Friday, September 4, 2009

Favorite Characters (Part 2 SciFi TV)

Another group of favorite characters. Because I've actually quite a lot of these, I'm going to narrow the categories. Next up--Science Fiction Characters from Television.

We'll begin with Chiana from Farscape. Now, this was a show full of wonderful characters, and they were great from the first episode onwards. But the whole program got a kick-start about halfway through season one when this lady joined the cast. A Nebari (whose political system is a cross between Brave New World and the Galactic Empire) she was a bridge character. Like the others, she was a fugitive but in her case not from the Nazi-esque Peace Keepers. She was much younger and less accomplished than the other crew members, and more of a wild card. The series hero clearly felt protective of her (calling her "Pip"), treating her like a kid sister--the kid sister who gets into a lot of trouble. All this sounds good, but it doesn't really capture her impact on the show, how her presence changed everything. And a lot of that credit goes to Gigi Edgley's portrayal.

Second is Kerr Avon of Blake's Seven. I'm not sure, but this series might have begun the trend of space opera t.v. shows with titles that end in a number. Maybe. Avon was one of the most popular characters on the show--a ruthless, brilliant yet (very) oddly honorable man with a past rather more checkered than you might think. My description of him was to imagine the brain of Spock transplanted into the soul of Rick from the movie Casablanca. With a Beatle haircut. I don't think a more complex character probably ever drew breath on a television spaceship. Imprisoned for trying to steak a gigantic sum of money in the corrupt Earth Federation, he ends up trying to overthrow it. Along the way, he nearly formed a romantic liaison with Servalan, the glamorous woman who ended up dictator, and managed to kill nearly everyone to whom he ever felt close. The titular hero, as idealistic as Avon was cynical, trusted him. Another character--an ingenious coward--thought of him as a friend (until he tried to kill him). Still another, it turned out, fell in love with him. So did my ex-girlfriend when I introduced her to the series.

Lorien of Babylon Five (notice the number). Something of a controversial choice, methinks. The fan fave would almost certainly be Susan Ivanova, second officer of the huge space station. Nor am I immune to her charms, myself! But the character who fascinated me most was Lorien--an enigmatic alien introduced at the start of Season 4. Many people have seen a corollary between B5 and LOTR. If so, Lorien is clearly Gandalf--a keeper of ancient (sometimes terrible) wisdom. As we got to know him better, we realized much of what we saw was a remnant, the equivalent of the "real" Lorien's online avatar. He himself was more, much more. Many shows try to pull off enigmatic but only achieve vague platitudes not unlike what one might expect from a pretentious fortune cookie factory. Yet Lorien's every glance genuinely hinted at lessons learned beyond what we perhaps can imagine. When he talked to Ivanova about his own past, and about love, I got chills. No less interesting was how he managed to "save" Sheridan--which is the stuff to leave you puzzling over.

B'Elanna Torres of Star Trek Voyager. Once again, bucking the trend. Odds are of all the characters on VOY most fans would talk about 7 of 9 (this show lacked a number in its title--but had a character with two numbers in her name). Again, I quite like Seven as well. But B'Elanna touched my heart more. She was also the most interested archetype of the "half-breed" than any TREK achieved, up to and including the afore-mentioned Spock. I adored B'Elanna's flaws. She was angry, and with good reason. She fell for her commanding officer in the rebellious Maquis yet never let him know. Then she fell for Tom Paris and the only reason he found out was they thought they were dying--so her literal last breath was to confess her love. Except they were saved! She wasn't a good little soldier, but a drop out from Starfleet Academy. B'Elanna wasn't cool, calm and ultra-civilized as befit a citizen of the virtually homogenized UFP. No, she was fierce. Her family was disfunctional. She had been the victim of racial prejudice. She had issues that needed working out. And frankly, she was easily the most interesting Chief Engineering Officer on any ship from any TREK ever--Scotty, Trip, Geordi, etc. were all cardboard cutouts compared to her.

I was very hard-pressed to come up with a favorite character from the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. What an amazing cast! But in the end I decided on Colonel Saul Tigh. As fans of space opera should know, being first officer is pretty thankless. Usually you do nothing more than formally question the captain's decisions then back him to the hilt. But Tigh and his CO have a way more compelling relationship than that. They are drinking buddies, and Adama knows that his best friend drinks too much. He is not suited for command, as is shown when events force him into that slot. He is arrogant and short-tempered, impatient and given to over-reacting to things outside regulations. He has a poisonous relationship with his wife. And he's loyal to a fault. No one who looks at him could deny his courage or abilities, coupled with a strange capacity to sometimes make the absolutely hard choices instantly and correctly. Sometimes. Plus, there was that strange awareness he has of his own flaws. And that is just what you get from the first season! It only gets better after that!

I could go on with this list. Captain Gideon from Crusade. Much of the cast from Firefly. Ro Laran from Star Trek: The Next Generation (a woefully underutilized character). Martha Jones or Rose Tyler. But five at a time seems enough, frankly. And to be honest, I could have chosen another five. These'll do, though.

Wanna share your faves?

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