Building the “ultimate” Star Trek crew… with NO main characters!

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the entire Star Trek franchise, including the most recent seasons of Discovery, Picard, Lower Decks, Prodigy, and Strange New Worlds.

A little while ago I put together my “ultimate” Star Trek crew – based on a post that the official Star Trek social media team put out. It was a lot of fun to consider which characters to include for the main roles that we’ve seen across the franchise, and I like to think I put together a crew who could work well together.

This time, I thought it could be fun to take the “ultimate crew” concept to a slightly different place – by limiting myself to secondary characters, recurring characters, and even characters who only made one or two appearances. In short, no main characters allowed!

We have quite a selection of officers and crewmates to choose from!

Over the course of more than 850 episodes and 13 films, Star Trek has introduced us to a huge range of characters. Although some were disappointing and others rather forgettable, most Star Trek characters have been fun, interesting, and memorable – so there’s quite a lot to choose from when it comes to putting together a list like this one!

I’m going to follow the same basic rules as last time, and here they are:

  • First of all, I don’t want to pick too many characters from a single series. If you’re just going to pick the entire crew of the Enterprise-D, what’s the point? We might as well just go and watch The Next Generation!
  • Secondly, the fact that characters come from different eras or timelines is entirely irrelevant. This is pure fantasy – though who knows, maybe one day Star Trek will do some kind of massive crossover event featuring characters from all over the place!
  • Third, characters have to occupy a role that we saw them fill on screen; i.e. Captain Picard can’t be a tactical officer, nor could Michael Burnham be assigned as the ship’s Chief Medical Officer!
  • Fourth, I want to include all of the major roles that we’ve seen main characters occupy on Star Trek – something that the social media post that inspired this piece didn’t do!
  • Finally (and most importantly), I want this to be taken light-heartedly and in the spirit of fun!

So without further ado, let’s get started!

Starship Class:
Galor-class Warship

A Galor-class warship as seen in Lower Decks.

I wanted to pick something a little different from the usual Starfleet vessel – though how exactly our crew came to commandeer a Cardassian ship is something you’ll have to imagine for yourself! I put the Galor-class on my list of ten great starship designs a while ago, and I really do find it to be a strangely beautiful vessel.

The semi-circular “saucer” above the deflector at the front gives it a vaguely Federation (or at least Star Trek-inspired) look, but the “wings,” elongated tail section, and yellow-gold colour scheme makes it stand out as clearly being of Cardassian design. Originally described as a “scout ship,” we’d later see the Galor-class as the workhorse of the Cardassian fleet, and Galor-class vessels played a prominent role in the Dominion War.

I’ve always thought the design was a neat one, and with an interior that may be reminiscent of Deep Space Nine, perhaps it won’t be quite as “alien” to our crew as it might initially appear!

Admiral:
Charles Vance

Admiral Vance’s first appearance.

Admiral Vance has been a great addition to Star Trek: Discovery since his Season 3 debut. Despite Starfleet – and the Federation as a whole – being in dire straits due to the lingering aftermath of the Burn, Admiral Vance never lost faith in Starfleet’s ideals. He did everything he could to hold the Federation together through the toughest of times, and was fair and level-headed.

Whether it was a diplomatic negotiation with an adversary or racing to help evacuate a planet before a catastrophe, Admiral Vance had the stomach and the skills for it, and was even willing to put his own life on the line to help others. He’ll be coordinating our mission back at Starfleet Command – and I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have in that role!

Captain:
Edward Jellico

Captain Jellico.

I have to be honest: I adore Captain Jellico, despite the character only making a single appearance in Star Trek. The two-part episode Chain of Command, from The Next Generation’s sixth season introduced the gruff, standoffish captain. Jellico temporarily assumed command of the Enterprise-D while Captain Picard was on another assignment, and he handled himself well against the Cardassians.

Captain Jellico had a very different style of command to Picard, and upset the apple cart on the Enterprise-D in a pretty significant way. Commander Riker and Deanna Troi were both particularly put out by Jellico’s “take no prisoners” approach, but there’s no denying that he ran a tight ship and got results. Maybe he isn’t the most friendly character, but I’d trust Captain Jellico to handle whatever the galaxy has in store. I’d also be curious to see how he handled a longer assignment – my suspicion is that he’d eventually establish a solid working relationship with his crew, and perhaps even make a few friends.

First Officer:
George Kirk

George Kirk on the bridge of the USS Kelvin.

George Kirk – father to Samuel and James T. – served as the first officer of the USS Kelvin in the early 23rd Century. Although we only saw him in action in the alternate reality, he was clearly an outstanding first officer, an inspiration to his sons, and someone who exemplified the very best of Starfleet.

In the alternate reality, George Kirk saved the lives of the crew of the Kelvin, sacrificing his own life in the process when Nero’s ship attacked. He seems like the ideal candidate to serve on our fantasy crew, and I think he’d work exceptionally well with Captain Jellico.

Helm:
Keyla Detmer

Lieutenant Detmer in Discovery Season 4.

Last time, I said that Tom Paris felt like Star Trek’s first bona fide pilot – and Keyla Detmer is definitely cut from the same cloth! A pilot by vocation, Detmer not only loves her job, but as we’ve seen on multiple occasions, she’s damn good at it too! Detmer guided the experimental USS Discovery during trials on its spore drive, then took the ship into the unknown – saving many lives during the bumpy landing in the 32nd Century.

In Season 4, we saw her navigate the dark matter anomaly and the galactic barrier, occasionally having to set aside her own feelings to focus on her work. Detmer was given a sub-plot of sorts in Season 3, but I would’ve liked to have seen it fleshed out a little more, especially considering the difficulty of dealing with mental health on screen. But regardless, Detmer makes for a great pilot and a fantastic helm officer.

