I wrote a little while ago about my discovery of the Women at Warp podcast. Since then, I’ve been working my way through the back episodes that sounded interesting. I particularly enjoyed this one, in which the hosts talk about which excellent feminist people they would crew the USS Enterprise with given the chance. I enjoyed hearing their choices from fiction, science, politics, military history, and other fields, plus I was stuck on a train at the time, so I decided to entertain myself by making my own list. (I love lists). I did make a rule for myself that I couldn’t have any of the same picks as the hosts, but it turns out that the world is full of fantastic fictional, historical, and political women, so that didn’t really hold me back. My excuse for publishing it here is a) it was really fun to make, and b) some of my choices are characters from books. Please note that the formatting for WordPress was being screwy, so photo credits/sources are listed in the footnotes, rather than in captions. Enjoy.
Captain: Nancy Blackett (Swallows and Amazons)
Look, any time I have to pick a captain for anything, I’m going to pick Nancy Blackett. I understand that she never quite reaches adulthood in the books, but even as a teenager she demonstrates all the qualities I’d want my captain to have: competence, confidence, and willingness to set everything on fire if it needs to be on fire. On top of that, in the later books, she also occasionally does things she finds extremely distasteful if she believes it’s morally the correct thing to do–for example, pretending to be polite, well-mannered, and diplomatic in The Picts and the Martyrs to protect her mother. Unlike many of the tomboys from the Golden Age of children’s literature, she doesn’t try to make people comfortable by pretending she is either less female or less competent than she is. Nancy scorns people who mistake her for a boy, and just carries on being more than the equal of any male character in the book. Lastly, she recognises the skills other people bring to her team. She trusts Dick on science issues, for example; she is grateful to Susan for her domestic acumen; she recognises that John is maybe a touch more level-headed than she is, and defers to him occasionally as a result. Seeing the value of individual team members makes Nancy an excellent captain. (Also, if Nancy had been a real British girl in 1920, she probably would never have been a commanding officer on any kind of official vessel, so I wanted to give her a shot at it).
First Officer: Eleanor Roosevelt
As far as I can gather, Eleanor Roosevelt was the de facto first officer of her husband’s presidency. Although a great communicator and often supportive of her husband, she was also willing to push her own agenda, disagree with his decisions, and engage the country in serious conversation about issues such as racial discrimination. During times of great national crisis, she often addressed the nation by radio–according to my research, she addressed the nation after the bombing of Pearl Harbour, prior to her husband’s speech the next morning. She is also maybe a little more grounded than Nancy–Nancy would be a Kirk all-guns-blazing type of captain, whereas I think Eleanor Roosevelt would be more like Picard, with diplomacy rather than phasers being the first weapon in her arsenal.
Science Officer: Dr Camille Saroyan (Bones)
Firstly, it’s always good to have a few spare physicians about the place in case of emergencies. More than that, though, Cam has a fantastic mixture of experiences and skills that would make her an invaluable member of the crew. She speaks some Spanish and Persian, she’s been a police officer as well as both a doctor and a coroner, and she demonstrates interest in and knowledge of a wide array of scientific disciplines, not just pathology. On top of that, she’s used to managing a team of deeply eccentric and difficult humans, so co-ordinating the science department on a large Federation starship would be no big deal. Although personally extremely intelligent, she also speaks layperson very well, so she’d be able to communicate effectively with the captain and first officer.
Chief Medical Officer: Mary Seacole
Mary Seacole never actually got to be a doctor because she was a half-Jamaican, half-Scottish woman born in 1853 in Kingston. However, her mother was a “doctress”, a specialist in herbal medicine, and Seacole learnt those skills as she was growing up. She volunteered to help the British Army during the Crimean War and was turned away, but she found her own way to the Crimea and helped the doctors there anyway. Her whole life story is pretty cool and can be found in her memoir, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands (which I have yet to read), and I think she would make a good starship doctor for many reasons. Her willingness to adapt to new theories (for example, she was an early adopter of the contagion theory of disease) and glean medical wisdom from several cultures would serve her well as she cared for people of many alien races. She was also experienced in providing care for wounded soldiers and dealing with the privations associated with war, which would probably be helpful if her ship was caught in battle. Plus, the fact that she was a nurse originally probably means that she’d have a bit of a better bedside manner than certain Trek doctors I could mention. Lastly, she showed great interest in exploring and seeking out new cultures and lands–which fits her ideally for any Starfleet mission, really. Seacole is the reason I started this list in the first place–I was astonished that no-one chose her for doctor or nurse in the original podcast!
Tactical and Defence: Hua Mulan (Chinese legend)
This was the hardest position to fill–not because there was a lack of suitable women, but rather an abundance. Other candidates included Ziva (NCIS), Boudicca (who led an ultimately unsuccessful, but very impressive, rebellion of the Celtic Iceni tribe against the Roman c. AD60), and Deborah, the Israelite leader and military commander in Judges 4-5. In the end, I confess I picked Mulan because she is my favourite Disney character. In that particular version of the legend, she shows incredible strategic thought and superb stubbornness. When I did a little bit of digging to find out more about her, it turns out the original recounting of her story has her befriending and supporting other female warriors. That would make her a very good fit for this crew of excellent women.
