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10 Totally Unknown Heroes of the Star Trek Universe

Everyone knows the names of the intrepid captains, their trusted first officers, and the colorful villains that made their stories so interesting. The Star Trek franchise has become vast, populated by a myriad of diverse characters and cultures, that we forget some of the minor players that made significant contributions.

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Most of these characters recur throughout various shows in the franchise at pivotal moments, while others take part in one or two historic appearances before disappearing entirely. here are a few of the unsung heroes of the Star Trek franchise.

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Grace Lee Whitney as Yeoman Janice Rand in Star Trek
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11 Janice Rand

Grace Lee Whitney as Yeoman Janice Rand in Star Trek

If Captain Janeway taught us anything, it was that coffee is important. Yeoman Janice Rand had already known that all along. She even came up with the idea of using a phaser to boil water to make coffee when the ship's power was out in "The Corbomite Maneuver." You'll know her face, even if you can't name the actress Grace Lee Whitney, as she appeared in several episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series and the "Flashback" episode of Voyager as a crewmember of the USS Excelsior. The character's movie credits also include cameos in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Lucky for Captain Kirk as well, as she guided him through some of his most brazen adventures.

10 Reginald Barclay

Reginald originally appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation, where he worked as a gifted system diagnostic engineer. During his time on the Enterprise-D, other crew members weren't very fond of him. They thought he was clumsy, nervous and awkward, and that his work wasn't satisfactory. Wesley Crusher even made up a mean nickname for him, Lieutenant Broccoli. Picard, however, insisted that he stay on, and under the guidance of Geordi LaForge, Barclay became one of Starfleet's most brilliant engineers, working mostly with Holodeck technology. It was Barclay's work on the Pathfinder Project that reconnected the stranded USS Voyager with Starfleet after years of silence.

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It's not just the Pathfinder Project that makes Barclay a heroic figure. For anyone who felt perpetually nerdy, socially outcast or cursed with misfortune, "Reg" was there to represent you. He was the one everyman character you could always identify with. We didn't exactly feel the same love for Wesley Crusher.

9 T'Pring

She only appears in one episode and is hardly ever mentioned again, but T'Pring's role as Spock's wife during a pivotal time in his life and career is an important one. It was her machinations that caused most of the tension in "Amok Time," including the gladiator-like battle between Kirk and Spock. If that's not impressive enough, she was also the first Vulcan woman to appear on the show.

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Thanks to her, we got some great Spock backstory and more exposure to Vulcan culture. You also can't help but admire her logic and sympathize with her situation when it comes to archaic wedding traditions.

8 Lieutenant Ilia

Persis Khambatta in Star Trek The Motion Picture

It's too bad that we didn't see more of her, but Lieutenant Ilia only appears in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. She was originally written to appear in Star Trek: Phase 2. She's an outsider from a race called the Deltans. Deltans have increased extrasensory powers, and Ilia specifically inspired the character of Deanna Troi and the Betazoid race. It might have been these powers that drew the probe V'Ger to join with Ilia. She gave up her life to join with the probe and save the galaxy from its wrath, as did her former lover William Decker, who might be on this list if he existed as something more than Kirk's punching bag in this movie.

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Too bad Ilia disappeared before her career had even started. How come we didn't get to hear more about the Deltans? They must still be serving in Starfleet. Are they still required to take that vow before they enlist?

7 Ro Laren

The character with a checkered past is easy to identify with, which is why we're drawn to Ro Laren. She was court-martialed for disobeying orders during an away mission, which resulted in the deaths of eight crew members, and was imprisoned in the stockade of Jaros II. The way back from that low point is nothing less than epic. Her original sentence was commuted and she was re-instated in Starfleet after helping locate a Bajoran terrorist. Her tenure at the helm of the Enterprise-D included a number of adventures in which she played an instrumental part. Eventually, she joined the Maquis and might have been connected to characters like Torres or Chakotay from Voyager. Considering the amount of material here it's a shame she never got past minor character status.

6 Amanda Grayson

Winona Ryder as Amanda Grayson in Star Trek

Before Star Trek: 2019 and Star Trek: Discovery, we didn't see very much of Spock's mother and we had very little knowledge of her backstory. Like T'Pring, she appears briefly in TOS. Amanda also had a brief part in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. She was always Spock's closest teacher and mentor, as he always seemed estranged to some degree from Sarek. For a few decades, father and son stopped speaking entirely. It's nice to see Amanda get more attention in the modern era of Star Trek, not only because she raised our favorite Vulcan but also because she was a dynamic and compelling character herself.

5 The Romulan Commander

For someone so influential she should at least have a name, but throughout the episode, she is only referred to as "the Romulan Commander." This is the second and last time that Romulans would appear on TOS and the first and only time the show featured a female starship commander. We wouldn't see a reprise of that until Captain Janeway took command of the USS Voyager several decades later. She deftly handles her role as a leader, never loses her cool, and has some of the sickest outfits you'll ever see on Star Trek. She also overlooks the impetuous Kirk for the cool and intellectual Spock so you know her head and heart are in the right place.

4 Naomi Wildman

Naomi Wildman in Star Trek: Voyager

Born during the lost years in the Delta Quadrant, Naomi becomes the child of the whole crew of the USS Voyager when her mother, Ensign Samantha Wildman, dies after an away mission. From a literary point of view, you could say that Naomi came to symbolize the spirit of the journey as the ship and crew tried to get home.

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There's a lot of hope for the future riding on this kid, and she seems to know it, taking her duties as Assistant to the Captain very seriously and forming a deep friendship with Seven of Nine. Not only that, but it was nice to have a child character who was genuinely smart and likable as opposed to overstuffed and bratty. Are you listening, Wesley?

3 Lieutenant Charlene Masters

We usually think of Uhura when it comes to gender and race representation on Star Trek: TOS, but that's because the bridge staff got most of the camera's attention. Charlene worked in engineering, taking direct orders from Chief Engineer Scotty more often than Kirk. She appears in only one episode of TOS, "The Alternative Factor." She's in charge of re-energizing the dilithium crystals after a mysterious power almost destroys the universe. Talk about a high-pressure job. How many times was she at Scotty's side to keep the ship afloat and we had no idea?

2  Christine Chapel

Although we're sure that she wasn't the only girl on the USS Enterprise that was crushing on Spock, she was probably the only one who really got close to him. Christine Chapel was the ship's nurse, so you could find her in sickbay working with Dr. McCoy during certain episodes. Like McCoy, she saw her calling as a medical practitioner as more important than her status as a crew member. She had prominent support roles in several episodes, and one focusing on herself and former fiance, "What Are Little Girls Made Of"? This episode was well ahead of its time when it comes to the question of artificial intelligence and building human life, similar to the theme of films like Bladerunner and A.I.

1 Dorothy Fontana

Dorothy Fontana, or D.C. Fontana, is the writer and script editor responsible for most of the original episodes and much of the Star Trek lore we still enjoy. She either wrote, co-wrote or did the final edits on greats like “Journey to Babel,” “Charlie X,” "Friday's Child,” "The Ultimate Computer,” “The Enterprise Incident,” and "City on the Edge of Forever." Fontana is also responsible for many Star Trek novels and wrote the Deep Space 9 episode, "Dax." She wasn't a character on Star Trek, but she might be the most influential and unknown hero on this list. 

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