Chief Engineer:
Joe Carey

Carey in Voyager’s first season.

When the USS Voyager’s original chief engineer was killed, Lieutenant Carey should have replaced him. Because Captain Janeway felt that there was a “political” need to have more Maquis in senior positions, however, it was B’Elanna Torres who was elevated to the role. But from what we saw of him in those early Voyager episodes, Carey would have made a perfectly creditable chief engineer in his own right.

Voyager’s writers quickly ran out of ideas for the “one ship, two crews” concept, and with less conflict between the Maquis and Starfleet members of the crew, perhaps there was less of a role for him on the show. But from a strictly in-universe point of view, I think we can trust Carey to head up main engineering on our mission!

Chief Medical Officer:
Dr Pulaski

Dr Pulaski in the episode Up The Long Ladder.

Is this a bit of a cheat? Dr Pulaski was the Enterprise-D’s CMO for all of Season 2 of The Next Generation… but actress Diana Muldaur was only ever credited as a “special guest star,” so I’m choosing to include her!

As you may know if you read my character study of Dr Pulaski, I’m a pretty big fan! Although there were aspects of her characterisation that didn’t work particularly well – such as her conflict with Data – overall I liked what she brought to The Next Generation, and I would have loved to have seen more from her.

Dr Pulaski may not have the friendliest bedside manner, but as she demonstrated on many occasions, she more than makes up for it with her medical expertise. Not only that, but she was absolutely unflappable, taking whatever the galaxy had to throw at the crew in her stride, and coming up with some outside-the-box ideas on more than one occasion. And despite her initial misgivings about Data, over the course of her year aboard the Enterprise-D, we saw her attitude shift. She’s a great doctor and will serve us well on our mission!

Nurse/ Sickbay Assistant:
EMH Mark II

The EMH Mark II in Message in a Bottle.

The idea of an Emergency Medical Hologram is a great one – but it clearly needed refining! We got to know Voyager’s EMH over the course of that show’s run, but a second version was developed in the years after the USS Voyager was lost. A Mark II EMH was installed on the USS Prometheus – an experimental long-range tactical vessel that the Romulans attempted to steal early in the Dominion War.

Hopefully we won’t ever need to activate our EMH Mark II, but if things go bad out there – which they can on dangerous assignments – it’s good to have backup!

Counsellor:
Dr Boyce

Dr Boyce.

Dr Boyce served as the Enterprise’s Chief Medical Officer under Captain Pike, but in The Cage we saw that he was more than just a doctor. In one of the episode’s most powerful sequences, Dr Boyce listened to and advised Captain Pike as the latter struggled with the weight of command. In that sense, Dr Boyce not only served as a template for the subsequent creation of Dr McCoy, but also as a kind of counsellor.

In the 23rd Century, it doesn’t seem that many Starfleet vessels had dedicated counsellors, so the role would fall to other members of the medical staff. Dr Boyce was clearly experienced at this, as his advice to both Captain Pike and other members of the crew would demonstrate. I wondered whether Strange New Worlds would bring back Dr Boyce, but that position was taken by Dr M’Benga instead!

Tactical:
Major Hayes

Major Hayes in Enterprise Season 3.

Major Hayes was a rare character in Star Trek in some respects. As a bona fide soldier rather than a security officer, Hayes occupied a role that few characters before or since have really aimed to inhabit, and he was the perfect inclusion for Enterprise’s much darker third season. Although we didn’t get to see a lot of Hayes’ strategic planning, what we did see of his work during preparation for away missions and when recommending the crew take part in tactical drills is enough to fill me with confidence that he’s someone who knows what he’s doing!

There’s obviously a difference between combat on the ground and combat in space, and as someone less familiar with ship-to-ship combat, Hayes might need some on-the-job training! But his hardworking attitude more than makes up for any deficiencies, and I’m sure he’d be a quick study, applying his knowledge of ground-based military operations to conflicts in space.

Security Chief:
Michael Eddington

Eddington prior to his defection to the Maquis.

Deep Space Nine’s Lieutenant Commander Eddington was a wonderful addition to the series; a complex, nuanced character whose motivations were understandable and even a little sympathetic – and whose anti-Cardassian stance was, in a roundabout way at least, kind of justified by subsequent events. Eddington would defect from Starfleet to the Maquis after spending time with colonists in the demilitarised zone along the Federation-Cardassian border, but before that, he served as chief of Starfleet security aboard DS9.

In that role, Eddington actually did a pretty good job. We saw Eddington in action on several occasions prior to his defection, and even his defection itself was meticulously planned. He was a good officer and a loss to Starfleet – and he’ll do a great job on our team!

Communications:
M’Ress

M’Ress at her post.

I like the Caitian race, and it’s one I wish we saw more of in Star Trek! M’Ress was the first ever Caitian that we got to know, debuting in The Animated Series, and she served as a kind of deputy or backup communications officer for Uhura on the Enterprise. M’Ress proved herself, though, and would be a perfectly capable comms officer in her own right.

M’Ress was a character who was easy to animate but harder to bring to live-action, and while we did see a couple of Caitians in one of The Original Series films, there’s still a lot that we don’t know about this interesting race. Regardless, M’Ress will make a fine addition to our crew!

Science Officer:
Saavik

Saavik on the Genesis Planet.

Although she initially seemed to be on the command track in The Wrath of Khan, by the time of The Search for Spock Saavik had transferred to become a science officer. In that capacity she served aboard the USS Grissom and worked with Dr David Marcus to investigate the Genesis Planet – and played a key role in saving Spock.

