My top ten sci-fi characters
10. Jack O’Neill (Stargate, Stargate SG1)
Wisecracking, badass, and often looking far too old for active duty, O’Neill makes the list for his quick quips and sarcasm. Battling his own demons throughout the series, he also manages to die several times, get implanted with alien parasites twice, and save the planet on multiple occasions. Not bad.
9. Lex Luthor (Superman, Smallville)
The only definite villain in my list, Lex Luthor makes the cut for his evil deeds in Smallville. I haven’t read the Superman comics, but in the films Luthor’s villanry is usually quite lame, and his only successes result from the idiocy of the Man of Steel. In the recently-ended TV show though, Luthor was a well-written character for the first 6 seasons, often beating young Clark Kent whilst still pretending to be his friend.
8. Avon (Blake’s 7)
An aloof, cynical computer genius, Kerr Avon also had a sharp tongue and a quick wit. Although he was played as a darker, more self-centered character than most of the Liberator crew, his actions usually resulted in far bigger wins for the rebellion than any of the others, and were often quite selfless. Plus, he had that daft relationship with Servalan…
7. Captain Jack Harkness (Torchwood, Doctor Who)
A man who can’t die, and isn’t sure whether he wants to? Not heterosexual, homosexual, but omnisexual? These are the foundations for an excellent character. Respected, feared and loved in equal parts by his subordinates, Jack has a difficult time in Torchwood, having to make decisions as tough as those faced by The Doctor (though where Torchwood is concerned, the happy ending usually involves the death of a central character or child).
6. Kara “Starbuck” Thrace (Battlestar Galactica)
Insubordinate, wild, and the best pilot in the fleet, Starbuck is one of the main characters in BSG, and deservedly so. Alongside flying vipers, Starbuck also enjoys heavy drinking, gambling, cigars and sex, or so a personal ad would go. Played with deep intensity by Katee Sackhoff, the character is damaged from the outset by the loss of a former pupil, which magnifies her recklessness in the early series.
5. Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly, Serenity)
I aim to misbehave. Quick-witted, brave and with a bizarre sense of nobility, The Cap’n makes the list for being a Big Damn Hero. A large part of the fun of Firefly is when Mal’s plans fail, leaving the crew of Serenity in a tough spot, but with plenty of opportunities for good one-liners.
4. River Tam (Firefly, Serenity)
Although River’s character is one of the “spinny killbots” that modern sci-fi is full of, it’s done in an interesting way – she starts off on the spinny perfection route as a child prodigy, but is then experimented on, producing the killer part of her personality whilst also adding fragility and some mental reversion. As one of the other characters notes, what River does in the next scene could be blowing everyone up, or rubbing soup in her hair.
3. Doc Brown (Back to the Future)
I’d happily have my hair turn white and go half bald to be Doc Brown. A brilliant man who invents a time machine and has the taste to build it into a DeLorean, The Doc is the archetypal mad scientist. Not content with a flying time-travelling car, Doc Brown eventually builds a flying, time-travelling train, and retires with his wife and kids. ‘Nuff said.
2. The Doctor (Doctor Who)
Every iteration of The Doctor’s character has brought something new to what is unquestionably my favourite show. Eccentric, heroic, mad, kind, cruel, brave and brilliant, all usually in a single episode, The Doctor has a TARDIS, and wanders around the Universe saving planets and destroying Darleks. What more could you ask for?
1. Dr Walter Bishop (Fringe)
Probably the best character on TV full stop, Walter Bishop (as played by John Noble) steals every single scene he’s in. An even better mad professor the Doc Brown, he is the central figure in the Fringe world, but in a very unassuming, background way. You can never be sure whether his next line will be about the case the team are dealing with, food, or accidentally wetting himself.
Spock (Star Trek)
Ellen Ripley (Alien series)
Han Solo (Star Wars)
The Master (Doctor Who)
Header image by Juskteez Vu (via unsplash).