As a one off special celebrating International Women’s Day, let me introduce you to my ‘Our Ladies of Sci-Fi’ list.
Science Fiction has always been a hard genre to navigate for women – generally either represented as uber feminine/background decoration or as pseudo men with little to no depth to their characters.
Sci-Fi is a genre that allows the writer to create a new world, a world with its own rules, a world that can be exempt from our current society’s prejudices, discriminations and stereotyping. The women on this list are not ‘strong female characters’ but real, well rounded characters who actively reject gender stereotypes; some are strong, some are weak, some are good and some have questionable morals. They are not perfect, but they are great representations of real women.
In no particular order, let me present to you…
Maria – Metropolis (1927)
One of the first female protagonists, sweet and kind Maria helps to save the proletariat that live beneath the surface of Metropolis. Despite having a killer robot made in her likeness, Maria still manages to save the day.
Ellen Ripley – Alien (1979)
In addition to Ripley being a pioneer of women in sci-fi, the role of Ripley was originally scripted as a man. Not only is Sigourny Weaver incredible, Ellen Ripley is an example of why gender bending is always a good idea.
Dana Scully – The X Files
Medical Doctor, forensic examiner and FBI agent extraordinaire – is there anything Dana Scully can’t do? Not only did she put up with Mulder’s constant alien obsession, she saved his life about as many times as he saved hers. Not bad, Agent.
Kara ‘Starbuck’ Thrace – Battlestar Galactica
Cigar smoking, whisky drinking, poker playing Starbuck. She’s hot headed but with a heart full of love. Can you believe Starbuck was a male character in the original BSG? One more reason to only watch the reboot!
Sharon ‘Boomer’ Valerii – BSG
Boomer is one of the most underrated characters of Battlestar Galactica. I suppose, technically, Boomer should be called ‘8’ after she finds out partway through season 1 that she is actually a Cylon. However, it’s Boomer’s humanity and strength that make us believe that the Cylons are more human than we think.
Laura Roslin – BSG
FIRST FEMALE PRESIDENT! Okay, Roslin makes some terrible, terrible decisions (banning abortion!) and she’s a bit of a religious nut but this is what well rounded female characters are all about. She isn’t perfect, but thats not because she is a woman, it’s because she is completely out of her depth. Oh and she’s got cancer. *cries*
Eve – Wall:E (2008)
It wasn’t reeeeally necessary to gender the robots in WALL-E, but Eve is still pretty cool as far as non-speaking robots go. She’s feirce and feisty, and takes control of her own destiny once she realises what is really happening.
Martha Jones – Doctor Who
If you ask Doctor Who fans about their favourite companion, the answer is almost never Martha. She gets a bad rap – being infatuated with The Doctor etc – but Martha legitimately saves the world and goes on to have a successful career afterwards. She didn’t need The Doctor, he needed her.
Toshiko Sato – Torchwood
Second only to Ianto, Tosh’s death is by far the most upsetting from Torchwood. Tosh was clever, geeky, funny and no-one ever gave her a second thought! She was the brains behind Torchwood, and a great inspiration to sci-fi fans everywhere.
Captain Janeway – Star Trek: Voyager
I can’t say anything about Capt. Kathryn Janeway that hasn’t been said before. Courageous, sassy and a great Captain, she made mistakes but she would be the first to admit it. Bun of steel baby!
Lt. Nyota Uhura – Star Trek: The Original Series
The original Cmmunicatons Officer aboard the USS Enterprise, Uhura taught young black girls everywhere that they could be whatever they wanted to be. Star Trek made waves in regards to representation on television, and Uhura was a fundamental part of that.
Buffy Summers – Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Like many of you, I’m sure that Buffy Summers caught your attention as a girl who looks great and kicks ass. Buffy is relatable, many of the problems she faces are about growing up and letting go, which are things that every teenage girl worries about. She just does that AND fights vampires.
Willow – Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Willow is always left off lists of inspirational sci-fi gals and it’s entirely unfair. Willow teaches us that self love, friendship and acceptance are important things in life. Willow’s relationship with Tara is also one of the best things about Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
Sarah Connor – Terminator (1984) Terminator 2 (1991)
Sarah Connor’s entire narrative is intrinsically linked to her role as John Connor’s mother. Traditional mother, she ain’t. She is a fighter, and she doesn’t just do it for John and the human race, she does it for herself.
Turanga Leela – Futurama
Came from the sewers, made it all the way to Captain of the Planet Express Ship, there is no stopping Turanga Leela. Even with her ridiculous causes, and blatant hypocrisy, Leela sticks up for whats right. Also why does she settle for Fry?? Cmon writers…
Mystique – X-Men: First Class (2011)
While it certainly isn’t the best X-Men film, this is the one where Mystique comes into her own. She’s a great character because she chooses the ‘bad’ side, despite knowing it’s not the right way to do things. Isn’t that what X-Men is all about?
Zoe Washburne – Firefly
The greatest thing about Zoe Washburne is how she negotiates her role as a wife and as first mate of Serenity. She proves that you don’t have to be cold, callous and unloving in order to get shit done.
Kaylee Fry – Firefly
One of my favourite moments from any series is in Firefly, when Kaylee tries on that abominable pink dress. It’s hideous, but Kaylee is happy. As the ships engineer, we expect Kaylee to be a tomboy and to ‘act like a man’. But Kaylee shows us that you can be feminine, and work a ‘mans’ job. Whatever that’s supposed to mean.
I am positive that I have missed many influential and wonderful ladies off this list, but forgive me – there are so many. I haven’t listed Samantha Carter from SG1 or Olivia Dunham from Fringe, as I am still in season one of both shows, and am waiting to reserve my judgement….
Happy International Womens Day!