Ladies were first – now here come the sci-fi guys. In my Female Science Fiction Characters, I chose the tops of the women of sci-fi. Now, it’s time for the guys. These are the merry, manly men who thrill us in space battles or are victorious in hand to hand combat in beloved science fiction TV and movies. Let the arguments begin!
Superman – Kal-El – Christopher Reeve – Superman
Up, up and away! Faster than a speeding bullet… We all know the rest and certainly know the most famous alien of all time – Superman. Clad in his crimson cape and blue tights, we sometimes forget that Kal El from the doomed planet of Krypton is just a high flying, heat vision wielding E.T. Yes, comic book superhero exploits deserve their own category mostly, however the movies perhaps more than most dealt with alter ego Clark Kent’s Kryptonian heritage – ala his earth shaking tussle with criminal Kryptonians General Zod and crew, and also his weakness when it comes to glowing green rocks. Superman is a real study in contrasts. He’s at once all American and thoroughly of planet Earth, but his alien physical composition makes him immune to firearms, disease or even stumbling into the nearest volcano.
Darth Vader – David Prowse, James Earl Jones, Hayden Christiansen – Star Wars
Luke, I am your father. Darth Vader is certainly the father from hell, or maybe you like to think of him as big daddy of the dark side. Whatever your estimation of the black caped ex Jedi Knight, it’s undeniable that he’s an extremely powerful science fiction figure. Vader embodies so many qualities, both irresistible and repulsive, that he’s got many fans for just being so multi-dimensional. Until director/creator George Lucas’ 2nd film The Empire Strikes Back, we weren’t even sure he was human under all that flash black body armor. When by the last chapter – and the retroactively made prequel films – we learn he’s a broken, disfigured and dispirited old man, it’s a stunning and even sympathetic journey we’ve made to understand him more. Annakin Skywalker never started out to be devilish, but his fears, insecurities and the allure of dark power consumed him until his son Luke defeated him – fulfilling a prophetic destiny, which would reveal and bring down real villain – Emperor Palpatine.
Luke Skywalker – Mark Hammill – Star Wars
This backwards farm boy would grow up to become the greatest Jedi Knight in the galaxy. Too bad he’s such a whiner. The great parody Thumb Wars, plays up this point about the Luke character as we first see him. Everything is a chore and whine to this kid, till when Obi Wan Kenobi finds him, we’re rooting for the old man to send him to his room without any supper for being such a big whiny brat. By the 2nd film, The Empire Strikes Back, we see a growing confidence and maturity in the lad, but he’s still whiny and impatient enough for Yoda to nearly reject as Jedi pupil. By Return Of The Jedi, Luke is a real Jedi – who now has the skills and focus to free Han Solo from Jabba The Hut’s clutches and even fight alongside his father in a last ditch effort at a father and son reunion, to rid the galaxy of the despicable Palpatine.
Captain Kirk – William Shatner – Star Trek
He’s not the first Captain of the Enterprise – that was Christopher Pike – but he’s definitely the most famous. A larger than life figure in every way, he gallantly commanded his Starship crew on TV in the 1960’s, then in the movies through the 70’s, 80’s into the 90’s. Although younger actor Chris Pine now plays the role in J.J. Abram’s blockbuster movie, James T. Kirk will always be more William Shatner than any other actor. Shatner’s boyish charm and romantic sparkle to the ladies – both alien and human – are just a few reasons why he’s legendary to both male and female sci-fi fans. He’s had many memorable lines, but perhaps the most unforgettable is simply one word: Khaaaaaaaaaaaaan!
Doctor Who – Various, Tom Baker – Doctor Who
Medical doctors heal the sick and comfort the injured. Doctors from outer space merely bounce around time and space until epic scores are settled and things are generally set right again. If you have to ask just Who the Doctor is, you’re not really a fanboy, are you? Despite him being a more British phenomenon, the rest of the world has also fallen under the Doctor’s considerable charms. Many actors have played him, but for American audiences – and many British ones as well – actor Tom Baker is the definitive Doctor. There’s something at once playful, determined and all together intellectual about Baker’s supremely convincing portrayal of the extraterrestrial Timelord and once seen even briefly, he’ll spark the viewer’s burning curiosity to want to know more and more about this undeniably intriguing character.
