30 Best Star Trek Characters, Ranked
Space, the final frontier…
Incredibly, Star Trek has been part of our lives for nearly 60 years, ever since the original series (or TOS in Trek lingo) premiered on CBS on Sept. 8, 1966. And in the nearly six decades since, 12 series and 13 films — not to mention untold numbers of books, video games and merch galore! — have expanded upon Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a better future for mankind and all species capable of interstellar travel.
So, who are the “best” Star Trek characters from across that plethora of media? So glad you asked as, from the hundreds of individual characters that have boldly gone the distance to be established in the pop culture firmament, we’ve chosen the top 30 for your enjoyment. And for our purposes, we’re keeping it to humanoid characters, hence why V’Ger, the sentient machine from “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” won’t be making an appearance.
Let the discussion begin!
30. Borg Queen
No. of appearances: 8 (7 episodes and 1 film)
Known for: Trying to take over Picard’s ship in two different timelines
Note: As the third and final season of “Picard” will feature most of the "Next Generation" cast, the number of “appearances” for TNG cast members projects they each will appear in all 10 episodes of Season 3 (running until April 20, 2023). These are marked with an asterisk. We’ll all just have to wait and see if our guesses prove true. Also, film counts below are inclusive of J.J. Abrams’s alternate “Kelvin timeline” that commenced with the 2009 “Star Trek” film.
Why Borg Queen Is One of the Best
The Borg was set up in several “Next Generation” episodes as a hive mind collective organism — an uber-unified symbiotic being that engulfed the consciousness and intelligence of all species it conquered. However, screenwriters Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore altered the discussion somewhat for 1996’s “Star Trek: First Contact,” in which the Borg goes back in time to prevent mankind from developing warp capabilities. When Picard and Co. go through the time portal, too, the new Enterprise-E is gradually taken over by the Borg, and Picard soon comes face to face with the Borg Queen, the personification of the techno-villains.
The Queen was played by Australian actress Alice Krige in “First Contact” and in several episodes of “Voyager,” but the late Annie Wersching, who sadly succumbed to cancer, portrayed a new queen on Season 2 of “Picard.”
29. Wesley Crusher
No. of appearances: 70 (69 episodes and 1 film)
Known for: Coming of age on the Enterprise-D and going off with the Traveler
Why Wesley Crusher Is One of the Best
Depending on who you ask, Wesley Crusher was either the worst part of “The Next Generation” or a sadly overly bullied punching bag of Trek angst. Actor Wil Wheaton, known for “Stand By Me,” was all of 15 when he came aboard the Enterprise-D in 1987 as Dr. Beverly Crusher’s fatherless son.
Over the course of the show, Wes grew and changed from awkward teen into a confident young man at the helm of the starship. Wesley eventually went off on a journey beyond time and space with the being known as the Traveler; though, somehow, he still showed up in “Star Trek: Nemesis” at Riker and Troi’s wedding … though he had no speaking lines.
In the ultimate cultural revenge, nerds are cool now, and Wheaton not only embraces the legacy of Wesley Crusher, but he’s also shown up on “The Big Bang Theory” and even brews his own beer. Nerds rule!
No. of episodes: 21
Known for: Annoying Picard, changing shape, making the TNG cast play “games”
Why Q Is One of the Best
The puckish Q is a powerful being of seemingly unlimited abilities, which he put to use several times against Picard and his crew. However, Q’s games typically weren’t malicious, and often his little tricks proved illuminating — such as when he allowed Picard to see himself in an alternate universe where he never captained the Enterprise. Every time Q magically appeared on the bridge of the Enterprise, you knew you were in for some fun.
While Qs don’t age, human actors do, and thus when John de Lancie showed up for Season 2 of “Picard” in 2022, there was “that moment” when he gazes upon an aging Picard, then clicks his fingers to “catch up” to Picard’s age at the dawn of the 25th century. (De Lancie was de-aged to his TNG-era physicality for the “before” effect.)
