Greatest TV Characters - Cadet Sylvia Tilly from Star Trek: Discovery

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The next entry in our television's greatest TV characters feature for The Digital Fix, is another relative newcomer, the heart of Star Trek: Discovery, Cadet Sylvia Tilly. 

The Character

We may have only had one season of Star Trek: Discovery, but even so I’m willing to put my neck out and say Sylvia Tilly is one of the best Star Trek characters ever. Sonequa Martin-Green’s Michael Burnham may be our conduit into the show, but Tilly (played by Mary Wiseman) is our most relatable character - she’s someone you’d want as a friend, and she’s also a bonafide genius. Also she has the kudos of being the first character to drop the F-bomb in a Star Trek series on TV.

Her Journey

From the moment we’re introduced to her aboard the USS Discovery, there is something about the her nervous nature that is refreshing. From her nerve-wracked motormouth to her ability to empathise with everyone, no matter what their background, there is something in the character (and in Mary Wiseman’s utterly flawless performance) that makes our favourite engineer impossible to dislike.

"Been my experience that what I lack in athletic ability, I more than make up for in intelligence, and personality. We may want to focus on those attributes."

She is an adept engineer - often seeing the solutions that everyone else has missed - yet she has no confidence in her own abilities. She suffers from anxiety despite her genius and while she wants to progress up the ranks she wants to do it in her own way. Her brief journey to the mirror universe is what actually focuses her on her goal and lets the rest of the crew see her for the person she is. When she assumes the role of Captain ‘Killy’ - the hard-as-nails captain of the Discovery in the parallel universe - she eventually discovers her own confidence.

Her caring nature and confidence finally find their place in the penultimate episode - in that briefest of moments where she steps between Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) and Burnham on an away mission putting them both at ease.

Why she is such a great character

By the end of Season One, Tilly might well be the character who has changed the most; against the backdrop of war, she’s the most unlikely of heroes. In less adept hands, Tilly could have been the annoyance or the comic relief, but thanks to Mary Wiseman’s amazing work we have a truly memorable portrayal of someone who overcomes their own mental demons to do something quite remarkable - time and time again.

Greatest Quote

“Is that how you treat your long-lost captain? If you greeted me that way, Connor, I'd cut out your tongue and use it to lick my boots.”

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Star Trek

Debuting in 1966, Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek survived cancellation and returned with a series of films featuring Jame T Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise. It spawned four massively successes TV spin-offs and movies and ruled cult TV in the 1990s. After Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise, it spawned a film prequel / reboot under the guise of JJ Abrams but returned to its TV roots in 2017 with Star Trek: Discovery...

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