Vulcans tend to make great science officers in Star Trek, and Saavik is no exception! Her fierce devotion to logic doesn’t stop her from developing solid working relationships with her non-Vulcan crewmates, though, and I have no doubt that she’d be a fantastic addition to any crew – particularly one which may be on an exploratory or scientific mission.

Operations:
Nog

Nog aboard the USS Defiant.

Nog has to be one of the best recurring characters in all of Star Trek! His arc took him from a petty thief and troublemaker in his youth through to becoming an upstanding Starfleet officer – and a war hero to boot. As the first Ferengi to serve in Starfleet, Nog was also a pioneer, someone who broke barriers and paved the way for closer cooperation between the Federation and the Ferengi Alliance.

I adore Nog, and it was so terribly sad that Aron Eisenberg passed away a couple of years ago. However, Nog’s legacy lives on in Star Trek, with the Eisenberg-Class USS Nog being his namesake in the 32nd Century. Nog took on different roles within Starfleet, but it was the operations division where he settled. He was promoted to lieutenant at the end of the Dominion War – and in one alternate future, we even saw him as a captain!

Transporter Chief:
Janice Rand

Rand in The Motion Picture.

The former Yeoman Rand had been promoted to chief petty officer by the time of The Motion Picture, and in one of the film’s most harrowing sequences, she tried to engage the Enterprise’s malfunctioning transporter to save the lives of Sonak and another officer; she would sadly be unsuccessful.

But it isn’t fair to judge Rand’s competency with the transporter by one bad incident! She did her best under difficult circumstances aboard a newly retrofitted ship that was experiencing technical issues, and while the death of Sonak may have contributed to her decision to transfer out of the role, I’m sure that giving her a second chance won’t be a problem. Right?

Cadet:
Peter Preston

Midshipman Preston in the Enterprise’s engine room.

Many Starfleet ships take at least one cadet along for the ride, and I think that Peter Preston from The Wrath of Khan would be a great choice. A line which wasn’t included in the original cut of the film identified Preston as Montgomery Scott’s nephew, and he would serve alongside his uncle in engineering.

Unfortunately, Preston would be killed during Khan’s initial attack on the Enterprise, but stayed at his post in an attempt to save the damaged ship. His death was devastating for Scotty, and made a huge impression on Admiral Kirk, too. If Peter Preston had lived, I’m sure he’d have completed his training and gone on to be a wonderful engineer in his own right.

Bartender:
Vic Fontaine

Vic in It’s Only A Paper Moon.

When our crew needs a break, where could be better to go than Vic’s Lounge? Vic Fontaine was a sentient hologram, and his 1960s-inspired Las Vegas bar and casino was installed at Quark’s on Deep Space Nine. Vic would become a true friend and confidante to the crew, and even helped Nog with his rehabilitation when he suffered a wartime injury.

The whole point of having a bar or recreation area on board our ship is to give the crew a place to relax, and what could be more relaxing than stepping out of the real world into a simulated one? Vic is a great host – and a great singer to boot! James Darren, the actor and singer who played Vic, released an album shortly after appearing Deep Space Nine called This One’s From The Heart, featuring many of the songs from the show. It’s well worth a listen for any Trekkie!

Non-Starfleet crewmate:
Zhaban

Zhaban in Season 1 of Star Trek: Picard.

Because Star Trek: Picard’s production has been somewhat slapdash, Zhaban ended up being written out of the series after the first season. But I think he was an absolutely fascinating character, and someone I’m sad that we didn’t get to spend more time with. A former Tal Shiar operative, Zhaban felt indebted enough to Admiral Picard that he gave up his career to live on Earth at the Picard family vineyard.

For the purposes of our mission, I think having an ex-Tal Shiar on board could be incredibly useful, and Zhaban clearly has a varied set of skills – even if his relocation to Earth might mean he’s a little rusty in some areas! Regardless, I can think of countless ways that a former operative of one of the quadrant’s premiere espionage agencies could prove useful, and it’s primarily for that reason that I’m insisting that we bring Zhaban along for the ride (as Picard should have done in Season 1 of his show!)

Villain:
The Tholians

A 23rd Century Tholian leader.

The Tholians have been part of Star Trek since The Original Series, but in all that time we’ve only seen them on a handful of occasions. The Enterprise two-part episode In A Mirror, Darkly told us a little more about the Tholians, including that they’re native to a planet with extremes of heat and temperature, finding it impossible to tolerate “standard” temperatures that humanoid life can survive in.

I wanted to choose a villain that would be familiar to most Trekkies, but with enough mystery to still be interesting – and to potentially allow a story to unfold in very different ways. The Tholians may not be as iconic as the Klingons or the Borg, but I reckon they’re ripe for a deeper dive and an exploration of their culture and society.

So that’s it!

The main crew members of the Enterprise-D.

Did we manage to put together a crew that will become as renowned and as iconic as any other in Star Trek? Well… maybe not quite! But I think all of the characters above are fun in their own way, and I’d definitely welcome back any and all of them to the franchise in future.

For our purposes, though, our crew is complete and it’s time to start our mission! I hope everything goes according to plan…

As I said last time, there are hundreds of wonderful characters that the Star Trek franchise has created over the span of more than fifty years. I picked out a few examples here, but there’s really no right answer to the question of who should be part of the “ultimate” Star Trek crew. Such decisions are entirely subjective, so if you didn’t like any of the characters I included, or I excluded someone that you think should be incredibly obvious, well that’s okay! There’s plenty of room in the Star Trek fan community for discussions like these!

