The “rebooted” Star Trek universe—if it can even be called that (technically it’s an alternate timeline)—offers a certain luxury for the writers: it uses established characters. Though the recast Kirk, Spock and the like bare little semblance to their classic incarnations, for the writers, penning a story with at least marginally recognizable characters becomes much easier. The Enterprise crew doesn’t need to establish themselves, so long as the actors have personality and spout familiar catchphrases. This will come in handy, we’re sure, when Star Trek Beyond arrives in theaters later this month.
As history shows, creating a beloved Trek character isn’t exactly easy. For every Data, Odo or Picard, there’s… well, the entire cast of Enterprise (the TV series, not the ship), for example. Great Star Trek thrives on the interactions and philosophical debates among its characters, and the more vibrant a character, the better the adventure.
Which brings us to today’s list: the characters listed here in no particular order represent the utter failure of the writers to tap Trek’s best asset. In other words, the characters are just plain bad. Some have honorable beginnings; writers intended for the character to stand in for a portion of the viewing audience, or as worthy love interests, family or adversaries for beloved heroes. In any case, they come off more pedestrian than interesting, and more annoying than compelling. Here are The 15 Worst Characters In Star Trek.
Voyager ostensibly tried to mess with the Trek formula first established with Next Generation, though it didn’t take many risks. One attempted change-up: swapping out food replicators in favor of a ninny of an alien chef. Now, Neelix does have his moments as a character, and has something of a cult following. He also has an angry mob following, wanting his mohawked head on one of his serving platters.
Neelix spent most of the Voyager TV series panicked over what he would serve for dinner in ten-forward, no matter what the threat. Kazon pirates? Neelix is worried about trail mix. Borg invasion? Neelix frets over if the Borg like pasta or some other insipid concern.
In fairness, Etan Phillips tries his best to make Neelix endearing, and the direction the character takes over the course of the series is probably not one the creators had intended. Neelix opens Voyager smitten with the Ocampa empathy Kes, though when the producers omitted Kes from the show in the fourth season, it left Neelix without an object of desire… or much of a storyline. Neelix did, however, find new life as a merchandise peddler, headlining the Star Trek Cookbook in bookstores everywhere.
14. Nurse Chapel
Majel Barrett’s status as “First Lady of Star Trek,” while deserved, has some dubious origins. Chapel had begun as a contract actress for Desilu Studios, appearing on shows like I Love Lucy before she landed the recurring gig on Trek. It helped that she was the mistress—and later wife—of creator Gene Roddenberry. Roddenberry had wanted Majel to play the second lead on the show, a cool, logical character called “Number One.” When the network rejected the pilot, Roddenberry retooled the show to omit Number One and recast Barrett as Nurse Chapel.
Unfortunately, when Roddenberry had her return to the show as Nurse Chapel, he didn’t write the character to her strengths. A talented actress, Barrett had a knack for more comedic roles rather than drama, and as a result Nurse Chapel, often lovesick for Spock or a long-lost beau, never became a fully realized role. In essence, the character felt superfluous to the show, further evidenced by Chapel’s almost total omission from the Trek film series. Chapel has just a minor role in The Motion Picture with no real function in the plot, and apart from a brief cameo or two, vanished from the series altogether.
Lucky for Barrett, she would find a much better role as the computer voice, and the irrepressible Lwaxana Troi on The Next Generation.
Hold on, don’t set phasers to kill yet!
John DeLance’s knack for comic sarcasm helped make Q into one of the most prominent recurring characters in Trek canon. For that DeLance deserves all the credit in the world, especially considering the actor is saddled with a totally awful character.
Trek lore holds that Gene Roddenberry created Q in an 11th hour act of desperation. He’d planned for only a one-hour pilot for Star Trek: The Next Generation, and when Paramount dictated that the pilot needed to be two hours, Roddenberry took D.C. Fontana’s script for the pilot episode and injected Q for additional material. Fontana hated the changes, as well as Roddenberry’s excuse that the network wanted him to write the pilot himself (not true). In creating Q, Roddenberry also succumbed to one of his worst habits—making God into a character, something which even writer Brannon Braga acknowledges. The fallibility and sadism of God had long been a preoccupation in Roddenberry’s work, and Q made no exception.
Q’s initial appearance as a cosmic judge had, as Fontana points out, little to do with the core plot, and his scenes are the weakest in the Next Generation pilot, “Encounter at Farpoint.” In fact, the character is downright insufferable, serving no real purpose but to extend the episode! Only later, when DeLance played the role to comic effect, did Q take on any dimension, and even then, much like life on the Enterprise, the show always screeched to a halt whenever he turned up.
Allegations of “franchise fatigue” began to arise with the third major Trek spinoff, Star Trek: Voyager. To some degree, the franchise had started to stall, as evidenced by the stock of forgettable characters populating the ship. Perhaps the most boring of any of the Voyager crew: Chakotay, the former Maquis terrorist who becomes second officer of the ship. In a post-War on Terror world, that dynamic could have fueled some fascinating character dynamics, but in the mid-90s, the writers just used it as a way to integrate the crew.
The writers had intended Chakotay as a groundbreaking Native American character to further broaden Star Trek’s diversity. Unfortunately, they forgot to give him a personality too. Actor Robert Beltran complained that the writers had conceived the character as stoic and lacking in personality while providing him with lots of stereotypical Native American qualities. At one point, the character would have even had a spirit guide!
Beltran also complained that in later seasons, the writers forgot about Chakotay altogether, as characters like Seven of Nine and The Doctor began to upstage him. The actor later compared his work on Voyager to working in a factory—repetitive, uncreative and totally boring. In fact, Chakotay might be the dullest character in any Trek installment!