Who are the best Star Trek characters? Behind all the different alien species, intergalactic politics, and thrilling space warfare, the countless Star Trek characters are the franchise’s true strength and have been since the very start with the original trifecta of Kirk, Spock, and Bones.
Star Trek‘s longevity is down to its many iconic characters who range from aspirational to detestable, whether it’s the Star Trek captains, the chief engineers, or lowly lower deckers. With so many amazing characters throughout the history of the Star Trek series and movies, everyone has their favorites and so do we.
So, we’ve decided to pick out the very best of the best: the characters who truly elevate Star Trek into the best sci-fi series franchise ever made. Of course, choosing such a list is an impossible task. There are endless Star Trek characters who deserve to make the cut but just miss out. Still, here are our current picks for the 10 very best Star Trek characters of all time.
Who are the best Star Trek characters?
- Lieutenant Barclay
- Seven of Nine
- The Doctor
- Miles O’Brien
The key to understanding Worf is realizing that he’s not a normal Klingon. In fact, as a member of the species, he’s downright unusual. Where other Klingons are rambunctious, rowdy, and just after a good time, Worf is stiff, lacking in humor, and more honor-obsessed than he has any right to be. The fact that he’s an outlier is why we love him.
Neither fully comfortable among the humans on the USS Enterprise-D (as he tells Guinan, he can’t start a romantic relationship with any because, “Earth females are too fragile,”) or among other Klingons, Worf is destined to remain an outsider: fascinated by his culture, and pushed away from it. On the plus side, he does adore prune juice.
When TNG began as a sequel to The Original Series, it pulled a clever trick: instead of repeating the successes of the past, TNG inverted them. It turned the careful, considered character into the captain, and the bold, confident risk-taker into the first-officer. Likewise, its solution to Spock was to bring in Data, who is essentially the half-Vulcan’s opposite.
An emotionless logic devotee, Data’s entire journey is focussed on the trying to become more human, not less. The scenes of Data attempting to learn about, explore, and understand humanity are some of the best in TNG. Painting with Geordi; critiquing Picard’s own art; looking after Spot; turning his hand at Shakespeare; re-enacting Sherlock Holmes; and practising small talk. It’s astonishing that this character who entirely lacks emotion is the most charming, and warm. So much of that is thanks to Brent Spiner, who played the character for so many years with unfailing consistency.
Data’s determined pursuit of understanding, despite being destined to fail, is what made him so great. While understandable, it’s a shame that Picard season 3 decided to take the easy way out by handing Data his emotions and concluding that quest. It actually, if anything, undermines his character. Nevertheless, he remains one of the greats (and the Data we see in Picard season 3 isn’t really Data, anyway).
Quark is a sleazy, shrewd, greedy stand-in for (almost) the entire Ferengi species. He is also a survivor, having managed to maintain a healthy business on the dark, grim space station that is Deep Space Nine.
However, it’s in his many relationships and interactions with others that Quark truly comes to life. His dynamic with Odo is a lot of fun, as the conning Ferengi does his best to continually outsmart the chief of security. Despite that, there’s a begrudging friendship between the two, which steadily grows as the gritty drama series progresses. This, and his heroics in the final act of the series, proves that Quark is far more than simple comic relief.
7. Lieutenant Barclay
To keep it succinct, Lieutenant Barclay was a huge breath of fresh air. He’s one of the few Starfleet officers who doesn’t feel like they’ve been churned out of some human-perfection machine, and he’s one of the best characters for driving home a sense of real human emotion, which can sometimes get lost amidst all the technobabble.
Lieutenant Barclay is also the source of some of Star Trek’s best laughs. Hollow Pursuits has a claim to be one of Star Trek’s funniest episodes, but it’s expertly balanced against genuine sympathy and pathos for poor old Reginald.
Similarly, The Nth Degree is packed full of hilarity while also being a meditation on the gnawing impact of a lack of self-confidence and belief in your own worth. Every time Lieutenant Barclay appears is a huge win.
6. Seven of Nine
Ignoring the catsuit, Seven of Nine is one of the most fun and engaging characters to ever bless Star Trek. Like the EMH, she’s one of the Star Trek characters with the best journeys, which is all the more impressive given that she only came aboard the USS Voyager halfway through the series.
The internal struggle between her human instincts and her learnt behaviour from her time in the Borg collective creates a character who is always surprising those around her and the audience. Her relationship with Captain Janeway is especially captivating as it becomes an analogy for a struggling child and an adoptive parent. It’s filled with disappointment on both sides, but it’s founded on an increasingly unshakeable mutual love and, more importantly, respect.
Seven’s story has now been continued in Star Trek Picard. While the first two seasons of the show were – how should we put it? – disappointing; Star Trek Picard season 3 has done a much better job of carrying on Seven’s journey for acceptance. As the first officer of the USS Titan under Captain Shaw, we saw her as older and wiser, but still with that underlying anger we saw in Voyager. Now she’s the captain of the Enterprise-G, following on in the footsteps of greatness.