A few weeks ago I was inspired by a social media post that the official Star Trek marketing team put out. That post led me to create my earlier list, and putting that list together led me to think about some of the secondary and recurring characters who I could’ve also included – which is how we ended up here! I hope this was a bit of fun; I certainly had fun writing it up and looking back at older episodes of Star Trek to pick out some of my favourite characters.

The Star Trek franchise – including all characters, television series, and films mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Dr Pulaski – a character study

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: The Next Generation. Minor spoilers may also be present for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

For reasons that still aren’t crystal clear over thirty years later, Gates McFadden was dropped after Season 1 of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Dr Crusher had been a mainstay of the show’s first season, going a long way to humanising the otherwise stoic Captain Picard, as well as bringing a family dynamic to the series. Her absence in Season 2 was an obstacle for the show to overcome, and to replace her, Gene Roddenberry and the creative team introduced a new character: Dr Katherine Pulaski.

I have to hold up my hands and admit to being a fan of Dr Pulaski. There are certainly elements to her characterisation that worked less well, and we’ll look at those in a moment, but on the whole I felt her inclusion in the series took The Next Generation to different places, places it wouldn’t have been able to reach without her. That’s my own bias coming into play as we delve into her character today.

The intention behind Dr Pulaski’s introduction was to shake up The Next Generation. Across the show’s first season there hadn’t been much interpersonal drama between the main characters – something that was a marked change from The Original Series. In Star Trek’s first incarnation, the “frenemy” relationship between Dr McCoy and Spock in particular was a source of both drama and humour, and it seems clear to me that The Next Generation lacked that in Season 1, and that Dr Pulaski was created to try to bring that element back to Star Trek.

When I think about Dr Crusher, with the possible exception of her role in the two-part episode Descent, I wouldn’t use the terms “strong” or “forceful” to describe her personality. She’s a reasonably quiet, slightly soft-spoken character, clearly very compassionate but also quite agreeable, especially when pressed by Captain Picard. To call her “bland” might be unkind, but she was never meant to be the standout character among the cast of The Next Generation.

Dr Pulaski is the polar opposite. She’s opinionated, outspoken, and occasionally brash. Though she does form firm friendships with other members of the senior staff, she’s much more of a standalone, individualist character. These are all traits that she inherited from The Original Series’ Dr McCoy, and we can see a very definite McCoy influence for practically her entire run on the series.

The role of a doctor in Star Trek is naturally a limited one, and that was especially true when the franchise was primarily interested in episodic storytelling. Dr Pulaski’s scenes are largely limited to Sickbay or dealing with medical-themed stories and events, and this naturally puts constraints on what she – and other doctors in the franchise too – can do. In episodes with a strong medical storyline, I’d argue that Dr Pulaski shines, and aspects of her personality that might otherwise come across as abrasive can instead feel determined and driven. In stories without much going on in Sickbay she’s naturally of less use to the writers, and it shows.

One of the main areas of criticism when Dr Pulaski came aboard was her relationship with Data. Designed to mimic the Spock-McCoy dynamic from The Original Series, some of Dr Pulaski’s early scenes and episodes with Data did not work as intended. She came across as patronising and looking down at Data – and that’s putting the most positive spin possible on it! At worst, Dr Pulaski was actively degrading and dehumanising in the way she spoke to and about Data, and that’s something that many fans found hard to take.

Though we’re more aware in 2021 of the need to be inclusive and attentive to the needs of neurodivergent people, non-binary folks, and other marginalised groups, even in 1988 many fans were uncomfortable at seeing Data dehumanised and talked about in the abstract. Fans had had a whole year to get to know Data, and just like we balked at Dr Bruce Maddox’s treatment of him in the episode The Measure of a Man, so too fans felt Dr Pulaski was treating Data unfairly. This is legitimate criticism, and soured many fans on Dr Pulaski almost from her first moment on the series.

Though I was perhaps a little unkind in my characterisation of Dr Crusher earlier, there were many fans of The Next Generation who liked the character and wanted her back. A letter-writing campaign began almost from the moment Season 2 premiered – supposedly with some involvement from Patrick Stewart – to convince the producers to bring back Gates McFadden and dump Dr Pulaski. Though I daresay this would’ve happened regardless of how well Dr Pulaski’s character had been received, the fact that those early episodes featured a conflict with Data that certainly went too far and crossed a line didn’t help her cause.

Despite all of that, by the time Season 2 was finding its feet, Dr Pulaski had become established as a regular member of the crew of the Enterprise-D, and had settled into her role in Sickbay about as well as she could. The fact that she was a strong and decisive personality may have been divisive among fans, but in my opinion she elevated the role of the ship’s medical officer, taking what had been a secondary position with Dr Crusher in Season 1 and transforming it into a more important role, especially in medical storylines. Even when Dr Crusher returned in Season 3, this aspect of the show continued to an extent; Dr Pulaski’s legacy on the show, despite the character being dropped with little fanfare, may be that Dr Crusher found more prominent storylines.

The comparisons with Dr Crusher are inescapable, and one other aspect that viewers felt was missing after Dr Crusher departed the series was a relationship with Picard. Dr Crusher and Picard had history as well as more than a little romantic tension, whereas Dr Pulaski didn’t have that connection with Picard – or with anyone else. Though there was a storyline in the episode The Icarus Factor involving a past relationship with Commander Riker’s father, this didn’t become a major aspect of her character, and she remained romantically un-attached for the rest of her tenure.