27. Seven of Nine
No. of episodes: 115
Known for: Trying to find her human roots after being separated from the Borg
Why Seven of Nine Is One of the Best
Let’s face it, “Voyager” was a bit stale in those middle seasons. Enter Seven of Nine, a human female Janeway and crew rescued from the Borg who became part of the Voyager crew’s decades-long quest to return to Earth. Seven of Nine’s appearances on both “Voyager” and “Picard” have allowed the writers to explore the anguish of what happens when a human is unplugged from the warm embrace of the Borg collective.
Jeri Ryan has brought gravitas to Seven since her introduction in 1997 … and, because Star Trek is typically targeted at boys and men, there's no shortage of sex appeal either.
No. of episodes: 173
Known for: Running the best damn pub in space; hoarding gold-pressed latinum
Why Quark Is One of the Best
“Deep Space Nine” dealt with heavy subjects like interspecies war, xenophobia and the trauma of losing one’s spouse to the Borg, so some comic relief was definitely in order. The barkeep Quark was always there with a dry quip as he poured a cocktail, but don’t turn your back on him for too long, as the Ferengi was usually figuring out how to fleece his customers out of their money.
Actor Armin Shimerman was always hilarious as the scheming publican, which may be why the good folks at Paramount set up “Quark’s Bar” at the “Star Trek: The Experience” at the Las Vegas Hilton in 1998. But don’t go boldly in search of that Sin City attraction, as the entire “Experience” closed for good in 2008. Bah!
25. Miles O’Brien
No. of episodes: 67
Known for: Being the Enterprise-D’s and DS9’s transporter chief
Why Miles O’Brien Is One of the Best
For proof positive that a “hey, it’s that guy!” actor can make the jump to the main stage, we present Colm Meaney, whose Chief O’Brien was in charge of the transporter room on the Enterprise-D before beaming down to Deep Space Nine in 1993 as chief of operations.
O’Brien was notable for being more than a stock character, and Meaney truly brought this brainiac to life on both TNG and DS9 over his dozen years appearing within the Trek universe.
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24. Ro Laren
No. of episodes: 8
Known for: Being a Bajoran Federation member before defecting to the Maquis
Why Ro Laren Is One of the Best
It’s a difficult path to navigate a character with dual loyalties, but actress Michelle Forbes imbued the Bajoran Ro Laren with nuance and sympathy. She was heroic in her work aboard the Enterprise-D, which included acting as a spy to infiltrate the Maquis, a Bajoran underground movement whose campaign aimed at removing the Cardassian occupation of their homeland.
However, Picard’s plan to use Ro as a spy was too clever by half, as she decided to join the insurgency in her final TNG appearance. Goes to show that, even in the 24th century, people still wrestle with their consciousness.
23. Elim Garak
No. of episodes: 33
Known for: Living in exile aboard Deep Space Nine
Why Elim Garak Is One of the Best
One of the joys of DS9 was the ongoing relationship between Garak and Dr. Julian Bashir — kind of like an outer space version of “can’t we all just get along?” However, as the only Cardassian still living aboard the space station, Garak raised many a Federation eyebrow as to what he was really up to. Though he’d been exiled from Cardassia, several people on the station still believed he was up to no good.
Actor Andrew Robinson created a truly fascinating, multilayered character in Garak, and you were never quite sure whether to love him or hate him. But he kept you watching!
No. of appearances: 18 (14 episodes and 4 films)
Known for: Being Vulcan’s ambassador to Earth and Spock’s dad
Why Sarek Is One of the Best
Mark Lenard was great in his various appearances as Sarek, from the original show (TOS) to TNG and three films. (Ben Cross played a younger Sarek in the “alternative” J.J. Abrams movie timeline in 2009’s “Star Trek.”) Not only was Sarek an intelligent and canny diplomat, but marrying Amanda Grayson, a human, allowed Sarek to be more informed about human affairs during his many years as Vulcan’s ambassador to Earth. Oh, and of course, he helped his half-human son, Spock, learn the ways of his father’s world while navigating the strangeness of human emotions.
