1 Balthazar’s Angel (Battlestar Galactica): Is she in Balthazar’s head? Is she part of his programming or a symptom of psychological disorder. Is she real? Why can’t anyone else see her? This breathtaking blonde was generous, cruel, absolutely devoted to the one god, and had a perfect vision along with the will to follow it through. Her character, her state of being, even what side she was on, was maintained perfectly from the very first episode to the conclusion of Battlestar Galactica.
2 Data (Star Trek: The Next Generation): An android living in a human world. One would think that the subject had been covered after decades of writing and t.v. materials on the subject. But our introduction to Data, attempting to whistle, proved that assumption wrong. Through seven seasons and four movies, Data never stopped showing us what is was like to look at the galaxy through the eyes of an artificial life form. Interviews from the cast and crew have revealed he was responsible for large portions of many episodes and one can truly believe it. When Data died, the movies were over.
3 Dr. Who (Dr. Who): The storyline is unique in all of t.v.; a man who travels through time and space, exploring worlds, stopping threats, and correcting the time stream. That inevitably makes the lead interesting. But the lead changes every few years and each actor has brought his own unique characteristics; who can forget Tom Baker’s scarf and jellie babies? The ridiculous smile of Christopher Eccleston? The always running David Tennant? The characters themselves have been interesting. They are all fun, energetic, and brilliant (except of course for Hartnell, but he was a good introduction to the character). And there is that crazy way they all seem to take the obvious or the smart remark and come up with something brilliant and life-saving.
4 Prot (K-Pax): The lasting image of this “alien” is him grabbing a banana and eating it, unpealed, as a psychologist studies him for some pathology. He threw out one far-fetched explanation after another. It’s almost like he doesn’t want to be believed. So when we find out he is linked to some poor devil who had suffered an emotional trauma we have every reason to believe he is just a man who has lost his grip. That is, until he disappears on a sunray.
5 Dr. Balthazar (Battlestar Galactica): Brilliant, arrogant, a survivor, the president, a religious leader, responsible for the near-annihilation of his race, a sex addict, immoral, unethical – did I mention he was smart and cocky? Whether he was having sex with an angel only he could see, having a dual conversation using the same words to respond to both people , accidentally doing something to help the human race even as he was working only to save his own life, Balthazar was fascinating to watch week after week. To have made his character so intriguing amidst such a spectrum of actors was even more impressive.
6 Paul Atreides (Dune series): Fated to end an empire and cost millions of lives, watching the struggle between his visions of the future, the political needs of the moment, and his desire to be free of responsibility made for an incredibly rich character. He walked through life knowing how and where each tragedy in his life would take place because he had chosen those events over others in order to ensure the best possible future for his race. His son would completely cut himself off from humanity with his enigmatic “Golden Path, but Paul allowed himself to feel everything.
7 Robert Neville (I Am Legend): Imagine surviving an apocalypse because you are the only person who is immune to a plague that changes the human genome into something feral. Now imagine watching your wife, child, and even your dog dying because of it. Try to see yourself working in the middle of an infected city trying to find a cure for your race even as the victims stalk you, knowing that they have killed everything you loved and your only mission in life must be to save them. Will Smith made me want to cry as the movie slowly revealed the depth of his pain. For me, his character represents the best our species has to offer.
8 Fox Mulder (X-Files): Handsome, highly intelligent, and so engrossed in chasing aliens and conspiracy theories that he doesn’t notice how every woman around him is falling at his feet. Yeah, there was some jealousy in watching the X-Files star, but listening to how his mind worked week after week was great, and noticing that he always seemed to be watching porn made him just human enough that I could keep that jealousy in check.
9 Alice (Resident Evil movies): I have seen and heard of too many Zombies to count, from one where an asteroid causes a Zombie virus to something about the Moon being in an odd alignment. They’re tedious and redundant. However, throw in a government conspiracy and an actual plot and you have something interesting. Make the heroine a Zombie/human hybrid and the franchise is actually worth paying attention to.