Though the episode Unnatural Selection is perhaps the story where she was given the most to do, where I felt we saw Dr Pulaski at her best was in episodes like Time Squared, where she tended to a second Captain Picard from several hours in the future, Up The Long Ladder, in which she takes part in a traditional Klingon ceremony with Worf, and though there are two sides to her relationship with Data on display in Peak Performance, the way she consoled him after his defeat at Strategema was sweet. In these moments we see different aspects of her character – her medical expertise, her embrace of different cultures, and through her evolving relationship with Data, her ability to overcome her own prejudice.

Perhaps the fact that Dr Pulaski had anti-android prejudice to begin with made her too unpopular with fans to be redeemable. Her occasionally blunt persona didn’t help her in that regard either. But had we met Dr Pulaski in Season 1 not Season 2, I think it’s possible for her evolving relationship with Data to have provided a deeply satisfying character arc.

The problem Dr Pulaski faced was that she joined a series that already had a full season – 25 episodes – under its belt. The characters had grown together and been through some major events in Season 1, particularly the death of their friend and colleague Tasha Yar. Yar’s own deep relationship with Data, which was jump-started by the events of The Naked Now, had gone a long way to humanising him across Season 1, and there was something charming in the “android who longs to be human” story. In Encounter At Farpoint, Riker called Data “Pinocchio,” and across Season 1 that’s how viewers came to know Data. Dropping in Dr Pulaski at the beginning of Season 2 and giving her a very prejudiced way of looking at this character we’d come to know and love was a bridge too far for many viewers, and although the relationship improved dramatically over the course of the season, her early interactions with Data remained a sore spot.

Dr Pulaski was present for all but two episodes of Season 2. However, most episodes didn’t have a major medical focus, and thus she was really a secondary character much of the time. Even so, I’d argue that she brought a lot to the show, and despite the introduction of her character not really succeeding in the way the creative team intended, Dr Pulaski certainly achieved her objective of shaking up the crew. Though she was never a villain, the introduction of Dr Pulaski showed that there can still be disagreements and interpersonal drama among Starfleet officers in the 24th Century, and that not everyone has to agree all the time. The Next Generation could, at times, fall into the trap of being too idealistic in its portrayal of characters in particular, and while there were adversaries and antagonists in Season 1 – including some from the Federation – Dr Pulaski was the first main character on the show to pull in a different direction. In that sense she arguably laid the groundwork for storylines we’d see from Season 4 onwards with characters like Ro Laren, and in particular the non-Starfleet crews we’d meet in Deep Space Nine and Voyager.

The fact that Dr Pulaski was never shy and didn’t pull her punches is something I found charming and appealing about her, particularly when compared to Dr Crusher’s Season 1 persona. She could be opinionated and even pushy at times, but she always did her best to help those in her care and didn’t bat an eyelid at the wacky situations the Enterprise-D would find itself in. Not only that, but she grew as a character across her single season on the show, particularly in terms of her relationship with Data and her understanding of different kinds of life. The Next Generation set out to seek out new life, and while Dr Pulaski’s old fashioned idea of what “life” is may have held her back at first, over time she came to recognise that Data was a valuable colleague and even a friend, even if she didn’t understand everything about him.

Had she been kept around and spent more time on the show, perhaps we would have seen those themes continue to play out. There was scope for her relationship with Worf to develop, not romantically necessarily but certainly putting them in more stories that would have allowed their friendship to grow and for both characters to learn more about the other’s culture. Her relationship with Kyle Riker could have been revisited, allowing for a more complex and nuanced relationship with William Riker on the Enterprise-D. And though she could never replace Dr Crusher in terms of having a close relationship with Captain Picard, the dynamic between the two – particularly the power play between a man who’s used to being the sole commanding officer of his ship and the doctor who’s the unquestioned master of Sickbay – would have been interesting to explore. There was scope for her to occasionally push back against Picard and other main characters, asserting herself more strongly than Dr Crusher usually would.

All of that and more would have been interesting to see, and while Dr Crusher had some great stories from Season 3 onwards, I’ve always felt at least a little sad that we didn’t get more from Dr Pulaski. At the very least it would have been nice to know how she came to depart the Enterprise-D and what her next role was going to be. Did she transfer to a different starship, return to Earth, retire? We don’t know, and I think it’s highly unlikely we will ever get any kind of solid confirmation of Dr Pulaski’s post-Season 2 life.

I found Dr Pulaski an interesting character and a welcome addition to The Next Generation, even though not every aspect of her characterisation succeeded or achieved its intended objectives. She remains an interesting character in Star Trek, particularly within the 24th Century, and I’ve always been fascinated by this single-season character. Season 2 of The Next Generation marked a change and uptick in the show’s quality – whence comes the expression “growing the beard,” a reference to Commander Riker’s facial hair! Though she wasn’t front-and-centre at every moment, Dr Pulaski played a significant role in the evolving series, helping it grow and become better than it had been in its first season. We can’t argue that the introduction of her character is somehow responsible for The Next Generation’s increasing success in that era, but we can’t dismiss it as mere coincidence either.

And perhaps that’s Dr Pulaski’s real legacy. She was a part of The Next Generation at a key moment – its powerful second season. Season 2 provided much more of a blueprint for the show’s future success – and for the successful development of Deep Space Nine and other parts of the franchise – than The Original Series-inspired first season had. Dr Pulaski, though originally intended to be a throwback to Star Trek’s first series, played a role in the franchise’s evolution as a character who wasn’t afraid to shake things up, stand up to her commander, and hold her ground. We can see elements of her personality in a number of Star Trek characters who came later, even continuing to the modern day.

