absolutely gut wrenching. A lot of people have come forward of being critical of Discovery for its decision to kill off Paul’s romantic partner in Hugh Culber, saying that it fell under the Bury Your Gays trope, but not only do I disagree with this claim, I believe the show handled it in such a delicate and respectable way that only strengthened Paul as a character, which stands in defiance for everything the Bury Your Gays trope stands for. Hugh’s death does a tremendous amount of development to Paul as he goes through the various stages of grief for a very long time, and what his character goes through when Hugh is brought back from death, and how their relationship isn’t exactly what it once was really goes to show what his mental state must be like when it comes to how they are both handling it.
But even outside this arc of development that both he and Hugh go through, Paul Stamets is just a gem of a character. He easily has some of the best techno jargon of the show, and his explosive banter between any character will almost always be entertaining. Like other characters, how he develops a friendship with Michael Burnham is really kinda heartwarming, and I absolutely adore his love-hate relationship with the next character we’re going to be talking about. His spontaneous decision-making, his immersive knowledge of the mycelial network and the space-time continuum, and the love of his work all add up for one hell of a character that is far more memorable than him simply being the gay character of the show. Paul Stamets thankfully has so much more going on for him, and I can only imagine what is in store for his character in this upcoming season.
7. Jett Reno (Star Trek: Discovery)
Jett Reno is easily one of the best characters of the whole damn show. And I am begging this show to showcase her more in Season 3. I’m begging to simply SEE her in Season 3. Beforehand, I had no idea who Tig Notaro was, and it’s thanks to Discovery, that I am quite a big fan of Tig’s stand-up material. Looking into the background of getting Tig onto the show is delightfully charming, but her character is just fantastic. The same dry delivery that Tig is pretty known for by now is present, and it results in such a fun character. The first time we see her, arms deep in alien blood, and being this dry smart ass immediately made me realize we were in for one very fun character.
Her “give no shits” attitude to almost every character in the show, and her delivery to some of the technobabble that happens with her from time to time makes for some memorable moments in and of themselves, but she’s shown that she can have the heart of gold as well, particularly when she confronts Hugh Culber about his troubled relationship with Paul Stamets. Not only do I find it awesome that she’s another example of representation for the LGBTQ Community in Star Trek, but I feel shows that despite losing so much already, she still has a lot to fight for, and is willing to help those in need, much like Hugh and Paul, despite having a rocky relationship with the latter. But whether it’s her dry humor one liners, or anything else, Jett Reno is truly one of the better recurring characters of Discovery, and I cannot wait to see her brought back. I mean she went with them to the future… she was on the ship. We gotta see her! Don’t let me down!
6. Jaylah (Star Trek Beyond)
Before 2016, it felt like a very long time since we’d had a character as charming as Jaylah. As much as I hate crediting this guy, Cinemasins was right that Jaylah presented a much needed breath of fresh air for the Star Trek franchise. There is so much potential for this character to just soar with these other character that I am practically begging for one more Kelvin Timeline movie, simply because I want to see Jaylah brought back. I want to see this character become so much more. Arguably, while Star Trek Beyond doesn’t exactly handle her backstory the best, they handle pretty much everything else absolutely wonderfully, from her badass survivor persona, to her willingness to help those who are in need.
Even the small things about this character, such as the way she speaks is absolutely fantastic. How she knows English, but doesn’t quite have a full grasp of it, leading her to call people names like “Montgomery Scotty” or “James T. Also if there was ever a character in Star Trek that could help me get into rap or hip hop, I’m sure Jaylah would be that person. I absolutely love how she finds the music of an old Earth starship and learns English and discovers music from it. Hell, I just love her survivalist personality. So many of her traps and fighting techniques are so awesome and underrated. I don’t care what it takes, PLEASE bring Jaylah back! I don’t care if you find a way to include her in Discovery, or if she appears in some other show or film, but I am begging for her return.
5. Cristóbal Rios (Star Trek: Picard)
If there was one actor I had to choose that really demonstrated his acting chops in Star Trek: Picard, it would easily be Santiago Cabrera. He not only does such a wonderful job portraying the brooding ex-Starfleet Officer in Cristóbal Rios, but a fantastic job portraying the various holographic projections of him, each with their own distinct persona and whatnot. I have no idea what Santiago had to do to prepare himself for this role, but he absolutely succeeded with flying colors.