10 Riddick (Riddick Franchise): In some way the movies are dumb; Riddick somehow has superhuman abilities, two monster movies, bad guys who worship death as an induction into their armies, an elemental race that is clearly human, and weak plotlines. However, Riddick makes them interesting. He’s a bad guy who never kills except in self-defense or revenge. He’s not a good guy, he doesn’t join causes, but he manages to generate loyalty in others and he is a survivor.
11 Neo (Matrix Franchise): Sure, the superpowers are neat. The ability to change reality both inside and out of the matrix was fun to watch. And the theme, of a chosen one finding his destiny, was nice even if it has been overused. What intrigued me about the character, though, was his personal development. He began as an isolated individual who had no concerns in life apart from money and the mysterious Morpheus. As his powers revealed themselves he found love. His abilities continued to develop even as he lost – first his vision and then the love of his life. He went back into the matrix that final time knowing he probably wouldn’t come out but absolutely certain of what he needed to do.
12 Starbuck (Battlestar Galactica): In the original Battlestar Galactica series, Starbuck was a simple character, a hot pilot who liked women. As a woman, the new Starbuck started off as much the same type of character. As the show progressed, though, the chip showed up on her shoulder only to be pushed off. The anger became confusion as her past was explored, and that turned into fear as her destiny became more clear. Of all the characters on the show I wound up empathizing more for the “best pilot I’ve ever seen” than anyone else. To know that she alone had survived the destruction of her entire race in a previous life must have been such an awful burden.
13 Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan (Farscape): A former priestess who had killed her mate after she found out he was a traitor, Zhaan is a walking, talking plant. She was the wisest person of the ship’s crew, always ready with helpful advice or gentle consolation. She disappeared after the third season and was replaced by a couple other interesting characters but the series suffered nonetheless.
14 Odo (Star Trek: DS-9): This detective from Deep Space Nine may seem like an unlikely choice, but when you imagine what could have been done with the part and how the actor carried it you realize how intriguing he made it. He is not a trickster or a criminal, he is a cop. When he realizes the nature and philosophy of his people he doesn’t join them, he remains independent and loyal to the people he knows, to the same people that on some level he despises. Odo was a complex character that I enjoyed watching from week to week as the old curmudgeon found some intriguing observation of mankind or pushed his own species to the edge of their good will.
15 Jack Harkness (Dr. Who): The immortal Jack, polysexual, fun-loving, lover of the Dr. Sure he started off as a time agent, but how many times did he save the world? He ran Torchwood, all the while flirting with any sentient male, female, human, insect, fish, or plant he came across. And to see how he dies (at least one of those times), well, was heartbreaking and satisfying at the same time.
16 Leto Atreides (Dune Franchise): A “pre-born”, he had the ability to foresee the future and guide humanity. As the son of the Universe’s emperor, he additionally had the burden of rule to worry about. What intrigued me about Leto was his vision as well as his humanity. He had the weight of billions of people to concern himself with and the only way to protect them all was to turn himself into a sandworm, forever foreswearing children and any real contact even as he embraced a near-immortality.
17 Max Guevara (Dark Angel): Dark Angel ended after two seasons, not because of some neat ideas about the future (America as a third-world culture, the theft of Episode 8) but because, in my opinion, the lovely Jessica Alba couldn’t pull off the transition from bad-ass loner to a mother figure for her mutant brethren. Still, the idea of a human with strands of DNA from all over the animal kingdom who is designed as a killing machine but won’t touch guns is a very intriguing idea. Oh, and Eliza Dushku was the first pick for the lead. Very interesting character.
18 Caesar (Planet of the Apes Franchise): The product of drug-testing for the defeat of Alzheimer’s, he was at once the father of his people, their leader, and by the very drug that made him intelligent, the destroyer of mankind as the dominant species on the planet. Caesar was raised by humans and so respected them, and yet he was superior to them intellectually as well as physically. I am very curious where the character will be taken.