Star Trek: The Next Generation is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and on Netflix in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The Star Trek franchise – including all characters and properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Here’s why Shades of Gray is the best episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: The Next Generation.

It isn’t. This “article” is just a horrible April Fool’s Day joke.

Gotcha!

I need to write something convincing here so that I can use it as an excerpt on the homepage. Let’s see what we can come up with… By expertly blending these different scenes together, Shades of Gray compiles the very best of Star Trek: The Next Generation into a single package. There, that’ll do. What can I say? I used to work in video game marketing. I can spin and bullshit about any subject I choose!

While we’re here, though, it’s worth noting a couple of things about Shades of Gray if you have the time. And yes, I’m serious this time. Pinkie promise.

Riker was injured on an away mission… setting up a clip show.

Shades of Gray is the only clip show that Star Trek ever made. With the decline of clip shows in general, and modern Star Trek shows having shorter seasons that don’t need to be padded out to fit archaic broadcast television schedules, I doubt that we’ll ever see another one. That makes it utterly unique in the Star Trek franchise. “Unique,” though, does not mean “good.”

The only reason Shades of Gray was made, as I alluded to above, was to fulfil The Next Generation’s contract of producing twenty-two episodes in its second season. Problems earlier in the season caused shoots to run longer than planned, and several episodes ended up being more expensive to produce than expected – most notably Q Who, which introduced the Borg for the first time, but also Elementary, Dear Data. This left the show in a place where it was necessary to produce an episode as cheaply as possible. It was thus little more than a money-saving measure, as clip shows almost always were.

The final scene of the episode – and of the entire second season. They were lucky a third had already been commissioned!

The poor reception to Shades of Gray meant that no other attempts were made to make clip shows, and the creative team behind The Next Generation and other Star Trek shows of the ’90s were very keen to avoid them.

It’s the only episode of The Next Generation to feature all of the show’s main cast. In addition to the main cast of Season 2, Dr Crusher and Tasha Yar returned in clip form from Season 1. So it’s got that going for it… which is nice.

Finally, and this is the most bittersweet part for me, is that Shades of Gray marked the unceremonious end of Diana Muldaur’s role as Dr Pulaski.

Captain Picard and Dr Pulaski.

I’ve yet to meet another fan of The Next Generation who likes Dr Pulaski as much as I do. Where Dr Crusher was often – and I’m sorry to say this – rather bland and uninteresting, even in episodes which gave her a significant role, Dr Pulaski has much more personality and more character. She’s headstrong and opinionated, and while some of her opinions – such as her ideas about Data being less than human – did not win her any fans, I liked that about her.

I would say that the Data issue was only really present in a couple of places across the season, and certainly by the time the season really got going she and Data had developed much more of a rapport. But her initial conflict with Data was supposed to mimic Dr McCoy’s argumentative tone with Spock in The Original Series. Indeed Dr Pulaski was intended to be a Dr McCoy-type character, designed to shake up the dynamic in what was still a new series. I do like Dr Crusher, and she had some great episodes, particularly in Seasons 5 and 6. But I would have dearly loved to have seen more of Dr Pulaski.

Perhaps we should save that for a Dr Pulaski article somewhere down the line? Remind me if I forget!

I’m not going to waste any more of your time for this silly April Fool’s Day joke. I hope it was a bit of fun!

Star Trek: The Next Generation is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and other regions where the service is available. The series may also be available internationally on Netflix, and is available to buy on DVD and Blu-ray. The Star Trek franchise – including The Next Generation and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Five main characters from Star Trek’s past that I’d bring back

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, and for other iterations of the franchise.

This is going to be the first part of a short two-part series in which I look at a few significant characters from past iterations of Star Trek that I would love to see return. Rather than tying these characters to a specific series, film, or ongoing project, this list is more general. I’m not advocating, for example, for any of these characters to necessarily appear in Picard or Strange New Worlds, but rather to return to the franchise at some point, when a suitable story could be written.

The Original Series Season 2 cast (without George Takei).

It goes without saying that practically every major character (at least those who weren’t killed off) could be brought back in some capacity, and with the franchise continuing to expand I think it’s increasingly likely that we’ll get some significant moments where characters reappear. For the sake of this list I’m not counting characters who are starring in shows that are currently in production, so I’ll be limited to characters from The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, and the films.

The Next Generation cast in Season 4 – plus Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan.

By my count there are 42 characters across those five series that we could call “major” – i.e. they regularly had their names listed in the main credits, and weren’t considered guest stars or just recurring secondary characters. This time I’m picking on just five, and my usual caveat applies: I don’t have any “insider information!” This is just a short list of characters that I think could be fun to bring back in some capacity, nothing more.

The Deep Space Nine cast in Season 4.

Of the 42 characters that occupied major starring roles in at least one season of the five aforementioned shows, I’m excluding five: James T Kirk from The Original Series, Data and Tasha Yar from The Next Generation, Jadzia Dax from Deep Space Nine, and Trip Tucker from Enterprise. All the exclusions are for the same reason: those characters have died in-universe. While there could be convoluted ways to bring back alternate versions (such as we saw with Sela, for instance) the original character can’t return after death.

The Season 2 cast of Voyager.

Though it may be controversial, I don’t believe that the death of an actor necessarily excludes a character from returning. The Kelvin films recast the entire main cast of The Original Series, and Star Trek: Picard recently recast a couple of legacy characters as well. So characters whose primary actors have passed away are still in contention.

Now that we’ve laid down the ground rules, let’s take a look at my choices.