Fun fact: Mark Lenard also showed up in “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” as the commander of the Klingon ship that gets vaporized by V’ger.
No. of episodes: 173
Known for: Being chief of security aboard Deep Space Nine
Why Odo Is One of the Best
Because Odo was a changeling, he could shapeshift into nearly anything, which gave him a rather convenient way of keeping tabs on what was going on aboard DS9 for all those years. However, Odo had the unfortunate necessity of reverting to a liquid form to “recharge” on a daily basis, which made life for this character rather interesting.
Actor René Auberjonois personified icy coolness in portraying Odo, and it’s hard to imagine the space station without this Star Trek character around.
No. of appearances: 36 (34 episodes and 2 films)
Known for: Tending bar at Ten Forward, always with a kind word
Why Guinan Is One of the Best
What do you mean you forgot that Whoopi Goldberg was on TNG and “Picard”? Thankfully, we’re here with a reminder that long before she co-hosted “The View” in New York, Goldberg was working Los Angeles sound stages portraying the El-Aurian bartender Guinan in the Ten Forward lounge.
The TNG writers cleverly keep Guinan’s backstory mysterious, gradually unveiling that her homeworld had been conquered by the Borg, and most of her people were murdered. Guinan also had extra-sensory perceptions that helped out in such situations as realizing that the Enterprise-D had fallen into an alternate timeline in the classic episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise.” Empathetic yet remote, Guinan was a key part of the TNG success formula.
19. Dr. Beverly Crusher
No. of appearances: 166* (162 episodes and 4 films)
Known for: Being the Enterprise-D’s chief medical officer
Why Beverly Crusher Is One of the Best
Dr. Crusher had a complicated history with Captain Picard, considering that her husband Jack was killed during a mission Picard led while serving aboard the Stargazer years before the events of TNG. This always imbued their relationship with awkwardness and guilt, particularly as Picard slowly became a surrogate father figure to Crusher’s son, Wesley.
Gates McFadden lent Dr. Crusher a rather unique mix of gravitas, professionalism and vulnerability — and was so likable that her exit from the show during the second season was short-lived due to fan outcry. (Remember her replacement, Dr. Pulaski? Yeah, neither do we.)
18. Deanna Troi
No. of appearances: 192* (188 episodes and 4 films)
Known for: Being the Enterprise-D’s onboard counselor
Why Deanna Troi Is One of the Best
TNG introduced us to several new species beyond the Klingons, Vulcans and Romulans of TOS, including the Betazed, a race of psychic telepaths. This made them empathetic and nurturing, which may be why, in a bid to get away from the cowboy mythos of TOS, Gene Roddenberry included Deanna Troi as the ship’s counselor for the Enterprise-D.
It sounds like a thankless role, but Marina Sirtis truly made Troi a fully realized character, and her anguished acting in the episode where she temporarily loses her psychic abilities is masterful.
17. Jadzia Dax
No. of episodes: 148
Known for: Hosting her Trill symbiont
Why Jadzia Dax Is One of the Best
Trills are an interplanetary species of little wormlike creatures who must “host” inside another being in order to function. Thus, when Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) stepped aboard Deep Space Nine during the pilot episode, she was actually the eighth host for the Trill Dax. Jadzia Dax was the first female host body the Trill had used in some time, which led to a bit of a learning curve on the show … and later tragedy.
Jadzia Dax married Worf following his tour of duty on the Enterprise-D, but her host body was killed during DS9’s Dominion War storyline (Farrell claimed she left the show due to clashes with producer Rick Berman). Thus, the moral quandaries posed by Star Trek continue, and nobody was more caught up in them than this character.