19 Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly): The lead character of another failed series, Firefly, Reynolds was a trusting, honorable, devious, no ego character with an inflexible moral streak that liked to think of himself as a rogue. His crew knew better, occasionally protecting him from his own limitations. Two things I loved about him, he had his off brand of English and of course that scene where he was sitting alone and naked in the middle of nowhere with a smile on his face. Yup, the villain had stolen his ride and taken his clothes but he had gotten her.
20 River Tam (Firefly): A mentally disfunctional, brilliant, woman with no idea about the danger she is in. She comes across as a young girl. We found out during the course of the short-lived show that she’d had multiple surgeries on her brain. Eventually, it was revealed that she knew an awful secret that jeopardized the legitimacy of the government. It was great to see her wake up, with a mind to match Batman.
21 Ba’al (Stargate: SG-1): Stargate was characterized by totally over-the-top villains, which made this guy stand out. Elegant, aristocratic, but at times even diplomatic and subtle in his machinations. It was fun to see him die time after time, though he was hardly symbolic of the baddies that he was the last of.
22 Arik Soong (Enterprise): A man who can generate brilliant ideas as fast as he can write them, capable of solving mathematical puzzles at the highest levels, finding cures for diseases, and a genetic mastermind who was personally responsible for the main protagonists in the Eugenics Wars, Soong was also incredibly naive. Thankfully, he started off the race to create a sentient artificial life form, something to help balance out all the destruction he helped to cause.
23 Eli Wallace (Stargate: Universe): In the Stargate tradition of having one absolutely brilliant person in a show, the chubby (not so now) Eli fit the bill perfectly. Socially awkward, madly in love with the prettiest girl on the ship, playful. The perfect counterpoint to the series villain while managing a naivete that made him perfectly adorable. I still hope they find a way to bring the cast back.
24 Ellen (Battlestar Galactica): She starts off as the worst humanity has to offer – a sexually starved drunk who lies, steals, and schemes for the easier life of her husband Saul and herself. Then we find out she is one of the final five Cylons. She becomes the voice of reason among the five, a bridge from the other seven Cylons, and a balance to her husband. I never saw that coming, and the depth it added to her character was amazing.
25 Tyr Anasazi (Andromeda): Left for dead as a child, this gray character from Andromeda always had two or more plans for every occasion. What made him so intriguing was that his objectives were always so straightforward and he made no secrets about them. He wanted to prove himself so that he could reproduce, take control of his own clan, kill all his enemies, and eventually have hundreds of grandchildren. It was a delight watching him scheme on the flagship. I only wish he could have been given an equally worthy death.
26 Alice (Resident Evil Franchise): A genetically superior woman immune to a virus that has nearly exterminated all life on the planet, her only desire is to survive long enough to save what’s left of humanity. From her kick-butt abilities to her mother hen tendencies toward any human she runs finds along the way, I can’t wait to see how the fifth movie comes out.
27 Zoe Graystone (Caprica): The most brilliant character on the failed Caprica series, she spent the entire series dead, living in a virtual reality. She mastered the ins and outs of virtual reality, remaining sane even as her counterpart completely lost her mind and devolved into the Cylon mind. Neat stuff!
28 Spock (Star Trek): The original Vulcan – coolly logical, very strong, split between two cultures and embarrassed by his human half. When I was growing up I always wanted to have his strength, his great intelligence, and his amazing control over his emotions. Now that I am older I see him as my first exposure to an intellectually superior race and his character as a Sci Fi version of a mixed race person. Definitely a character of multiple levels.
29 Shran (Enterprise): An Andorian commander the Enterprise crew originally runs into at a Vulcan monastery, Shran’s sense of honor and camaraderie for the hapless pale skins (humans) were what drove the series from humans wandering the galaxy trying not to get killed into a show about the beginnings of the Federation. If you could get over the fact that we did not go into space as the dominant species, than the series was fun and this character was integral.
