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Over the course of several decades, the Star Trek franchise has given television audiences some of television's most compelling characters. From the Star Trek: The Original Series to Star Trek: Discovery (which is actually a Star Trek prequel), we've laughed, cried, feared for and swooned over several members of Starfleet, and continued to celebrate them long after they're gone.
It's hard to pick just one character as the undisputed best of Star Trek, so here's seven of the best. As a note, this list is limited to Star Trek characters affiliated with Starfleet, so don't expect to see folks like Harry Mudd or Q popping up on here.
7. Michael Burnham
Ok, it may be a bit controversial to put a Star Trek: Discovery character anywhere near a top 7 list, but it's time someone take the plunge and admit this CBS All Access series is introducing some really amazing characters. Michael Burnham leads the way as the franchise's anti-Spock of sorts, as she's a Vulcan-raised human at odds with her dual identities.
The split life she's led between two cultures can be the difference maker in a decision that saves the crew, or the thing that cripples her in matters of love or having to let a friend die. Michael Burnham is far from perfect, and while some of Star Trek's greatest characters seem to be, there's real beauty in that struggle and the basis of what makes for a compelling Star Trek character now and going forward.
One of the things that has made Star Trek such an iconic series is the ways it explored humanity in a unique setting. This happened through many different plots and scenarios, but humanity never got a better look on Star Trek than it did through the eyes of Data in The Next Generation. Who better than to analyze humans than a lifelike android who wished to be one?
It led to some truly entertaining scenes, like the time Data played poker with some of the brilliant human minds of the past. The time he played Sherlock was great, and who can forget the time he got a cat? The great episodes involving Data are numerous, which is why he's on this list as one of the best Star Trek characters. Really the only thing that kept him this low is Brent Spiner's decision never to play him again.
5. William T. Riker
He may not be the first "number one" or even the top entry on this list, but William T. Riker is certainly among Star Trek: The Next Generation's best Star Trek characters. He's always there to back his brilliant captain up, he's great with the ladies and he's able to save the day if he needs to be the one to do so. He's also an accomplished trombonist, which really can't be stated enough.
In some ways, Riker is Star Trek: The Next Generation's James T. Kirk. For all the reasons stated above, but also for the reason that Jonathan Frakes has continued to contribute and be a big advocate for the franchise long after his initial run on the show. There's a chance, however, we could see him in a role that isn't behind the camera very soon though, as Riker may have a cameo in Star Trek: Picard.
4. Benjamin Sisko
Being a Starfleet captain always has its challenges, although one would be hard-pressed to say any captain Star Trek has followed got a rougher deal than Benjamin Sisko. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine killed his wife and put the single father at a space station packed with conflict and impossible situations. Sisko managed to perform to the best of his duties, as he promised Picard he would in the pilot, but at the cost of some ideals.
Benjamin Sisko's brutal, but necessary decision making certainly gives him an edge over other captains, and some would argue more depth than some of the more popular captains. He's certainly one of Starfleet's greatest captains, even if his accomplishments aren't quite as celebrated as the things achieved by folks like Picard and Kirk. He's one of the main reasons Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is a must-watch series, and one of the premiere Star Trek characters.
3. James T. Kirk
A lot of people would argue Captain Kirk deserves the top spot in this ranking, and they're entitled to their opinion. There's no denying William Shatner's character was the face of Star Trek for the longest time, and without Shatner's willingness to be that face, this huge franchise may have just ended up being a show from the past those who saw it only vaguely remember.
What's not to love about James T. Kirk? He's suave, daring and unafraid in the face of danger. Even when the chips are down, it's never a bad idea to count him out or underestimate his ability to come out on top regardless of the situation. Perhaps it was a bit unrealistic, but Shatner pulled off the confident captain swagger quite well and helped create a Star Trek character whose legacy has lasted long after his initial run.
Spock rings in at number two for being a consistently riveting character throughout the course of the Star Trek franchise. He's one of the few characters who appeared in series beyond his original run, and Spock even played a major role in creating the Kelvin timeline in which the most recent Star Trek films take place in.
Whether he's with James T. Kirk, Jean-Luc Picard or even his adopted sister Michael Burnham, Spock's sagely adherence to logic while occasionally battling his human instincts has never felt out of place across the Star Trek universe. Without him, this franchise would be an entirely different thing, so we can only hope the legacy of Spock continues to "live long and prosper" into the future.
1. Jean-Luc Picard
There will always be debate on who is the greatest character in Star Trek history, although it's fair to say Jean-Luc Picard is one of the few revered characters in the franchise who a bulk of supporters could get behind. He was one of Starfleet's greatest captains, kind, always willing to do what's right, and frequently able to maneuver his way out of the most difficult of situations.
Now, perhaps Picard's spot at number 1 is a bit polarizing, especially considering his character may drastically change in the upcoming Star Trek: Picard. With that said, part of the reason Jean-Luc is so great is largely due to the phenomenal gravitas Patrick Stewart brings to the role, which will surely be on display once more when his series arrives on CBS All Access. With him involved, Picard's legacy should be well enough intact regardless of what's happened to him.
Star Trek fans, feel free to add your snubbed characters in the comments below, and stick with CinemaBlend for all the latest in television and movie news.