When Guinan was first introduced to Star Trek in the second season of TNG, she was an enigma. The beauty of her character is that she remained that way. Acting as Captain Picard’s ultimate confidant, Guinan was a voice of wisdom, experience, and calm, offering her insights into the most challenging situations faced by the crew of the Enterprise-D.
However, Guinan was never perfect. Hidden away beneath a snazzy hat, there was always a simmering anger. Occasionally this slipped through, like when she tried to convince Picard to use Hugh to destroy the Borg and in some of her confrontations with Q. And, it was in the TNG episode Q Who that Guinan really showed she had much, much more to her story than you could ever assume. Guinan proves that often things are more interesting when they’re left ambiguous.
4. The Doctor
The Doctor, Voyager’s EMH, initially fulfilled the tried and tested archetype of the grumpy, impatient, and rude physician. Befitting of the fact that he was a hologram, the character started off as 2D and easy to overlook. But slowly, the EMH became one of Star Trek’s best characters, if not Star Trek’s best character. He’s truly that good.
He has one of the most complete, complex, and well-paced arcs in Star Trek history as he gains sentience and awareness, which all began when he got his mobile emitter. This might sound like a rip-off of Data’s story, but it’s not. While Data spent his time trying to emulate and understand humanity and human emotions, the EMH fought to be respected.
This is made all the better by the fact that respecting the EMH isn’t always easy because he’s arrogant, prickly, and smug more often than not. He is, however, also deeply lonely. His journey will brake your heart more than once.
It’s no coincidence that the EMH has some of Voyager’s best-ever episodes, and his creation of the ECH (Emergency Command Hologram) is one of the best moments in Star Trek, period. It’s impossible to run out of praise for the character that is the EMH.
Garak is almost the physical embodiment of Deep Space Nine: a Cardassian who claims to be nothing more than a simple tailor who is actually an ex-Obsidian Order operative. His talents are endless, and he’s a master spy with the ability to manipulate and charm those around him in equal measure.
Garak always brings a compelling sense of mystery and intrigue to proceedings about the space station as the audience tries to establish whether he really can be trusted or not. To be honest, we’re not even sure that Garak trusts himself.
2. Miles O’Brien
Brought to life in the Star Trek The Next Generation cast by the ever-brilliant Colm Meaney, Miles O’Brien was a supporting mainstay throughout TNG, having appeared in the very first episode. Somehow he only got given his name in season 4, and the character went through many different iterations, ranks, and jobs, before the writers eventually settled on him being the ‘transporter chief’ aboard the Enterprise-D.
Chief O’Brien would then leave the flagship to become the chief of operations aboard Deep Space Nine, joining the spin-off’s cast in a leading role. While he had plenty of wonderful episodes in TNG (Disaster, Data’s Day, and The Wounded all come to mind), it was on the space station where O’Brien really cemented his greatness.
Humble but tough when he needed to be, O’Brien was put through the ringer on DS9 and had to suffer more than arguably any other character. He was still able to maintain his ‘reliable everyman’ persona, and we love him for that. We really, really do. There could be more to come, as well, as Meaney has stated that he’d be open to return on a Star Trek series focussed on Worf.
There are three distinct versions of Spock seen throughout the franchise’s long history, with Ethan Peck and Zachary Quinto each bringing their own unique takes on the half-Vulcan to the screen. They’re great in their own ways, but neither of them quite live up to Leonard Nimoy who was originally tasked with bringing Spock to life in TOS and the six subsequent Star Trek movies.
Spock acts as the perfect foil for Kirk and Bones, and their dynamic as a trio is electric thanks to – in the words of Bones – “That green-blooded son of a bitch!” When he’s away from his friends, Spock is just as fascinating though, with a rich personality full of contradictions and complexity.
We also have Spock to thank for the likes of Data and Seven of Nine, and he helped to cement the Star Trek trope of the onboard ‘outsider’ who could help the human characters explore their own humanity. In short, you don’t have Star Trek without Spock, or Nimoy, and his sacrifice in The Wrath of Khan (“I have been, and always shall be, your friend,”) is heart-wrenchingly perfect. The character has an indescribable magic, thanks to Nimoy, and always will.
That’s it for now on the best Star Trek characters. For more on the franchise check out our guide to the Star Trek movies ranked. Or, stay up to date with the current crop of releases with our guides to the Star Trek 4 release date, the Star Trek Discovery season 5 release date, and see our hopes for Star Trek Legacy before reading our interview with Anson Mount and Rebecca Romijn.
You can also learn about how Leonard Nimoy’s favorite TOS episode inspired The Voyage Home, and see his secret to making the best Star Trek movies. Or, broaden your horizons with our guide to the best TV series of all time.