30 Jake Sully (Avatar): The character itself was pretty dry, an ex-soldier who has lost the use of his legs. The position he was put into was great though, being shown how black and white the situation was, seeing that his species were clearly in the wrong, that was great. His exploration of a foreign culture, one so clearly like the Native American, made not only the character three-dimensional but made the movie as exceptional as it was.
31 Dylan Hunt (Andromeda): A new generation of Captain Kirk, more elegant in his plans and more optimistic than perhaps any other hero I have ever come across – in mythology, fantasy, or science fiction. The actor needs acting lessons and therefore some of the development was a little pathetic, but deciding after a 300-year nap to restore an entire commonwealth alone makes the show worth watching.
32 Dr. Daniel Jackson (Stargate: SG-1): He started off as the geeky, talks too much member of Stargate SG-1 who had somehow wound up with a beauty. Daniel’s anger over his wife’s abduction, his willingness to sacrifice himself, coming back to help his friends after his death and his resurrection all represented great development. In the first episode, Jack O’Neill is constantly cutting him off, by the last he is the group’s spokesman. Just one question, when did he get into lifting weights and shooting P-90s?
33 Anubis (Stargate: SG-1): Talk about over-the-top bad guy. This guy didn’t just have a typical Goauld ego, he was so egocentric and vicious that the other Goaulds banished him. And then to have been given partial presence in the next level of reality made him the most powerful bad guy the universe had ever known. It was almost a foregone conclusion that he would have tried to destroy all life forms.
34 Q (Star Trek: The Next Generation): The power of the universe at his fingertips and the guy is bored, whiney, patronizing. He always struck me as a bully given a power position. It was interesting watching him develop throughout the Star Trek universe. Being human helped, but it was his lessons from the humans that finally made him grow up – Picard, Riker, Crusher, and even Janeway.
35 General Jack O’Neill (Stargate: SG-1): Playful, handsome, athletic, the perfect rebel against the man disguised in the uniform of a U.S. Air Force officer. Quips and bad jokes were his specialty. Still, watching the character develop from suicidal man overwhelmed with guilt at his son’s death to the clown/second-in-command of Stargate command was a neat ride.
36 John Doe (Seven): Who gets it in their heads to publicize the Seven Deadly Sins by killing people with them? I have had my days, but … And then de-skinning his own fingers so that he was not identifiable, brilliant. It’s wrong to find such a sick mind fascinating, but I did.
37 Vala Mal Doran (Stargate: SG-1): Kooky, sexy, happy-go-lucky, guilty at her former godhood, loud and obnoxious, in need of love, a liar who desperately wants to be trusted. Vala came on in the last two seasons of Stargate and she filled up the scenes. She was so much of a pain and so loveable playing the part. While the surviving characters all seemed to be fully developed by that time, she was the only unpredictable one and I am sorry we did not get to see her evolve.
38 Six (Battlestar Galactica): She starts off as simply a tall blonde Cylon who was instrumental in the near-annihilation of the human race. But even there she is interesting, because the accidental act of killing a baby in a city she has already doomed brings her to tears. Six becomes an apologetic leader trying to make up for her crimes and find a way to come together with the humans, along the way she manages to bridge the gap between the natural and artificial species
39 Korben Dallas (The Fifth Element): A former special forces man who has retired to become an unsuccessful and unlucky taxi cab driver until the fifth element shows up in his cab. She brings him into trouble after trouble but instead of reacting he just gets through it. This is a character only Bruce Willis could have played.
40 Samantha Carter (Stargate: SG-1): A great break from the stereotype, this blonde had big blue eyes, a lovely physique, and a warm personality. She was also the resident expert in anything involving science in the entire Stargate universe, could handle a gun better than most and took out more than her share of baddies in hand-to-hand. I only wish she could have held down a boyfriend, the other title characters found someone during the course of the show and she was certainly worthy.
41 James T. Kirk (Star Trek): From a time when the title character had to be in nearly every scene, Kirk could fill one up. Kirk could beat a legendary Vulcan at chess consistently and could singlehandedly outwit or outfight any foe he came across. He was invincible in the oldest tradition of a hero, and Sci Fi fans loved that about him.
