As a young girl fascinated by science fiction, it was rare in the late 1990s to find some kick-ass females to look up to. Sure, we had Leia in Star Wars, Ripley in Alien, but this wasn’t representative of the gender balance. I needed more. Now, we’ve hit the zeitgeist on the head and our sci-fi television is brimming with female protagonists. We’ve got kick-ass heroines, fierce mothers, and scientists making the galaxy a better place.
Here’s my rundown of sci-fi’s most inspirational leading women on our screens currently:
Michael Burnham, Star Trek: Discovery
Firstly, where are you and are you OK? We’re all eagerly awaiting the next installment of Netflix’s Star Trek: Discovery after we were left on that hell of a cliff-hanger in Season 2. Somewhere, in another dimension, Michael is still kicking ass. As a Star Trek protagonist, Michael, portrayed by Sonequa Martin-Green, breaks all the rules. For instance, she is not the captain, and she does not have a squeaky clean past. Her arc has its own issues to deal with, including the mistakes in her career, and falling for a Klingon inside a human’s body (you can’t choose who you love). What’s special about this woman is that she was raised in a Vulcan environment and took on Vulcan social characteristics. Her journey on the Discovery is about her reconnecting with the emotional side of human nature; this is an exciting trip where things like love and hate are torn apart and remade in Michael’s image. Read Metro’s article on Martin-Green’s teasers for Season 3.
Nicole Reese, Raising Dion
Nicole, portrayed by Alisha Wainwright, is raising an eight-year-old super-powered kid; it’s no
mean feat. But what Nicole teaches us, along with being a great mother, is that consent is power. She is widowed, and her deceased husband’s best friend helps her out with her son, takes him for dinner, plays with him, babysits, but he is constantly drooling over Nicole. His actions become less of a helping hand, and more of a way to get the girl. Nicole, in a very memorable scene towards the end, tells him that just because he helps out with her son, doesn’t mean she owes him anything (romantic). She shows women that you do not owe any man anything. If he opens a door for you, takes you for dinner, picks your kid up from school, it doesn’t qualify him to expect anything romantic or sexual, which is an excellent message for the youth of today.
Quinn Ergon/ Nightfall, Final Space
If you haven’t streamed Final Space yet, you need to. It has all the typical sci-fi comedy tropes, but inside that lies a deep and passionate heart. Voiced by Tika Sumpter, Quinn (and her future self, Nightfall), is a space officer who is pulled into the antics of protagonist Gary. But Gary is a bit of a fool. Quinn takes the role of heroic leader in Final Space, making sure Gary is on the right path, setting him straight, knocking him out if needed. She reflects all of his advances, despite him being the protagonist, and teaches us that it doesn’t matter if we’re in your show, we make our own way, our own arcs, our own journeys through “Final Space”.
“Speaking of problems, maybe you should leave before you become one.” —Quinn, Final Space
Penny Robinson, Lost in Space
You are sass. You are grace. You are the best thing about Lost in Space. In Netflix’s recent
reboot of Lost in Space, we see Mina Sundwall taking on the role of Penny Robinson with such spunk, it leaves us wondering where the hell her spin-off is. Her sharp tongue and ability to manipulate Vijay into doing her bidding leaves us in awe. More than anything, her willingness to throw herself into any situation makes her the teenage heroine of sci-fi we all wish we were in our awkward emo stages. From dumpster diving to connecting with dangerous Dr. Smith, Penny Robinson is a bold, strong woman with a future that will surely see her rule the galaxies.
Prairie Johnson/Nina Azarova, The OA
The show, although not renewed for a third season, is likely to come back with the current fan pressure being exerted across the globe. What is great about protagonist Prairie, portrayed by Brit Marling, is that she is a messiah of sorts. She recruits followers to help her understand the many-dimensional world she has discovered. She is a matriarch who rules with a kind and gentle word, not a toughened exterior. Her journey, from missing child with blindness, to the Original Angel, is breathtaking, and if you haven’t watched it, do so. Prairie’s arc will teach you about identity, love, and the meaning of being human. Also how to defeat Jason Isaacs.
Read more on the future of The OA here in the Radiotimes.
Angela Abar/Sister Night, Watchmen
With Watchmen’s Season 2 future looming unsure ahead of us, it has made history, specifically
black history, with its eye-opening exploration of the Tulsa Race Massacre in 1921 and provocative portrayal of race in America. Sister Night, portrayed by Regina King, is a descendant of a 1921 survivor. She leads us through the world of Watchmen as a mother, wife, and kick-ass vigilante. There aren’t enough black female superheroes, even less who lead their own show. Angela Abar’s character gives us someone to immediately get behind, to support, to question the world with. She’s learning on the job, learning about the changing world, but if you made it to the end of the season, you’ll realize that she had us, the audience, duped as well. That kind of clever writing and character progression only makes you love her character even more. Do read Variety’s interview with writer and producer Damon Lindelof on the themes in Watchmen.
Vanessa and Scarlett, Van Helsing
The Anna and Elsa we wished we had, these two sisters reinvent the tale of vampire hunter, Van Helsing, with their relentless beating of bad guys. Vanessa and Scarlett, portrayed by Kelly Overton and Missy Peregrym, respectively, prove that sisterhood runs deeper than a world overrun with blood-sucking monsters and strange prophecies. Both are inspirational badasses, but it’s their relationship that inspires me as a woman. The sisters, equally matched, unravel mysteries together, break bones together, and ultimately, rule the roost as the Van Helsing descendants tasked with the lineage’s biggest challenge: what to do when vampires take over the world. What’s so special about them is that there is no romance for Vanessa. Just because she’s a beautiful and powerful protagonist, doesn’t mean she needs a romance in her arc. Her strength lies in her ability to treat everyone as equals and not do the kissy-kissy smoochy thing that most female action protagonists inevitably have to face.