Number 1: Chakotay

This one is inspired by the return of Seven of Nine in Season 1 of Picard. I’ve written about this before, but Seven’s return to Star Trek was cathartic for me, because the passage of time allowed her to be a very different, more emotional, and much more human character than she ever was in Voyager. Seven was sometimes annoying and difficult to root for, especially toward the end of Voyager’s run, and basically the reason was that she’d always seem to “reset” after learning what should have been a big and important lesson in how to be human. It made her character bland and repetitive. But we’re not here to talk about Seven of Nine!

Chakotay didn’t have a lot to do in Voyager, despite being the first officer. There were a handful of episodes in which he was given a storyline, but a lot of the time he was just a presence, someone there for other characters to bounce ideas off or to tell Captain Janeway he didn’t recommend she do something we all knew she’d end up doing anyway. In short, bringing back Chakotay is something I would see as a chance for his character to get a Seven of Nine-like “redemption,” with some genuine development and a significant storyline.

One thing Voyager touched on briefly but never really explored was the way Chakotay felt about the deaths of the Maquis. The episode Extreme Risk focused on B’Elanna as she struggled to come to terms with what happened to their former colleagues, but Chakotay never really got a similar moment. As part of a larger story looking at the aftermath of the Dominion War, learning what happened to the Maquis’ colonies in the aftermath of that conflict could include Chakotay, as one of those worlds was his home.

We could also learn that Chakotay was allowed to remain in Starfleet following Voyager’s return to the Alpha Quadrant, and may even have been given his own command. Given that Voyager quite quickly dropped the Maquis angle, I’m not sure this is the route I’d go down because it doesn’t seem like it offers a lot of development or growth potential for his character, but it’s a possibility.

The final few episodes of Voyager’s seventh season saw a burgeoning relationship building between Chakotay and Seven of Nine. With Seven now a recurring character in Picard, and with the possibility of her entering into a relationship with main character Raffi, we could potentially explore what happened between Seven and Chakotay. Voyager’s finale certainly suggested that he had strong feelings for her, even after her death in that timeline.

Unfortunately, for reasons that aren’t especially clear, the producers of Voyager lost interest in – or didn’t know what to do with – the “one ship, two crews” concept that had been part of the show’s inception. Chakotay and the rest of the Maquis were absorbed into the crew by midway through Season 1, and while lip service was paid to Chakotay’s Maquis past at numerous points, I think that’s one aspect of his background that would be ripe for exploration. In any 24th or early 25th Century story that looked at Bajor, Cardassia, and the aftermath of the Dominion War, I’d spend at least an episode or two considering the legacy of the Maquis, and Chakotay could play a major role in such a story.

Number 2: T’Pol

I’ve mentioned T’Pol before in relation to Strange New Worlds, and that series is certainly one where we could see her crop up. Because of Enterprise’s place in the timeline, unless Star Trek plans on returning to the 22nd Century for some other story, there aren’t many characters who could realistically still be active and able to play a major role. The 23rd and 24th Centuries (as well as Discovery’s 32nd Century) are where current Star Trek projects are focused – and I have to say I think that’s the right call. Enterprise was an interesting experiment, but I see no pressing need to return to the 22nd Century at this stage.

The story I’d include T’Pol in would go something like this: she’s a senior Federation ambassador by the mid-23rd Century, and accompanies Captain Pike on a diplomatic mission. The mission would make first contact with a race we met in The Next Generation era, such as the Cardassians. We’d thus tie together all three of Star Trek’s eras in one story! I think an episode like that would be incredibly rewarding for longstanding fans of the franchise; a “love letter” to the fans.

But there are many other roles T’Pol could occupy. Having spent so long with humans during those early days of humanity striking out into space, she could prove an invaluable guide or advisor to a young Spock. Whether Spock is “the first Vulcan in Starfleet” is a point of contention without an obvious answer, but even if he wasn’t it’s clear that the Vulcans continued to operate an independent fleet into the 23rd Century, and thus Vulcans serving in Starfleet seem to have been rare. T’Pol is well-placed to be a kind of mentor to Spock for this reason.

However, both of those story concepts take T’Pol out of her usual scientific role, and perhaps a story could be devised which would be better-suited to her career as a scientist. I’m still thinking of a 23rd Century story, but one which perhaps requires high-ranking Federation scientists to work on a mystery or puzzle.

Number 3: Dr Pulaski

I’ve never met a fan of The Next Generation who likes Dr Pulaski as much as I do. I understand why she wasn’t popular with fans, replacing Dr Crusher after one season and especially because of her early run-ins with Data that amounted to anti-android bigotry. But where Dr Crusher could be fairly bland, Dr Pulaski had a really strong personality that shone through.

On another occasion we’ll talk about Dr Pulaski and how her introduction in Season 2 of The Next Generation was an attempt to shake up the new series and bring in a Dr McCoy-type character. But for now I want to consider how she could return, and what sort of role she could have.

Picard Season 1 missed an opportunity to bring back Dr Pulaski – or another medical officer from The Next Generation like Alyssa Ogawa – in the second episode. Picard receives bad news from a doctor he knew while serving aboard the USS Stargazer, Dr Benayoun. This was a new character created for Picard, and if I’d been writing it I might have chosen to bring back Dr Pulaski at this moment instead. I don’t know if that was ever suggested, because it’s well-known that actress Diana Muldaur didn’t have a great time working on The Next Generation. But it would have been neat to see!

One series that has been doing great with references to less well-known parts of canon is Lower Decks, and perhaps that means Dr Pulaski would be a good fit to return there. I don’t know if Diana Muldaur is still working, nor whether she’d be well enough or willing to reprise the role. But it was at least a little sad that Dr Pulaski was dropped in The Next Generation Season 3 with no explanation. There’s scope, I feel, to learn what came next for her – even if the character has to be recast.