16. Kira Nerys
No. of episodes: 174
Known for: Acting as Bajoran liaison officer on Deep Space Nine before later assuming command
Why Kira Nerys Is One of the Best
Things got off to a rocky start for Kira and Benjamin Sisco on the DS9 pilot, as the Bajoran wasn’t precisely keen on a human Starfleet bureaucrat becoming her new boss. However, over the course of the show, Kira and Sisco developed a mutual respect, particularly when the Dominion War threatened the entire galaxy. Kira provided no quarter for nonsense, and her no-guff style of leadership and warrior mentality made her both feared and respected among the denizens of Deep Space Nine.
In case you are missing seeing her, you can actually catch Kira in a single episode of “Lower Decks” from fall 2022.
15. Kathryn Janeway
No. of appearances: 188 episodes and 1 film
Known for: Commanding the USS Voyager on its journey from the Delta Quadrant back toward Earth
Why Kathryn Janeway Is One of the Best
When the Voyager found itself stranded on the far side of the galaxy, Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) had a difficult choice to make: commission Maquis rebels into her Starfleet-led crew, or almost certainly never make it back to Earth without their help.
As quality leaders do, she made the best decision, and thus the Voyager commenced its 35,000-light-year trip back to Federation space in Alpha Quadrant (spoiler alert: thanks to some help in the finale, they made it home about 60 years ahead of schedule). It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Voyager, but Janeway was always a steady hand at the helm.
14. Pavel Chekov
No. of appearances: 45 (36 episodes and 9 films)
Known for: Navigating the Enterprise under Captain Kirk
Why Pavel Chekhov Is One of the Best
Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek at the height of the Cold War when relations between Washington and Moscow were rather frosty. Thus, adding Russian navigator Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig) to the cast in Season 2 lent faith to his vision of a brighter world of tomorrow, in which humans had finally conquered all war and famine back on Earth.
That was rather forward-thinking for the mid-1960s, with the Vietnam War raging, but fans immediately warmed to Chekov, who has been a part of Kirk’s crew over the decades.
13. Nyota Uhura
No. of appearances: 104 (95 episodes and 9 films)
Known for: Making sure everyone on the Enterprise stays connected
Why Nyota Uhura Is One of the Best
Isn’t it annoying when your cell phone signal drops? Try mastering communications from deep space, which was part of Uhura’s job description on the Enterprise. Think of her as an outer space operator among the stars.
Beyond the character’s attributes, it’s undeniable that representation has always been one of the most amazing things about the Star Trek universe. It wasn’t typical to have an ethnically mixed cast at the time of TOS, so Roddenberry again used outer space of the future to address racism on contemporary Earth. The late Nichelle Nichols was actually planning to leave the show when she received an unexpected visit from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who encouraged her to stay aboard the Enterprise to be “seen” by the American public at large. (Perhaps it’s no coincidence that “Uhuru” translates to “freedom” in the Swahili language.)
12. Geordi La Forge
No. of appearances: 199 (195* episodes and 4 films)
Known for: Somehow seeing more than those of us with “real” human eyes
Why Geordi La Forge Is One of the Best
Any organization is only as good as its IT and engineering department. For the Enterprise-D, the big cheese of problem-solving was none other than Geordi La Forge, for whom no problem where an interspace-blaster-reverse-proton-thingamagig needed a quick fix was too big to handle. In addition to his technical know-how, Geordi was calm under pressure and kindly, which may be why he was so popular with other senior staff of the Enterprise.
And showing what a pro he was, LeVar Burton did double duty on “Reading Rainbow” during his entire run on TNG. The beloved actor and host is widely credited with encouraging kids of all ages — especially those of color — to learn to love reading.
11. Hikaru Sulu
No. of appearances: 81 (72 episodes and 9 films)
Known for: Getting drunk and running around with a saber … and other things, too
Why Hikaru Sulu Is One of the Best
Sulu might not have gotten as much backstory as the other members of the original Enterprise crew, but thankfully George Takei was able to turn on the charm (“oh my!”) in the big-screen films — especially by “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” when he’d made it all the way to the captain’s chair of the Excelsior.
