Star Trek needs more aliens. Specifically, it needs more alien heroes. In its current crop of live-action series, the only Trek alien character played by lead cast who actually looks alien (i.e. more than pointy ears or a few nose ridges) is Doug Jones’s Saru on Star Trek: Discovery, which will air its final season next year.
Star Trek needs more aliens as heroes in its live-action series.
Over the course of nearly 60 years, Star Trek has crafted a rich mythology including all the aliens that make up the United Federation of Planets (UFP) and beyond. Klingons, Ferengi, Andorians, Talaxians, Caitians, Benzites, Bolians, Denobulans, Kelpiens, Tellarites, Zakdorn, and more. What is the point of all these fantastic creatures if you’re not going to use them as more than the monster of the week?
This is one of reasons I counted myself among the fans thoroughly disappointed with the death of Bruce Horak’s Hemmer. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds not only added to the short list of aliens who were heroes in the franchise with the introduction of Hemmer, but he was an Aenar; a subspecies of Andorians.
When you think of the most popular Trek characters from across the franchise, most are either aliens or are non-human enough to basically be aliens.
In spite of the Andorians being one of the founding member races of the UFP, there had never been an Andorian character played by the regular cast of a Trek series, and before Strange New Worlds the Aenar hadn’t been seen outside of Star Trek: Enterprise. Not to mention that Horak is legally blind in real life, which expanded Trek’s representation while he was on the show.
So, you know. They killed him before Season 1 was over.
I am honestly confused as to why in recent years Star Trek has counted so few aliens as its lead heroes. When you think of the most popular Trek characters from across the franchise, most are either aliens are non-human enough to basically be aliens. Spock, Data, Worf, Seven of Nine, Quark, Odo, and The Doctor.
It was all the perfectly human Voyager officers like Harry Kim, Tom Paris, and Chakotay who were forgotten.
While he technically was a recurring character and not a regular, the Cardassian spy Garak is regularly named as fans’ favorite Deep Space Nine character (and in the final season at least, he was on screen enough to be a regular). Recurring Ferengi characters like Rom and Nog became fan-favorites as well. Even Julian Bashir become more popular after he was retroactively made not an alien or non-human, but superhuman as an augment.
There has always been a lot of post-mortem talk about how once Star Trek: Voyager recruited Jeri Ryan to play Seven of Nine, the show hardly had time for anyone else. But that’s not completely true. Besides Janeway, Star Trek: Voyager aliens (or non-humans) like Neelix, Tuvok, The Doctor, and B’Elanna Torres got some good screen time. It was all the perfectly human Voyager officers like Harry Kim, Tom Paris, and Chakotay who were forgotten.
I am split on my theories as to why Star Trek has set aside its aliens. The optimist in me wants to guess it’s for some artistic reason or storytelling ideal. Like the creators are worried about burying actors’ performances under makeup and prosthetics, or think it’s counterproductive to tell stories about the future of humanity through the eyes of someone other than humanity.
But a less optimistic side wonders if the reasons are more pragmatic. Like producers don’t want to spend more money on makeup and prosthetics, or they’re worried they won’t be able to attract enough talent if their job offers include the requirement of enduring long days in makeup chairs.
Regardless, Star Trek needs more aliens–in live-action–and we need it yesterday. Paramount producers can give us whatever reason they like, but the truth is part of the reason we tune in is the chance to get to know people from fictional worlds. Giving us a Star Trek without alien heroes is like giving us a Star Wars without lightsabers. Unacceptable and, more importantly, illogical.