The Legacy of the ‘Perfectly Imperfect’ Character in the Star Trek Universe

 

In an episode of CBS All Access’ The Ready Room, actress Michelle Hurd described her Star Trek: Picard character Raffi Musiker to host Will Wheaton, as “perfectly imperfect.”

“I love that she’s so perfectly imperfect,” Hurd said, “because we all are at some point, there’s some little thing that we wish was better, but you have to figure out how to get through it. I think it’s really important for us to tell that story and I love that we can tell that story in the situation where usually all the people are so put together and so perfect. You go, ‘Yeah, even in that world, we have perfectly imperfect people, just like we do here.’”

But Musiker isn’t the first flawed character to be featured in the Star Trek Universe, in fact, there are several beloved characters that should be celebrated for their flaws and imperfections, too. Let’s take a look.

T’Pol

T'Pol in "Damage"

“We’ve had our share of disagreements; but you’ve never taken it out on my desk before.” – Captain Archer to T’Pol, Damage, Star Trek: Enterprise; Season 3, Episode 19.

Logic and the pressures of repressed emotions can take its toll – even on Vulcans. We learn this through T’Pol’s addiction to a mineral called Trellium-D.

T’Pol shows us that even the most seemingly perfect Vulcans can struggle with issues like addiction that are stigmatized by their own society. Addiction, T’Pol shows, does not discriminate.

 The Vulcan sub-commander also has the added struggle of dealing with Pa’Nar Syndrome, a degenerative disease contracted by Vulcans who perform or receive mind melds.

 In addition to her Trellium-D addiction, T’Pol must undoubtedly experience the psychological, and yes, emotional impacts of having a debilitating disease that carries a harsh stigma in Vulcan society.

Reginald Barclay

Barclay performs in Ten Forward

 “Being afraid all the time, forgetting somebody’s name, not knowing what to do with your hands. I mean, I’m the guy who writes down things to remember to say when there’s a party. And then when he finally gets there, he winds up alone in the corner trying to look comfortable examining a potted plant.”  – Reginald Barclay, Hollow Pursuits, Star Trek: The Next Generation; Season 3, Episode 21.

 To cope with severe social anxiety and self-esteem issues, the Enterprise D’s Reginald Barclay often sought out the comfort of the holodeck, where he could more acutely control interactions with fictional characters and alternative versions of his shipmates and colleagues.

For us humans in the 21st century, Barclay’s awkwardness, social isolation and lack of confidence are all things we can relate to (to varying degrees) and struggle to overcome.

Elim Garak

Garak in the infirmary in "The Wire"

“Thank you for your concern, but I’d rather have the hypospray,” – Garak, The Wire, Deep Space Nine; Season 2, Episode 22.

Exiled to a space station far from the heat of Cardassia, Deep Space Nine’s Elim Garak joins the ranks of the perfectly imperfect because of the coping mechanism he develops in response to his exile from his planet.

A former Obsidian Order operative, Garak activates a dormant brain implant to feed him, shall we say, happy feelings as a way of temporarily forgetting his misfortune.

Unfortunately, when the implant goes haywire, causing Garak to lash out at his friends and neighbors on the station, Garak must come to terms with his situation or risk death – a very real ultimatum for those who have experienced the feelings of loneliness, anger and depression exhibited by Garak.

Ash Tyler

 “… I can’t find my way back without you.”Ash Tyler, The War Without, The War Within, Star Trek: Discovery; Season 1, Episode 14.

Few others in the Star Trek Universe can relate to the trauma experienced by Star Trek Discovery’s Ash Tyler.

A prisoner of war and sleeper agent subjected to bizarre experimentation by the Klingons, Tyler struggles with post traumatic stress disorder and likely, some qualities attributed to Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Through the entirety of the first season, we see Tyler struggle to resolve the internal conflict caused by the fusing of Ash Tyler and Voq’s personalities.

Knowing something is wrong, a scared and emotional Tyler seeks the help and support of his friends and colleagues on the ship, crediting Burnham with the delayed activation of Voq’s personality. But the physical abuse and violence his character inflicts on his shipmates, and Burnham in particular, shows the lasting impact mental, emotional and physical abuse can have on its victims.

The Jem’Hadar

jem'hadar soldiers

I include the Jem’Hadar on this list rather loosely because they are biologically designed by the Founders to be addicted to Ketracel White as a means for the Founders to maintain control and obedience over the warrior race.

In Deep Space Nine episode “To The Death,”  Weyoun explains that without the drug, the Founders would have little control over the Jem’Hadar.

“The Founders‘ ability to control the Jem’Hadar has been somewhat overstated,” Weyoun said. “Otherwise, we never would have had to addict them to the white.”

The Jem’Hadar demonstrate just how much control an addiction can have over us and others.

As this article demonstrates, Star Trek has a decades-long history of representing characters with imperfections. And whether they’re aliens or humans, we can all relate to the conditions, thoughts and feelings that go along with being “imperfect.” It’s likely that there are many more characters and species throughout the Star Trek Universe that could be considered “perfectly imperfect” and included in this list.

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