However, everyone probably remembers Sulu for that time on TOS when he went crazy and ran around shirtless with a saber because, you know, reasons. It was such a Trek-ism that it even became the reason behind Kelvin-timeline Sulu (John Cho) being absolutely ninja-level with a sword in the 2009 “Star Trek” movie.
10. Benjamin Sisko
No. of episodes: 173
Known for: Keeping the peace aboard Deep Space Nine
Why Benjamin Sisko Is One of the Best
Talk about a dark backstory! Sisko’s wife was killed at the Battle of Wolf 359, where the Borg destroyed an entire fleet of Federation starships. The Borg was able to claim such a victory due to assimilating Captain Picard, who as Locutus effectively got behind Starfleet security protocols. Thus, when Sisko was tapped to command Deep Space Nine, whom should he run into but none other than Picard! Understandably, even though he had long since been removed from the Borg collective, Sisko was nowhere close to trusting Picard. And that was just in the DS9 pilot!
Over the seven seasons of the show, Sisko evolved as both commander and diplomat — and made a valiant, selfless choice in the finale episode for the greater good. Here’s to you, Sisko!
No. of appearances: 98 (88 episodes and 10 films)
Known for: Fixing just about everything
Why Scotty Is One of the Best
Being Scottish, Montgomery Scott was fond of dropping many an “aye” into his conversations with Kirk and the gang. And it’s a good thing he always answered in the affirmative, as the good captain tossed all sorts of problems Scotty’s way to solve. Remember when they went back in time to 20th-century San Francisco to fetch whales? Guess who was tasked with building a whale tank to warehouse the beasts on their time travel back to the 23rd century!
In one of the most fascinating TNG episodes, “Relics,” Scotty was rescued from a transporter loop by Captain Picard, which led to some both hilarious and sad moments as the engineer tried to tackle 24th-century gadgets and gizmos. It was a really cool way to bridge the worlds of classic Trek and TNG.
No. of appearances: 290 (286* episodes and 4 films)
Known for: Being the first Klingon to graduate Starfleet Academy
Why Worf Is One of the Best
Worf broke many a barrier — and quite a lot of other things along the way, being a Klingon warrior and all. He became the first member of his species to serve aboard a Federation starship and quickly rose to chief of security on the Enterprise-D following the death of Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby).
Worf’s having been adopted by humans led to many intriguing storylines over the years, as he connected with his Klingon heritage, and his arc was expanded when he joined the cast of “Deep Space Nine” in 1995 for the last four seasons.
No. of appearances: 187 (183 episodes and 4 films)
Known for: Having no emotions at all … until he did
Why Data Is One of the Best
Like Worf, Data cracked through more than a few barriers on his ascent to operations officer aboard the Enterprise-D. Having an android on the crew was super handy, as Data could perform insanely complex computations at lightning speed and outthink most any carbon-based lifeform. The one thing he couldn’t do, however, was laugh or cry or be scared. That is, until an emotion chip was introduced into the TNG storyline, which allowed Data to be more like his human colleagues than ever before … and he even dropped a swear word or two for comic measure.
Brent Spiner also portrayed Data’s evil alter-ego Lore and the creator of both, Dr. Soong, throughout the Trek world. Data and Lore also returned for various storylines on “Picard.”
6. Dr. McCoy
No. of appearances: 105 (96 episodes and 9 films)
Known for: Dispensing cranky Southern wit while patching up wounds
Why Dr. McCoy Is One of the Best
Was there ever a more crabby Trek character than Leonard McCoy? Bones always seemed like he wanted to be anywhere but tending the Enterprise’s walking and not-walking wounded, which led to much of the humor on TOS and the Trek movies.
His relationship with emotionless Spock, whom he called a “green-blooded hobgoblin,” added awesome laughter to the series and films — much of that credit due to the late DeForest Kelley. And mad kudos to Australian actor Karl Urban, who has done more than a yeoman’s job taking over the role in the Kelvin timeline.