When I first saw him, I had a lot of comparisons to Han Solo of Star Wars, and that can be understood, but I’m thankful that it doesn’t really feel like a ripoff. By the time Rios’ story is revealed to us, it’s actually kinda shocking, and it makes his exchanges with Picard in the later half of the series that much more impactful. Rios feels like he has a lot to learn from Picard, and sure enough, it feels like most of Picard’s big speeches tend to be with Rios. Seeing this broken Starfleet Officer getting consoled and healed by Picard makes for a fantastic story in and of itself, but seeing Rios rise up at the end makes me only more excited for what’s to come for his character. I have a feeling it won’t disappoint.
4. Philippa Georgiou (Star Trek: Discovery)
Philippa Georgiou has the potential to be the next character of Star Trek similar to that of Elim Garak. Someone who doesn’t exactly favor the ideals of Starfleet, but admires them enough in the way they can accomplish things. I hear a lot of people express an interest to see the prime counterpart of Georgiou’s explored, and I’m sitting here, absolutely giddy for what her upcoming Section 31 show might give us. Georgiou is more than a fantastic, and charming character. She represents a vessel to really give us an ideal look into the mindset of a Terran in the mirror universe. She is what Worf was for the Klingons, or Kira was for Bajorans, or Quark was for the Ferengi. Hearing some of the things she can say to other people can be downright disturbing at times, and I absolutely love it. I love seeing her use Terran thought to win the day, or come up with a solution. Even if most of the time it tends to get shot down.
But even outside of this, I love her very shaky relationship with Michael Burnham. I cannot think of a better relationship in Star Trek in this area where there is obvious distrust between them, yet at the same time, they have little choice but to trust one another. And I absolutely love that despite everything, Georgiou still very much cares for Burnham as if she were her own daughter. Not only does it result in some awesome development for the two of them, but some awesome chemistry between her and Sarek of all people. Of all the recurring characters of Discovery, Georgiou also has developed the most, showing noticeable change in her tone and mindset from her debut season as she seemingly starts to embrace Federation ideals… though not enough to warrant abandoning her Terran side. And that’s not to mention some of her absolutely delightful dialogue which not only is lovably devious a lot of the time, but can be quick to give an awkward atmosphere in the room she’s standing in. I could honestly go on about Georgiou for all the right reasons, but without a doubt, I am absolutely excited for what she will bring to the third season.
3. Christopher Pike (Star Trek: Discovery)
And here’s that borderline call I was talking about before. Before I get a bunch of angry comments about how Pike is a pre-established character, and shouldn’t qualify here, here’s my reasoning for including him. Before 2009, what exactly was memorable about Pike as a character, aside from the fact that he was at one point, captain of the Enterprise? Honestly, there was nothing really going for him. He was in a failed pilot, and a two-parter of TOS that I don’t really care about. Pike wouldn’t really get on my radar until the 2009 film, and even then, I had no idea just what Discovery would end up doing with this character a decade later. In short, Discovery has turned Captain Pike into a captain that rivals that of Jean-Luc Picard, and you can quote me on that.
Not only do I feel that Pike presents a much needed breath of fresh air for Discovery after the fiasco with Lorca, but I mean you can tell that Pike, despite not spending a lot of time on the Discovery, cares deeply about his crew and will do anything he can to show them that. His love and respect for other cultures screams Starfleet, and his presence as a Captain is everything I would expect to see for the guy commanding the flagship of Starfleet. His actions especially towards the end of Season 2 of Discovery really hammer his place here. I mean there was a reason a particular moment stands out as the best moment of Discovery so far. There’s a reason so many people right now are begging for a Pike show. Why wouldn’t they? Discovery knew what to do with Pike, and even if they didn’t come up with his character they finally made his character stand out, and feel alive. And if that doesn’t qualify him for this list here, then I don’t know what else to tell you.