Chief Engineer: Victoria Drummond
Victoria Drummond was the first female engineer in the Merchant Navy. She served throughout WWII and received a medal for Bravery at Sea and an MBE. After a near miss from a bomb took out a fuel pipe on her ship Bonita and temporarily blinded her in one eye, she still somehow managed to increase their speed from the usual 9 knots to 12.5 knots. That is precisely the type of engineering skill and general grit you need if you are fighting off the Borg. Also, she took the exam to be Chief Engineer 31 times because the British Board of Trade kept insisting she would be better as an instructor on shore, given the dangers of war–even after the aforementioned incident–until she was eventually certified by the much more sensible Panamanians. (Also, how great is this photo? She and B’Elanna Torres would immediately be best friends).
Morale Officer: Minerva McGonagall (Harry Potter)
Okay, I confess, Minerva McGonagall is not the most obvious choice for morale officer. However, we know that she cares deeply about her students and has an extensive supply of biscuits. I also think she could be a pretty good Guinan-type figure, offering stern pep talks and occasional compliments at precisely the right times. I can see a scenario in which people pop into see her at odd hours for advice and encouragement, and she plies them with tea and home truths. Also, this crew has lots of firebrands on it by now, so I think we need someone sensible to defuse conflicts calmly and be the voice of reason at high-level briefings. (If Neelix can somehow inveigle an invitation to security meetings, McGonagall certainly can).
Nurse: Edith Cavell
Edith Cavell was a British nurse who was executed by German troops during WWI. She worked in Belgium, caring for Allied and German troops alike, which is what I think fits her perfectly for the role of Ship’s Nurse–enemies of Starfleet often end up in Sickbay, who can’t show partisanship in the care they provide. She also started the first Belgian nursing journal, L’infirmerie, which indicates an interest in research and evidence-based practice that (like Seacole) would fit her for a role caring for people of many different species.
Counsellor: Dorothy Williams (Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries)
Dot Williams is one of my favourite characters in anything ever. She’s so quiet and soft-spoken that it’s easy to overlook her strengths, but she provides great support to Miss Fisher and Jane throughout the series. Her kindness and empathy mean that she’s willing to look at situations from several viewpoints without compromising her own values or faith. Those qualities would make her an excellent counsellor. I think she and Minerva McGonagall would make a fantastic team for looking after the mental and emotional health of the crew–they’re two sides of the same coin, really.
Navigator: Isabella Bird
Isabella Bird was an explorer and naturalist who lived in England in the 19th century. I first heard about her in the play Top Girls which I read as part of AS English Lit, so she’s almost a literary personality. According to Wikipedia, which may or may not be lying to me, her eulogy contained the sentence “there never was anybody who had adventures as well as Miss Bird”. Space is a very good place to have adventures, I think.
Helmswoman: Ellen MacArthur
Of course Ellen MacArthur is my helmswoman of choice. She set records for circumnavigating the globe solo! Also, I feel like it would be fun to have her on the same ship as Nancy Blackett, whom she’s cited as an early childhood inspiration. She quit professional sailing a while ago to spend her time advocating for a circular economy, which strikes me as a very Starfleety concern. I mean, they’ve sorted the economy out by the 24th century, but she can take up whatever their equivalent political concern is.
First Contact Specialist: Roza Otunbayeva
Here’s someone I’d never even heard of until I started doing the research for this list. Roza Otunbayeva is the former president of Kyrgyzstan. She has decades of experience in politics and international relations. She’s been an ambassador to the UK and the US, she’s worked politically within both Communist and capitalist governments, and she helped to overthrow a corrupt autocrat. Most notably, she’s had a lot of experience in foreign affairs, including in countries that were hostile to Kyrgyzstan during the Cold War. She sounds like an excellent diplomat, which would be perfect for someone making first contact with many different cultures and species, some of which will necessarily have extremely non-Starfleet values.
- Nancy Blackett. Detail from a picture in Swallowdale, written and illustrated by Arthur Ransome, 1931.
- Eleanor Roosevelt in 1933. Photographer unknown. Found on Wikipedia; taken from the US Library of Congress.
- Image found at BuddyTV, here. (She’s even in science blue already).
- Image originally from Winchester College; found here on the RCN website.
- Gathering Gems of Beauty, by He Dazi, Qing Dynasty. Found on Wikipedia.
- Photo and story details taken from FeminiSco, which unfortunately does not provide sources.
- Image copyright belongs to Warner Bros. Image is taken from Wikipedia.
- Image from edithcavell.org.uk
- Image is from the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries wiki.
- Image is from Wikipedia, which states that it is in the public domain.
- Copyright Marcel Mochet/AFP/Getty Images.
- Copyright Michael Gross/US State Department. Image found on Britannica.