Ladies First: The Best Female Characters Of Sci-Fi Film And Television
Laura Roslin (Battlestar Galactica)
If there’s one female Battlestar Galactica character that I think is ultimately even more badass than Starbuck, it’s Laura Roslin. Sure, Starbuck could waste her in a fight, but Roslin’s too smart to let it get to that — she’d have figured out a way to outsmart Starbuck before she landed a punch. Roslin, who is Secretary of Education in the pilot, ends up being president of… well, pretty much of the entire surviving human race after the Cylon attacks on the 12 colonies result in the deaths of everyone ahead of her in the line of succession. When she takes the position, it’s clear she’s in over her head, but under the circumstances, who wouldn’t be? She deals with her presidency — as well as the terminal breast cancer she’s fighting — with miraculous competence, both cold and compassionate as each situation dictates. She even orders Adama around a bit, until he decides that she’s awesome and that he agrees with her about pretty much everything — that is, until she becomes religious.
Some people didn’t like the plotline involving Roslin taking the psychotropic chamala extract for her cancer and then having visions and hallucinations that jived with the ancient prophecies, but I loved it. Roslin is exceedingly rational, so when she starts to waver from that, believing that she may be the dying figure that will lead her people to their new homeland, the dramatic tension ratchets up off the charts — especially when her visions fuel a mission that ends in multiple deaths. Roslin, like Starbuck, possesses a dichotomy that deepens as the show progresses, vacillating between hard and soft, practical and spiritual.
One of my favorite scenes is when she orders the Cylon Leoben to be put out the airlock after Starbuck spends an entire day torturing him for information. She promises Leoben safety if he tells her the truth; he does, and she has him killed anyway. Even Starbuck can’t believe it, but Roslin sums up her decision, and her character, perfectly:
During the time I’ve allowed him to remain alive and captive on this ship, he has caused our entire fleet to spread out, defenseless. He puts insidious ideas in our minds, more lethal than any warhead. He creates fear. But you’re right, he is a machine and you don’t keep a deadly machine around when it kills your people and threatens your future, you get rid of it.
Damn straight, Roslin! Roslin for president in 2016! – Joelle
Dana Scully (The X-Files)
Even though Dana Scully is a scientist and doctor extraordinaire, her character wouldn’t have worked without Fox Mulder. They were two halves of a team that kept me glued to my TV every Sunday night for years. Mulder was the conspiracy theorist, the guy who acted on hunches and believed in pretty much everything supernatural, while Scully demanded evidence and played the skeptic to whatever crazy idea Mulder cooked up. As a litmus test, she was invaluable — Scully buying into an idea was the equivalent of an investigative gold star. I always appreciated that she went to medical school but opted not to become a doctor. Obviously she made the right choice — she’d have been bored stiff.
Despite her overwhelming rationality, Scully indulges some doubts and has Mulderesque moments of believing in unprovable theories, such as a death row criminal who claimed he could channel souls, including that of Scully’s dead dad. She does something that not many characters (or people) do, which is to admit that her skepticism and practicality were largely due to her fear of believing in things she could not see or prove. After Mulder’s abduction, she changes her tune, but throughout the show her brushes with the creepy and the unexplained have a resonance that Mulder’s don’t, given that he’s an easy sell.
Scully’s character is dynamic — while she’s well-defined, she also changes, rather than stubbornly clinging to her same beliefs. Scully vacillates between eschewing her faith and buying into it, which seems to be a pretty common characteristic among these heroines. One detail I always enjoyed is that Scully expresses an appreciation for my favorite horror movie: The Exorcist, which is particularly ironic given Scully’s Catholic upbringing.
Perhaps the most terrifying ordeal Scully suffers is being kidnapped by Duane Barry, a paranoid lunatic who had been shot by FBI in a standoff, but whom Mulder believed was the victim of an alien abduction. A month after having vanished without a trace, she shows up in a hospital in DC, comatose. She eventually awakens and the audience later learns that the Syndicate was responsible for her abduction, the chip implanted in her neck, as well as the cancer she gets (which Mulder helps cure with another chip). Some people believe she’s immortal, given her numerous brushes with death and a few choice comments that could be interpreted as implying such. Interestingly, her father gave her the nickname “Starbuck.” Scully also becomes pregnant, despite having been diagnosed as infertile, and while the father of her child is never officially revealed, most people think it was Mulder (duh!). It’s not 100 percent clear until the movie that the two were romantically/sexually involved, even though the show suggests it before then. While it seems inevitable that the two would end up together, their dynamic tension is what makes their partnership, and thus the show, so compelling. Scully doesn’t need a man! – Joelle
Asuka Langley Soryu (Neon Genesis Evangelion)
Asuka Langley Soryu is one of five children from around the world tasked with piloting giant robots called “Evas” in a post-apocalyptic Japan. She’s the half-German and half-Japanese pilot of Eva-Unit 02 and she’s brash, arrogant, aggressive in battle, and one of the best pilots of Nerv. She is pure Ego and she’s not afraid to flaunt it.
Asuka was introduced in episode eight of the original Neon Genesis Evangelion anime series, designed to act as a counter-balance to the series’ protagonist, Shinji Ikari. As the episodes unfold, we come to realize that Asuka’s demeanor is just at the surface level; beneath that, she’s as vulnerable and fragile as any other teenager. However, despite her feelings, she can completely get the job done to prove that she’s the best Eva pilot out there.
Ever since Asuka was introduced into the show, she has become a fan favorite for both the original series and the reboot. She’s also one of the more complex characters on the show, with plenty of her own demons and darkness to deal with. – Rudie