Hey! Hallie here!
For those who aren’t aware, ‘Deep Space Nine’ turned 29 years old yesterday! I’ve talked a bit about my new found love of ‘Star Trek’ on this blog, but since that point I finally finished binge watching most of the seasons of Star Trek (Aside from the newest series which I haven’t had access to). And ‘Deep Space Nine’ remains to be my favorite Star Trek series of them all. It’s bold in its themes, does some of the best work I’ve seen at genuinely tackling diversity and societal issues, and deeply explores its characters in ways rarely seen. But to celebrate its most recent birthday, I want to highlight who has become one of my favorite fictional characters of all time. Kira Nerys instantly blew me away with her strength and confidence the moment she first appeared on screen. She changed everything that I had expected from Star Trek up until that point, so of course, I can’t resist writing about all of the things I love about her. Let’s get into it!
Before ‘Deep Space Nine’ we didn’t have really any main female characters who didn’t fall into some major form of sexist tropes within their series. The original ‘Star Trek’ treated their female cast about the same as many series at the time did. Which is to say that they were pushed into the background and made to be damsels quite often. Thanks to Nichelle Nichols, Uhura proved herself to be much more outspoken and badass than many other women got to be during that time. But that didn’t mean Uhura was exempt from these tropes. Moving on to ‘Next Generation’, both Marina Sirtis and Gates McFadden have been open about their opinion on the writing of their characters. Deanna Troi wasn’t given an official ranking until much later in the series while Beverley Crusher was absent for a hefty amount of episodes. Also their personal lives, including their interests and hobbies, weren’t well explored. Jump over to Kira Nerys and the progress made is extremely clear. For one, Kira was the first woman we saw take up a command position amongst the main cast. She was second in command, acting as Sisko’s “Number One” though slightly different given her loyalty to Bajor rather than to Star Fleet. She had a life outside of her job, and not just one that revolved around her love interests. She was majorly involved with the religion of Bajor, and many episodes explored her faith and the way that she expressed it in her daily life. She was also shown to be athletic and good at sports. On top of all of that, her past experience fighting in the war against the Cardassians impacted her life in major ways that she was shown privately working through. And yes, her screen time was well matched with her male costars. For the first time, ‘Star Trek’ committed to giving us a well developed female lead from episode one.
Kira Nerys was heavily critiqued by some male viewers, and there’s a reason why that fact in particular makes the writers of ‘Deep Space Nine’ so proud. Kira Nerys wasn’t the compassionate mediator many women in Star Trek had been in the past. Though there isn’t anything explicitly wrong with the compassionate mediator, too many writers had defaulted to these characteristics in order to meet female stereotypes. Kira instantly subverted these tropes by being introduced with a prominent voice, strong views, and a clear temper. She was a resistance fighter and a leader, meaning she was unused to handling peaceful negotiations and diplomatic situations. In fact, her diplomatic duties tended to frustrate her. When someone offended her, she was quicker to throw a punch than to just let it go. When it came to defending her home and her culture, no one could have been more passionate than her. She didn’t let Sisko do whatever he wanted just because he was in command. She let her opinions be known in every situation. But she wasn’t argumentative just to be contrary. She was argumentative because she held a strong sense of justice that she was unwilling to compromise on. Over time she learned through empathy that compromise was possible, even towards those who she held grudges against, as proven by the many excellent Kira-centric episodes where she was faced with a Cardassian who was not what she initially expected. But this empathetic approach was never a replacement for her strength. It always remained, even when the character and the actress were pregnant, despite how many shows begin to treat their female characters gingerly once pregnancy comes up in the plot.
The ‘Captain Marvel’ Effect:
Too many times in media, we see someone attempt to write a female character that subverts tropes by simply writing them like they would write a man. This has most recently been brought up in conversations about ‘Captain Marvel’, where the character was able to demonstrate strength but was never allowed to explore the depths of her emotion. To be fair, no character should be written this way, it’s simply the way that many forms of media still choose to portray men. In any case, it isn’t true of Kira. Just because she demonstrated her strength through stubbornness and anger, which was and is more often seen as traits in male characters, didn’t mean she wasn’t given emotional depth. Despite struggling to use empathy to solve problems, Kira always had compassion. The first episode where she actually connected with a Cardassian on an emotional level was all the way back in season one. In the same season, she was challenged with making an elderly Bajoran man leave his house for his safety, and she initially stayed with him and protected him because she cared about his well being. Also in season one, her deep emotional connection to Kai Opaka was explored. Kira saw Kai Opaka as an important religious figure, to the point that she sobbed over her when she seemingly died and broke down crying when Opaka helped her discover a piece of her past trauma. Even in her relationships, Kira’s emotional vulnerability was explored without taking away her power. The most memorable moment this was shown occurred when Odo was dying right before the series finale. Garak, thinking that Kira didn’t know about it, attempted to inform her that Odo was hiding his bad condition from her. But Kira revealed that she’d known all along, and while she continued to hold herself together so Odo didn’t feel that she was pitying him, she also was allowed moments to break over the fact that this was the second romantic partner she might lose in only the span of a few years. All of this was explored in a genuine way that never portrayed her as weak, but still lent itself to giving her depth.
I could go on and on about how much I love Kira Nerys. If I’m being perfectly honest with myself, she’s probably my favorite character in all of Star Trek. She’s excellent female representation without really trying too hard. She’s likable without falling into any major tropes. She’s strong without any caveats. She isn’t even over-sexualized like we saw in ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ with Seven of Nine, despite the captain being a woman. My only issues come from the Mirror Universe version of Kira, and even that has its perks (Though one of them is admittedly that this version of Kira was only present in a handful of episodes). I love her and I hope that someday, she’ll return in much the same way other characters have returned in ‘Picard’. I can dream, can’t I? Happy Late Birthday, ‘Deep Space Nine’!
Don’t do anything fun until I get back!