When New Characters Join the Crew in Star Trek…


Once we watch the pilot of a Star Trek series, the main cast seems set in stone.

All the major players we expect to see who will save the ship and fall in love or get trapped in a shuttle craft are presented to us.  They become like family to each other and to us.  So what happens when it’s time for new characters to join Star Trek, and not just for one or two episodes?

A delicate balance is at risk.  Can we still enjoy the show with a potential interloper stealing screen time?  It’s like meeting your uncle’s new girlfriend.  She could make or break family functions in just the same way that new characters could make or break Star Trek.

Let’s take a look at a few mid-series additions to the cast and how they impacted their respective series.

Reginald Barclay

By the latter half of The Next Generation’s third season, we were all well acquainted with the Enterprise D’s qualified, confident, and highly professional officers.  Every episode we could expect them to use their various skills to save the ship or defuse complex situations.

So when Lieutenant Reginald Barclay, “Broccoli” behind his back, appears on the ship as an awkward, unconfident, unpunctual guy with… interesting tastes in holodeck programming to help him cope with these issues, it begs the question: why is he on the Enterprise?

Throughout his time on the series he gradually becomes more confident, like his colleagues, and develops his own skills to prove he can cut it on the flagship of the Federation.  He even becomes part of the effort to help bring home the starship Voyager, later in that series.

Barclay didn’t fundamentally revolutionize the show, or even change the other characters in any significant way.  He did, however, show us a different aspect of the Federation.  Not every officer starts out with that trademark of cultivated professionalism Starfleet loves so much.  No, he had to build up himself to that.

And just like Picard said about society in the 24th century, they all seek to better themselves.  Barclay shows us how that happens.

Seven of Nine

Seven of Nine’s entry to Star Trek Voyager had its own controversial issues to begin with (bye, Kes!), but once we saw her out of her panoply of Borg implants and in her clingy, nonstandard uniform, we knew we were in for something exotic, and possibly dangerous.

It’s no secret what her look was trying to entice, but the addition of a Borg to the crew added another wrinkle to a show that had some other strong female characters like Torres and Captain Janeway.  How such a foreign character would mesh with the homogeneous crew of Voyager upped the drama.  Kind of like how the Maquis did, initially.

Seven of Nine’s exploration and rediscovery of her humanity paralleled the same themes faced by other characters like the Doctor, as well as the rest of the crew as they desperately attempted to return home without sacrificing the values that made them who they are.

Whether headstrong Seven could ever agree to those confining values and learn to work with the rest of the crew brought more focus back to how the characters interacted on their long journey.

Pavel Chekov

Imagine Star Trek without Chekov.  Try.  He was in all the TOS films, and even one of TNG’s.  He was portrayed in J.J. Abrams’ new movies.  It’s hard not to remember Chekov.  But he didn’t join the Original Series of Star Trek until its second season.  Second of three seasons.  So yeah, there’s chunk of Trek he’s not in.

The addition of Chekov to the series seems rather seamless, as well, but if you remember that in the 1960’s America and the Soviet Union where fully engaged in the Cold War, adding a Russian to the bridge of the Enterprise was no small thing.  Every living room that tuned into Star Trek now had a Russian man speaking through their televisions at a time when they were considered an enemy.

This is, though, the thing that is important about Star Trek and Chekov’s addition to it.  He joined an already diverse cast.  Not only did we see racial equality in the future, but we also saw that the global rivalries of Earth’s history didn’t exclude anyone from the Federation either.  That sounds like a great future.

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How did these characters affect Star Trek for you?  Maybe they didn’t, or maybe they gave you a chance to look at your favorite show from a new perspective just when you thought you had it all figured out.