Julien Neaves, Sci Fi Head Writer
Social media was all abuzz with the newest trailer for Star Trek: Picard Season 2 and the reveal that Whoopi Goldberg would be returning as El-Aurian Guinan. I for one am excited to see the sage bartender again and I hope we learn about her origins previously hinted at by Q (who is also returning).
While we wait for that I thought it would be cool to do a list about other recurring characters. And by “recurring”, I mean those characters who were not part of the main cast (or sometimes even part of Starfleet) but appeared in multiple episodes and really made an impact. And since I already have a villain list I will restrict it to allies and anti-heroes (sorry Q fans, but you won’t find him here). And I will keep it to one per series just to have a good spread. Oh, and I’ll be cutting off at Discovery as I don’t think Picard, Lower Decks or Prodigy has anyone that really qualifies for this list. So with those caveats and an Alpha Quadrant-sized SPOILER ALERT let’s warp into the six best recurring characters in Star Trek:
#6 Naomi Wildman, Voyager
A child on a starship sounds like a recipe for annoyance. But instead of being cloying and irritating, precocious human/Ktarian hybrid Naomi Wildman was endearing and sweet, thanks in no small part to the performance by Scarlett Pomers. She helped to bring out the humanity in Seven of Nine, and I loved the way Seven would call her by her full name.
#5 Nurse Christine Chapel, The Original Series
Nurse Christine Chapel (played by beloved first lady of Trek Majel Barrett, later Majel Barrett-Roddenberry) may be best remembered for her unrequited love of Spock, but she was also a kind, thoughtful and caring woman and a capable medical professional. And she always added some heart to every episode she appeared in.
Runner-up: Yeoman Janice Rand
#4 Empress Philippa Georgiou, Discovery
Discovery has never been that great exploring characters outside of Michael Burnham (it often feels like “The Burnham Show”) and a handful of others, an issue that persists even into its fourth season. But when you have an actress of the calibre of Michelle Yeoh she will make her presence felt in every scene. Her portrayal of villain-turned-anti-hero Empress Philippa Georgiou was simply delightful. Powerful, condescending, and with a savage wit, every moment on screen was a joy. And I was truly sad when she departed in Discovery Season 3.
Runner-up: Denise “Jett” Reno
#3 Commander Thy’lek Shran, Enterprise
One of the greatest character actors in the history of the franchise has to be Jeffrey Combs and he has lent his talents to not one, not two but NINE different roles over four different series. Two of his better-known roles were Brunt and the various Weyouns in Deep Space Nine and he was most recently the voice of evil computer Agimus in Lower Decks. But my favourite has to be Andorian Commander Shran in Enterprise.
Not only did he provide a window into this previously unexplored species, Shran was also a brilliant tactician, skilled combatant and possessed a strong sense of honour. He developed great respect for Captain Archer and became a valuable ally. I was not surprised of news that the aborted Season 5 could have seen him join the crew as a regular. He definitely would have added some welcome colour to those “pink skins”.
Runner-up: Admiral Maxwell Forrest
#2 Guinan, The Next Generation
The spark for this list lands at number two on this list. With her distinctive style (some of those hats could rival the Enterprise’s saucer section), calming presence, bright wit and fountain of wisdom, Guinan is easily one of the most memorable characters of The Next Generation. Goldberg brought great intelligence to the role and it was always comforting to see Guinan serving drinks and advice to the Captain and the rest of the crew. Add to that her long life, knowledge of the Borg, ability to sense changes in the timeline, and the mystery of her being the only person to ever frighten the seemingly omnipotent Q, and you have one of the best recurring characters in the franchise. And there is only one better.
Runner-up: Lt Reginald Barclay
#1 Elim Garak, Deep Space Nine
There were so many fantastic recurring characters in Deep Space Nine they could fill a list of their own. From Nog to Rom to Martok to Vic Fontaine to Morn, the list goes on and on. But the winner of this list and also one of the best characters of the entire franchise, recurring or regular, has to be former Cardassian intelligence agent turned tailor Elim Garak.
Played masterfully by Andrew Robinson, Garak was the epitome of what you see is not what you get. As skilled with weaving words as cloth and with a cunning and insight that belied his charming demeanour, the Cardassian kept both the crew and the audience on their toes. He proved a grand friend to Doctor Bashir and a great asset to Sisko, though he would at times enact his own plans to deadly effect as we saw in the exceptional In the Pale Moonlight. I could say more but any DS9 fan would need no convincing. And they would know everything I have said about Garak is true. Even the lies? Especially the lies.
Runner-up: Tie between Nog and Martok
So that’s my list. Which of these is your favourite? Any would you add to the list? And you can check out more great Trek content below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.