2. Elnor (Star Trek: Picard)
You really don’t know just how excited I was for this character when Picard was still just getting teased at us. When I heard that we were finally going to get a Romulan protagonist in with the crew, I was bouncing off the walls. Truthfully, I don’t know what I was expecting, but with Elnor, all I can say is that none of my expectations were met, and yet all of my expectations were exceeded. How is that even possible? I still can’t figure it out, but good God is this character awesome! Every time he was onscreen, I was absolutely captivated. And you can throw around your space elf memes and conveniently ignore that space elves have been in Star Trek since 1966. Elnor is still a fantastic character.
Whether it’s his awesome lifestyle of unfiltered emotions, literally saying anything on his mind without hiding anything which can land him in some absolutely adorable social awkwardness, or his badass fighting abilities, Elnor won my heart over immediately in Picard. But it was far more than this. I saw in Elnor ironically enough, everything Starfleet stands for. He binds himself to people who have lost hope, he fights to protect them, he fights so that they can have even a scrap of hope, and if that doesn’t SCREAM Starfleet, I don’t know what does. I have absolutely no idea what to expect from his character in Season 2, but I am absolutely GIDDY with excitement in what his character will go through in the future. I cannot wait. I just have one request… please… please please please please PLEASE show him a damn cat! It’s the one thing I want for this character! Let him see a cat!
1. Saru (Star Trek: Discovery)
Saru quite simply is the best character I’ve seen in Star Trek since… well… anyone on DS9. I’m not at all saying that there have been no good characters since DS9, but Saru seems to outshine a vast majority of them in just two seasons. There is no character I am more invested in, there is no character I am pulling for, no, not even Elnor quite reaches the excellence that Saru has brought to Star Trek (yet… I doubt Evan Evagora will ever really read this, but I still love Elnor, I promise!). Saru has come such a long way in these two seasons of Discovery that I’m at a point where I am practically demanding the show to give him the Captain’s Chair in this upcoming season of Discovery. I will be pretty disappointed if he doesn’t get it, because he has more than earned it.
Much like other alien characters of this franchise, Saru has brought forth a distinct lifestyle of the Kelpiens, and he’s done it in a way that not even Spock could do with the Vulcans in the same amount of time. That to me is incredibly impressive. And it goes beyond that, every time we get a development arc for the character, or a look into his mindset, I cannot help but be endlessly fascinated by what I see. His journey from being this fearful second officer on the Shenzou to an intimidating powerhouse for Discovery has been more than fulfilling. It’s been an experience. His stories are always so damn interesting, and that’s not to mention simple things like his demeanor and behavior. Quite simply, without writing an essay, Saru has embodied everything I love about Star Trek characters in less than 30 episodes. And I don’t think any other character has accomplished such a feat.
And here’s a few honorable mentions…
- Krall/Balthazar Edison
There’s something tragic about The antagonist of Star Trek Beyond. I actually kinda feel for the guy who feels like he is just a guy who never could adapt to the times. It is a shame that a veteran of Earth’s Xindi and Romulan Wars would feel betrayed when Starfleet would eventually make peace with them, and while it’s a shame he wasn’t properly fleshed out, I do believe he made for a good antagonist for the film.
- Katrina Cornwell
Katrina Cornwell’s time was short lived on Discovery, but I loved how despite being taken to the brink of doing some arguably questionable acts, you can tell that she still very much holds the ideals of the Federation close. This shows when she’s willing to listen to the crew of the Discovery and when she interacts with Pike. It is a shame she was killed off, but you know what? I believe she went out on the best note possible.
- Kirsten Clancy
Okay, I admit it. The main reason Clancy is getting the mention is her tendency to swear at Picard. There’s a reason both of her F-bombs are so damn memorable.
L’Rell I feel is the middle finger to the Klingon TNG ideal that women may not serve on the Klingon Council. Enter L’Rell, who not only helps unite the Klingon Empire, but becomes just a badass character. I mean it, she’s an absolute badass in the season two finale.
- Ash Tyler
Just barely missing the cut is Ash Tyler. A very complex character, and wonderful love interest for Michael Burnham, and an equal badass. It’s a shame that it’s not known as to whether or not we will see him in the coming seasons of Discovery since He does not leave with the ship, but with a Section 31 spinoff coming, I wouldn’t be surprised if we haven’t seen the last of him.
And there you have it. The best characters of new Star Trek so far. Agree? Disagree? Feel free to voice your thoughts, and as always, thanks for reading.