42 Teyla (Stargate: Atlantis): A beautiful, sweet, honest woman who could take out any of her team members with her Filipino Sticks, she was a wonderful complement to the military approach of Shepherd and his lieutenant and later Ronin, and a natural buffer between them and Rodney McKay. It was interesting that all four of them came to her for wisdom.
43 Teal’c (Stargate: SG-1): A more perfect straight man could never have been invented. Working with the rarely serious O’Neill and company, Teal’c knew nothing about Earth culture or language. That fit in perfectly with O’Neill, who often left the Chulak warrior wondering what had just been said. Then there was his own sense of humor. Does anyone remember the joke about the warriors of Anubis, Set, and Osiris?
44 William Adama (Battlestar Galactica): Son of the mafia’s lawyer, a career military man who made a single mistake early in his career and has never been able to make up for it, married to a bipolar woman he never stopped loving, and the only thing standing between the Cylons and the rest of humanity. A complex character, trusting others even as he finds a way to stop hating himself.
45 Tris (Divergent series): A fragile woman living in a broken world, I have never read the books but the actress who plays this part draws you in with her weakness much more so with her resilience. Tris shouldn’t be the leader in a battle, but she is the kind of person that can inspire others to fight for justice and peace.
46 Neelix (Star Trek Voyager): Always energetic, this alien from the Delta quadrant seemed to be able to cook with nothing and knew every species on sight. He was also the most annoying, self-absorbed, helpful, know-it-all in the entire Star Trek universe. How could you not love him?
47 Gerry Lane (World War Z Franchise): Brad Pitt has always been a beautiful man, but he has generally made some intriguing choices. This was one. He was not particularly brave, and in fact the only incentive that works in sending him into the field is saving his family. He does not save the people around him. All of the marines that go with him die as do a large number of people in Israel. Still, he manages to keep his head down and find an answer that isn’t a cure but it is useful.
48 Ellen Ripley (Alien Franchise): The perfect combination of fragile and intelligent, this character rocked through four movies. And when she was regrown with some Alien DNA, you finally felt like she had the upper hand when dealing with them – about time.
49 Jason Bourne (Bourne movies): A uniquely skilled killing machine, brainwashed and then trained as an assassin by the U.S. Government, but now with a restored memory he is living off the grid and being hunted by the criminals and shade organizations of the world. He is honest and avoids killing when he can. Can we ask for a more intriguing dichotomy?
50 Cooper (Interstellar): A NASA pilot turned farmer who gets to go back up into space in order to save mankind. And with all that, he never develops an inflated sense of self. He doesn’t even hesitate to sacrifice his own life for another, or to give his daughter the information she needs to save humanity even when it would have tempted another person to save himself. Talented and intelligent, but with no hesitation in his integrity.
51 John Shepherd (Stargate: Atlantis): Handsome, playful, doesn’t mind getting his butt handed to him in combat practice oh, and is a member of Mensa (to Rodney McKay’s eternal frustration). What isn’t to like about this regular from Stargate Atlantis?
52 Murph (Interstellar): The brilliant mind who works out time-space based on the blackhole information her father sent her, Murph is an angry kid who misses her father, feels abandoned by him, feels betrayed by the leading scientist on Earth, and still manages to get over all those feelings to find a way to save humanity. I would have liked to see more of her.
53 Raymond Leon (In Time): You live in a world where you stop aging at 25 but you have a timer on you, and the only currency that matters is that time. So you decide to go on a crime spree, stealing massive amounts of time, giving it to the lower classes. I realized the entire movie was a criticism on our own society, but the character managed to be intelligent, daring, and wholesome all at once.
Buck Rogers: I remember watching the 1970s t.v. show with its painful storylines and poorly drawn characters. But the character himself has been around since the golden age of science fiction. The stoy is simple; an astronut frozen for hundreds of year who wakes up to a post-apocalyptic world in which space travel is possible through space gates. It was an intriging idea. I hope they try an updated version at some point.