Do a quick search for the strongest female characters in nerdom and you’ll probably come up with some similar lists: Ripley, Buffy, Starbuck, Seven of Nine, Aeryn Sun, Xena, Sarah Conner, etc… These lists are great, and highlight some of the most positive aspects of science fiction. Still, all of these women have something in common: All of them kick ass. They all kill people. Most of them are strong because they can use a gun or kick someone in the face. And that’s awesome, because there are so few female action heroes.
But did you know there are ways of being strong other than killing? Even in science fiction/action/adventure! And Sci Fi has actually given us some strong female characters that don’t just shoot people. Let’s take a moment to celebrate those ladies, especially those on TV.
5. Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan, Farscape
Priestess, mystic, and moral compass of the Farscape crew (usually), Zhaan has the potential to be the most dangerous, murderous badass on Moya. She can literally kill you with her brain, she just doesn’t. Her strength comes from her wisdom, her control, and her unwillingness to descend to the level of violence, knowing how destructive it is. We’ll just ignore the time she cut off Pilot’s leg…
4. Agent Dana Scully, The X-Files
Okay, so she carries a gun. But her main strength comes from her intelligence, medical training, and constant skepticism in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Also being the fantasy source for nerds living in the early 90’s.
3. Kaylee Frye, Firefly
On a show that featured basically the best ensemble ever, it’s hard to pick a most likeable character. Okay, impossible. But no matter what, Kaylee comes up as one of the most likeable, charming characters on the show. In what was kind of a brutal, oppressive future, Kaylee reminded us all that life was beautiful. She was the ray of light for the ship, the crew’s heart, but never stereotyped or shoehorned into a damsel. Honest, sweet, crafty, charming, intelligent, just overall loveable. And the one time she picked up a gun? Not so good.
2. Tara Maclay, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
This was a hard one. I was very tempted to put Willow, but she has the propensity for going all veiny and blasting gods with lightning. Simply, she’s too badass for the list. But Tara only killed a single demon in her tenure on Buffy. As she said, she isn’t so good with the whole…
Fighting. But Willow’s strength comes from Tara. Tara is the most gentle, caring, considerate, and, maybe besides Giles, the wisest character on the show. Her strength is subtle, but strong she is.
I’m a big fan of Tara. I think she’s one of the most successfully written and acted characters on a show filled with amazing characters. And the fact that this list contains two Whedon ladies? Well, maybe that just says something about the state of science fiction tv. Or maybe just something about me…
1. Laura Roslin, Battlestar Galactica
Okay, I’ll admit it: I wrote this list for Laura. BSG is well known for being a show with strong female characters. Starbuck, 6, Boomer. And all of these woman definitely have their strengths, but most of them involve being a good pilot or a heavy hitter with a powerful sexuality.
Laura Roslin gets passed over a lot as a strong character in science fiction, which I think is tragic. She’s, in my mind, the strongest person on the show. Dying of cancer, constantly derided as being just a “kindergarten teacher”, and struggling, as everyone is, with the death of almost every person she ever knew, Roslin still manages to be the leader of the human race. She doesn’t compromise her morals, whether it’s holding elections in the middle of an extinction, or refusing to steal them when she knows Baltar might damn the race. She takes on the military, the Cylons, and everyone else to keep her people safe, and free. All the while her body and mind rot from within.
Mary McDonnel plays her with such a beautiful mix of vulnerability and strength, and yet she doesn’t get the same level of attention as many of her costars.
This list is for you, President Roslin. For what it’s worth, you will always have my vote.
So say we all.