The basic premise for Star Trek is that 200 to 300 years in our future, Earth has joined the United Federation of Planets, a United Nations-style intergovernmental body. The main characters are members of Starfleet, a space faring armada whose main goals are exploration, defense, scientific research and diplomacy. All five series are set on space-faring vessels or stations and the shows' casts always include a captain, a doctor, an engineer and assorted bridge officers. One of these will always be a token alien whose behaviour adds comic relief. Ah -- but that is a post for another time.
This time I'm blogging about each series' First Officer, aka the second-in-command, aka executive officer.
"I am endeavoring, ma'am, to construct a mnemonic circuit using stone knives and bearskins." (City on the Edge of Forever)
Spock does double duty as the Enterprise's science officer and second-in-command. The strength of the character is when comparing the linear, logical thoughts of Spock with the impulsive, rash actions of the mercurial Kirk, his captain. He's a good commander to have in both war and peace. I really identified with the character during my teenage years when I was a slave to frequent emotional swings.
Commander William T. Riker:
“What’s a knockout like you doing in a computer-generated gin joint like this?” (11001001)
When the Next Generation premiered it was natural to discuss and compare the new crew to the original crew. In short order Riker was deemed the New Kirk. He goes on all the away missions. He is in more fire fights than Picard. He raves about his hedonistic shore leaves on Risa. He has sex with more alien ladies. He is such a Kirk. He also plays the trombone, the sexiest of all brassy horny instruments.
Major Kira Nerys:
"The fact of the matter is, I've already been where you're going. I've lived the life you're choosing. Fighting, hit and run, always outgunned, living on hate and adrenaline... it's not much of a life. And it eats away at you, so that every day a little bit of you dies." (Crossfire)
Whereas Spock is the calming influence to his captain's emotional impulsiveness, Kira Nerys is a hothead who often needed to be managed by her commanding officer. She's a former foot soldier, a solid tactician, an abject failure as a diplomat and a very religious person. All these facets make for a great character that develops and grows through the series. Also she has more than her fair share of love interests, but is no Riker.
“Trapped on a barren planet and you're stuck with the only indian in the universe who can't start a fire by rubbing two sticks together.” (Basics, Part Two)
It's really depressing to watch the first and second season of Voyager. They're actually very enjoyable, but it drives home that the series developed into something far removed from the initial premise. In later seasons story lines focus upon Janeway, Seven of Nine and the Doctor with the talents of the ensemble cast wasted. There's a nice amount of friction between Chakotay and his captain in those early years, but sadly he is pushed to the side after season 4. Things I like about Chakotay: he is a good looking, strapping man who doesn't care if people dislike him for making tough decisions.
"One of the first things a diplomat learns is not to stick his fingers where they don't belong." (Unexpected)
Like Spock, T'Pol does double duty as science office and second in command. She's also a Vulcan. But she looks better in a one piece lycra jumpsuit than Spock. Her relationship with her captain evolves through the series but it never develops to the level of friendship and trust seen by the principals on TOS. Mostly because it was apparent that T'Pol's captain is a numb-skull with Daddy issues. Jolene Blalock did admirably adding levels of complexity to a character that the writers struggled to use effectively.