Han Solo – Harrison Ford – Star Wars
Never tell me the odds! It’s the way this roguish gambler, smuggler and sometime frozen block of carbonite lives his colorful life of space hopping. Ford’s portrayal of Millennium Falcon flying Solo is one of the most fun things about the Star Wars movies – the old ones anyway. That pure sense of joyful abandon which Han Solo effortlessly summons is definitely lost in later chapters. Solo owes money to the monstrously over fed Jabba The Hutt and when he’s delivered to the vile villain via Darth Vader’s wishes, it’s mainly because Vader wishes to test the ‘confinement system’ so he can do the same to Luke Skywalker. Even in frozen agony, we can feel Ford’s acting working on us in this painful scowl of his frozen visage. Darth Vader may be flashier, Luke Skywalker may be better in a light saber fighter, but Han Solo is the every men and the any man of us all and for that we root for him and his Wookie Chewbacca every time.
Mr. Spock – Leonard Nimoy – Star Trek
Infinite Diversity, Infinite Combinations. This is a Vulcan motto – a celebration of life and all the variety we can encounter on a world and far out into space. Mr. Spock represents our most highest ideals concerning the logical and rational mind. For Vulcans, emotional outbursts or the weighing of emotional concern is secondary, or even seen as unthinkable. It’s not that Vulcans don’t possess them, it’s that their control and high ideals forbid them to ever outwardly display them or at higher levels of maturity even experience them inwardly. It’s this constant internal struggle which fascinates us about Spock, even more so because of his human heritage on his mothers’ side. Leonard Nimoy’s classic portrayal has defined the notion of cosmic cool for decades now, and with Zachary Quinto carrying the torch now, it’s clear Spock will live long and prosper.
Captain Picard – Patrick Stewart – Star Trek: The Next Generation
Engage! With that simple directive, prime or not, Patrick Stewart ferried us and his stalwart crew along on hundreds of adventures during seven years of spin-off Star Trek: The Next Generation. Shakespearean trained, yet mostly unknown in the United States in 1987, Stewart used the Jean-Luc Picard character to carve out a truly other worldly career which now includes Professor Xavier of X-Men fame, plus many other major movie roles along the way. Stewart’s polite fatherly demeanor, though at times sternly strong energetic carriage, made us know he always knew best, yet was smart enough to always call upon the input of his crew and their proper delegation in all missions.
Col. Steve Austin – Lee Majors – The Six Million Dollar Man
He was an astronaut. He was barely alive. Gentlemen, they rebuilt him. His cybernetic limbs cost the US government six million dollars, and by today’s inflationary rates, it was a real bargain. Lee Majors had the looks, charm and acting chops to make us believe a man could run faster than a Chevy without breaking a sweat. Steve Austin batt
led bad guys, aliens, terrorists and even Bigfoot (Andre The Giant) and did it all while looking like a GQ model. I was one of my American kids who had a Col. Steve Austin action figure and when I misplaced mine awhile back, I was gifted it again by my sister courtesy of Ebay. Oh, the price of childhood, Ebay, you do deliver!
Buck Rogers – Gil Gerard – Buck Rogers In The 25th Century
Bo Bo Bo buck…. I won’t finish this for a good reason, but you get the idea. The name alone conjures up a simpler time when Ronald Reagan was in office and Gil Gerard ran around in white spandex, with a little glowing, golden robot at his side that sounded suspiciously like Bugs Bunny. Buck Rogers was never a fantastic show, but it was a thoroughly solid show – and always very entertaining. Gerard’s spacey warrior came across as playful, but never silly and always trying to make do with his man out of time status. Recently, the fan team who brought the web new Star Trek adventures – New Voyages – cut a deal with official rights owner to whip up new adventures of Buck Rogers. I’m curious to see what they come up with, and if the don’t give Gil Gerard or Erin Gray even a cameo, may the fan backlash begin!