5. Will Riker
No. of appearances: 192 (188* episodes and 4 films)
Known for: Acting as the steady second-in-command of the Enterprise-D and Enterprise-E
Why Will Riker Is One of the Best
Riker had that magical combination of intelligence, moxy, toughness and attractiveness that made him an incredibly effective senior member of the Enterprise crew. Oh, and don’t forget his many, many love affairs over the years, most notably with Counselor Troi, with whom he reconnected romantically in the film series and finally married in “Star Trek: Nemesis.”
That last film in the TNG canon finally finally finally (did we say finally yet?) saw Riker promoted to the rank of captain and getting his own ship at long last. But that didn’t stop him from showing up to help out his old buddy Jean-Luc in Season 1 of “Picard” and boards that final voyage with the admiral for Season 3.
No. of appearances: 3 (1 episode and 2 films)
Known for: Getting his hands on as many doomsday weapons as possible
Why Khan Is One of the Best
Khan Noonien Singh was awakened from hypersleep by Kirk in the classic TOS episode “Space Seed,” where the supercriminal promptly tried to take over the Enterprise. His plans foiled, Khan and his genetically engineered acolytes were banished to Ceti Alpha V, which turned into a nightmare when nearby Ceti Alpha VI exploded and made their own planet all but uninhabitable … making Khan rather thirsty for some “wrath,” as it were.
While there have been a great many villains over the years of Trek, none has been as extreme, as deliciously awful or as memorable as Khan.
No. of appearances: 91 (82 episodes plus 9 movies)
Known for: Acting in a highly logical fashion most of the time
Why Spock Is One of the Best
He started out as science officer of the Enterprise, then retired to Vulcan, then un-retired when V’Ger came around, then was promoted to captain, then died, then was resurrected, then retired from Starfleet again, then became Vulcan’s ambassador to Earth, then got sucked into a black hole that sent him into the alternate Kelvin timeline. (There will be a test.)
Spock did it all, and he was ever unflappable — even when wrestling with his human emotions on more than one occasion. The genius of Spock was how he was, as his father Sarek observed in the 2009 film, “a child of two worlds,” never quite feeling at home as either human or Vulcan. Leonard Nimoy truly brought Spock to wondrous life in the four decades he played the character, who will always be one of the true miracles of the Trek universe.
1. James Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard (Tie)
Kirk No. of appearances: 114 (104 episodes and 10 films)
PicardNo. of appearances: 208 (204 episodes and 4 films)
Known for: Being the best two captains to ever take the helm of a starship
Why Kirk and Picard Are the Best
Some things are just not worth arguing over. Coke or Pepsi. Burger King or McDonald’s. Dick Sargent’s or Dick York’s Darrin on “Bewitched.” Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip. Dan or Dave.
Kirk or Picard.
The two most famous captains from the Star Trek universe are so different that it’s pretty much impossible to describe one as “better” than the other … though that hasn’t stopped Trekkies, Trekkers and even casual fans from fighting over it for more than 35 years now. James T. Kirk was brash, shoot-from-the-hip, fond of bending the rules when it suited him, yet unfailingly loyal — the classic cowboy of outer space. Meanwhile, Jean-Luc Picard was a by-the-books kind of leader, intelligent and introspective, but never failing at a moment of crisis when true authority was needed. They both had their flaws and their benefits, and we cheered them on no matter the adventure. The two met only once in “Star Trek Generations,” which required them to put their heads together to defeat a common enemy.
Kirk and Picard have been Trek's most important, most consistent characters over more than half a century. It was so cool to see a younger Kirk in the Kelvin timeline played by Chris Pine, but to us, Kirk and William Shatner will always be synonymous. And thanks to the third and final season of “Picard,” we get to ride with Patrick Stewart as the old admiral for one final voyage.
No matter which was your favorite captain, both Kirk and Picard have taken us boldly to the final frontier on so many adventures.