Though Star Trek’s heroes are usually part of the Federation and, more specifically, members of Starfleet, there are a number of heroic characters who are not a part of either organization. In fact, there are a surprising number of allies, unlikely friends, and intergalactic interlopers who come alongside the Federation when they need it most. Here are our picks for some of the best outsiders in Star Trek history.
6. Chancellors Gorkon and Azetbur
At a time when the Federation and the Klingon Empire had been at odds for generations, Gorkon stepped forward to lead the way toward a peaceful future. Neither the crew of the Enterprise nor members of Gorkon’s own council were comfortable with the idea of peace between the Federation and Klingons, but Gorkon worked hard to overcome objections and advocate for unity. His efforts led to his assassination, which could have ended any hope for peace.
Thankfully, when Kirk and McCoy escaped imprisonment on the Klingon gulag planet of Rura Penthe, having been falsely accused of Gorkon’s murder, his daughter Azetbur saw the truth. Having become chancellor after her father’s death, she could have chosen to continue to blame Kirk and McCoy for his assassination. By instead choosing to listen to them and let go of her fear and bigotry, she led the way in the Khitomer Accords that forged peace between the Federation and the Klingon Empire.
5. Thy’lek Shran
Sure, the Andorians were eventually not only members of the Federation but one of its four founding species. But that was not the case when Commander Shran first showed up in Star Trek: Enterprise. And it might not have been the case without him.
Though he was initially very suspicious of humans, he eventually became a close and trusted ally of Captain Archer. His friendship with Archer and the support he gave the crew of the NX-01 helped form the foundation of the United Federation of Planets. It was through Shran that a partnership between Earth and Andoria was able to be forged, and because of him, on more than one occasion, the Enterprise crew survived.
A transplant to the Voyager crew, the Talaxian who served as the ship’s oft-maligned cook, could sometimes be irritating, but he was always faithful. While he might not have prevented a warp core breach or brokered peace with an alien species, he was a vital part of the Voyager crew.
Sure, his rank as morale officer was given to him by Janeway, almost like giving a kid a gold wings pin on an airline flight. But Neelix stuck to that Duty with tenacity and ended up being the person who looked after others who might have been forgotten. He provided support in absolutely every way he was ever asked and often in ways he wasn’t, looking out for the least and even forging a friendship with Tuvok.
His bright and sunny demeanor sometimes got on people’s nerves, but he was there when they needed him the most, and it was his unwavering faithfulness and belief in everyone around him that made him so essential. On a voyage that held the real possibility that no one on the ship would ever get home, Neelix was a steady beacon of hope for his comrades.
He might have been a grump and a stickler for the rules, but Deep Space Nine could not have asked for a better chief of security. Never a part of Starfleet, his presence on the station was part of the collaboration between Starfleet and Bajor. Nonetheless, he served with faithfulness and resolve, even as his own mysterious species the Founders led the Dominion War against the Federation.
It was there, of course, that he reached his full potential as a hero. Unwittingly used to spread a deadly virus to the Founders, it was in healing them that he was able to assuage their fears and broker peace. Though he left to join his species in the Great Link, his mark on those who served with and loved him will always endure.
2. Dr. Gillian Taylor
Though she is a human and humans are part of the Federation, she comes from a time (1986) when the Federation did not yet exist, making her more of an outsider than most characters on this list. A marine biologist whose favorite humpback whales are the key to preventing the end of all humanity in the future, Dr. Taylor has to believe quite a fish story to come to the aid of Kirk and Spock in Star Trek IV.
Believe she does, however, and it is her act of faith in trusting Kirk with the transponder codes to locate the whales in the open sea that allows the Enterprise crew to save the planet in the 23rd century. She also decides to impose herself upon their journey back to the future so that she can take care of her whales in their new home and ensure their species is repopulated.
Though she has to do so by trusting complete strangers who claim to be from outer space and the future, Gillian Taylor ultimately takes a leap of faith that saves humanity.
Mischievous, deceptive, petulant, or, in Picard’s words, “next of kin to chaos”—all of these and more are words people would use to describe Q far before they would call him heroic. But for all his troublemaking and wild, reality-bending schemes, the seemingly omnipotent Q develops an affection for humans and ultimately, though he does try to hide it, works on their behalf. He rarely, if ever, swoops in to save them directly, but his tests and trials frequently help them find the best within themselves.
In the finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation, his shifting Picard through time gives the captain clues that allow him to unravel a mystery and save humanity’s entire past and future.
Not only that, in Star Trek: Picard, he gives what appears to be the last of his life energy to help Picard make the right decision in a crucial moment that leads to a new future for the Federation and the Borg. Though he almost never fully shows it, Q is invested in the survival of humankind and ultimately proves to be perhaps their greatest ally.