Almost any medical story or story involving characters from The Next Generation Season 2 could see Dr Pulaski return, and of course Star Trek: Picard has to be the prime candidate of the shows currently in production. She could, for example, be one of the chief medical officers assigned to help the surviving ex-Borg now that they’re (presumably) under Federation protection. Or how about this: in a storyline that clearly shows how much she’s changed her attitude to synthetic life, she could be the head of a Federation medical team sent to Coppelius to help the synths. This would cement her “redemption” from her earlier interactions with Data, and would perhaps provide a suitable epilogue to her role in The Next Generation Season 2.

Number 4: Benjamin Sisko

Captain Sisko is probably the character whose return I’ve touted the most! Because of the unique nature of his disappearance in the Deep Space Nine finale – vanishing into the realm of the Bajoran Prophets – he could return literally anywhere, in any time period. The Prophets don’t experience time in the same linear manner as humans, so they could send him to a point in his future, his past, or anywhere along the Star Trek timeline.

This is why I’ve proposed Sisko as a character who could appear in Picard, Strange New Worlds, and Discovery – because he could be sent back by the Prophets at any moment in time. I would argue he would have more to do in a story set in the late 24th or early 25th Centuries than he might in the 23rd or 32nd, but in any story that brought back Bajor, Sisko could play a major role.

He could also be part of a story looking at the aftermath of the Dominion War, at Cardassian relations with the Federation, and of course at Deep Space Nine itself. I think Sisko has the potential to be a useful character too. If he joined the story right at the moment of his return to normal spacetime, he could potentially be a point-of-view character, and an excuse for a film or episode to dump a lot of exposition that could otherwise feel clunky and out-of-place. This would be done under the guise of other characters bringing Sisko up to speed on what he’s missed – and we could catch up on galactic affairs right along with him!

Of all the characters on this list, Sisko is the one whose story feels the most unfinished. There was almost a cliffhanger ending to his role in Deep Space Nine, with a tease that one day he’ll be coming back. Whether we’ll ever see that on screen is another matter, of course, and Avery Brooks has seemed less willing to reprise the role than some other Star Trek actors. But you never know!

Number 5: Montgomery Scott

It would be relatively easy for Scotty to crop up in Strange New Worlds as a junior engineer – or in any other 23rd Century series, for that matter. But that’s not really what I’m proposing this time. That idea has merit, and I think I included Scotty in one of my character ideas lists for Strange New Worlds. However, this time what I’m suggesting is Scotty in the 24th Century.

Relics, the Season 6 episode of The Next Generation, established that Scotty had been kept alive in a form of transporter stasis of his own devising for over eighty years, finally rematerializing when the crew of the Enterprise-D encountered his crashed ship. After working briefly with Geordi La Forge, Captain Picard, and others, Scotty was given a shuttle and set out to explore the new century on his own. We would later learn in 2009’s Star Trek that Scotty had gone back to work, developing a method of “transwarp beaming” that became important to the plot of that film.

After that, however, what became of Scotty is a mystery. He had initially intended to retire, so did his stint with Starfleet continue? Or did he resume his planned retirement in the 24th Century, catching up on the eight decades of galactic history that he’d missed? He reunited with Spock, apparently, and it’s at least possible he would have been able to visit the elderly Dr McCoy as well.

Scotty offers a “coming out of retirement” story, perhaps prompted by some horrible event or disaster that requires an engineering solution. We could learn, for example, that he’d worked alongside Geordi La Forge in preparing the Romulan rescue fleet, or even that he was helping to rebuild the Mars shipyards after the attack by the Zhat Vash. Those are two ideas based on events from Picard Season 1, but of course there are many, many other ways Scotty could have contributed to Starfleet and the Federation in the late 24th Century.

So that’s it… at least for now. The second part of this short series will look at five secondary or recurring characters who I also think could be fun to bring back!

With so many ongoing and upcoming Star Trek projects occupying different places in the timeline, there really is scope to bring back almost any major character, and I hope the creative team don’t feel constrained! As a Trekkie I think I’d be happy with literally any of them making an appearance, though of course it would have to make sense in-universe as well as not be offputting for casual viewers.

The cast of Enterprise during Season 1.

We mentioned the episode Relics, and I think that story manages to walk that line exceptionally well. For fans of The Original Series, Scotty’s return was an amazing treat. But for folks who weren’t familiar with the older series, his inclusion in the episode still managed to make sense. The story was well-written, and while knowing more about who Scotty was and where he’d come from certainly added to it for Trekkies, it didn’t put off casual viewers by demanding a lot of knowledge of Star Trek canon. That’s the kind of model any future episode, film, or story that brings back a character should try to emulate.

We can also point to If Memory Serves, from the second season of Discovery. That episode began with a short recap of the events of The Cage, establishing what happened to Captain Pike on Talos IV, who the Talosians were, who Vina was, and so on. By beginning an episode which features a returning character with a clip or compilation of their past Star Trek exploits, almost any character could be integrated into an ongoing production.

The Discovery Season 1 cast (without Wilson Cruz).

The Star Trek franchise has been running for over five decades, and has a huge roster of wonderful characters. The fact that there are too many to put on the list – or the fact that the list could literally include every single one – is testament to the quality of the franchise and the creative teams who’ve contributed to it over the years.

Stay tuned for the next part in this series, where I’ll look at five secondary or recurring characters who I’d also love to see come back!

The Star Trek franchise – including all series mentioned above – is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and other territories where the service exists, and on Netflix in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The Star Trek franchise – including all properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.