Okay, before I go any further I have a confession to make: I am an ENORMOUS nerd.
No really… huge. Star Trek. Star Wars. Stargate. Farscape. Doctor Who… if it’s British, Nerdy or Sci-Fi I love it. Bonus points if it fits into more than one category.
This leads into the theme of Awesome Women quite nicely because there are some AWESOME women (both fictional and real) in Sci-Fi.
Now, yes, there are also a lot of women who wear impossibly little clothing and are presented only as sex objects. That obviously is NOT COOL!
But there are also cool women, actors and characters that are worthy of some attention.
Amanda Tapping (Samantha Carter, Stargate SG-1 & Helen Magnus, Sanctuary)
I’m going to start with her, because she’s my favorite.
As Samantha Carter, Amanda Tapping played a woman who was multi-faceted awesome. She was an officer in the US air force and– like– the smartest woman alive. She had a PhD in Astrophysics. She wrote computer programs as easily as twitter updates. She solved world crisis on a weekly basis. She designed a spaceship. She blew up a sun. She could survive through any situation on her own. Think the Hungar Games sound hard? Try surviving on an another planet for four days with a super-powerful can’t-be-killed alien tracking you to kill you with no one else around. She comes to the rescue of her teammates more often then they come to hers. She’s also a real and emotional woman. Her strength isn’t diminished by occasional tears. She stands up for what she believes in and she’s utterly loyal to her friends.
As Helen Magnus, Amanda Tapping is equally, if not more, awesome. Sanctuary is possibly the most under-appreciated show I can think of. You’ve probably never heard of it, so I’m going to give you a quick synopsis. Then you should go buy it. Or borrow it from your library, and if they don’t have it you should request it.
Summary: In the late 1800’s, 5 friends at Oxford University know about the presence of what others call monsters and what they call “abnormals” all around us. Shapeshifters, giant lizards, Sasquatch, the Lochness monster- they all exist on earth. These 5 people dare to inject a sample of ancient (now extinct) vampire blood, gain special abilities and become legendary figures both historic and literary that the audience knows. John Druit– Jack the Ripper. James Watson– the “real” Sherlock Holmes. Nigel Griffin– the Invisible Man. Nikola Tesla– vampire. And Helen Magnus– a woman who dares to become a doctor in an age when women aren’t even allowed to enroll in university, who, upon injecting the blood, will essentially never grow old. Flash forward to modern times, Helen Magnus has set up the Sanctuary– a place dedicated to protecting humans and abnormals from each other. Helping both and learning from both. Enter a young psychiatrist she recruits to help her, and a team of other interesting characters, add the fact that it’s all done with green screen and new new video technology and you get the BEST SHOW EVER!!!
Helen Magnus is, to me, the pinacle of awesome sci-fi women. First of all, she’s the star of the show. The center around which all else revolves. Most other women in sci-fi are the romantic and/or secondary leads. But Sanctuary IS Helen Magnus. And that is rockstar awesome.
She’s 157 years old. She’s a physician and knowledgable scientist. She operated in the trenches of WWI, stopped an abnormal Nazi weapon off the coast of Normandy, and hung out with most of the Presidents of the United States. She can kick any man’s ass (and does more than once). She runs a whole network of Sanctuaries around the world. She intimidates powerful businessmen. She loves with her whole heart. She’s a mom. She’s a daughter. She can shoot. She can kickbox. The people who work for her would walk through fire if she asked them to, and she is equally devoted to them. She lived through the Titanic sinking. She survived the zombie apocalypse (in an alternate time line, of course).
So that’s the two main characters Amanda Tapping is known for, and this is one of the rare cases where the actor is equally as awesome. In the television world, dominated by men, Amanda Tapping does it all. She not only acts her way straight to your heart, she’s a director and exec producer too. She is an executive producer for Sanctuary and was instrumental in getting the project going. She directed one episode a year– some of the best episodes they made– and now is off directing other shows (and acting too). She founded a charity called Sanctuary for Kids that works to provide essentials for children around the world who need them. They work with small charities and meticulously make sure that every penny we donate goes to the actual kids its meant to help. It’s small amounts of money making a big difference with charities that really work. And just to add to her super-power count, she is by all accounts a lovely, kind and generous woman. Oh yeah, she’s also a mom.
The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film stated in their 2010-2011 Summary that
Women comprised 25% of all individuals working as creators, directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and directors of photography on broadcast television programs during the 2010-11 prime-time season.
Women comprised only 22% of executive producers and 11% of directors. Though these only documented prime time television shows, it can be assumed that these numbers are roughly the same for other television shows. Pretty freaking awesome, then, that a woman be both an executive producer and a director, and the strong lead character of a sweet show. Hats off to you, Amanda Tapping, for being Awesome!
Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah-Jane Smith, Doctor Who)
Don’t get me wrong, I love the new Doctor Who in a slightly unhealthy way. And I LOVE the new women of Doctor Who. Rose, Martha, Donna and Amy– Truly Awesome one and all! I want to be their best friends. I want them on my side in a fight. And River, come on, you can’t get any more badass than River Song with a weapon in her hands. But let’s do the time warp and discuss the woman who made their level of awesome possible. That woman is Elisabeth Sladen who played Sarah-Jane Smith.
Sarah-Jane was the first companion to do more than scream, get chased and ask stupid questions. She was a journalist. She asked intelligent questions. She got herself out of trouble (well, sometimes), and she got the Doctor out of trouble. She challenged the Doctor. She fought with him. And when she came back to the show in 2006, she was as independent and awesome as ever. So awesome, in fact, that they gave her her own spin off Series called The Sarah-Jane Adventures. Who needs a TARDIS? (well… me, but anyway) She can fight off aliens on her own with just a sonic lipstick and a super computer.
Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia, Star Wars)
Nichelle Nichols- (Uhura, Star Trek Original Series)
Uhura was one of the very first female African-American characters on television that was not a servant or other role of servitude. In the 1968 episode “Plato’s Stepchildren” Uhura and Captain Kirk kiss. The episode is popularly cited as the first example of a scripted inter-racial kiss on United States television.
Nichelle Nichols toured the United States, Canada and Europe as a singer with the Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton bands. She released 2 music albums. She knew Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., like, personally. (Reportedly, she was considering leaving Star Trek after the first year and Dr. King told her that she should stay because she was such a role model to African-Americans and women.)
Whoopi Goldberg and astronaut Mae Jemison, among others, cite her as an inspiration. After Star Trek ended, Nichols started volunteering her time for NASA to recruit minorities and women for the space agency. She helped to run a company called Women in Motion that worked with NASA to try to accomplish this.It’s actors and characters like this that helped pave the way for all the badass women that would boldly go where no one had gone before.(Incidentally, the famous line was “to boldly go where no man has gone before” in the original series. In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Kirk says it and then modifies it to the version that would be used for the duration of the Star Trek franchise:
Captain’s log, stardate 9529.1. This is the final cruise of the starship Enterprise under my command. This ship and her history will shortly become the care of another crew. To them and their posterity will we commit our future. They will continue the voyages we have begun and journey to all the undiscovered countries, boldly going where no man…where no one… has gone before.
Thanks for everything Ladies. You are truly Awesome.