My Top Seven Favorite Women in Space: Awesome Boots, Vesty-things, and Acts of Ass-Kickery
Space – the Final Frontier. The Black. The Intergalactic Highway. The Galactic Empire. Whether you prefer Space Pirates, Space Cowpersons, Space Officers, or Space Princesses, there’s a sci-fi for that. Maybe it’s my love of amazing boots, leather, and holster-y things that wrap around your legs and arms, but I would like to apply for the position of Space Pirate. Or Space Princess. Or better yet, Space Pirate Princess… I’m pretty sure I could rock that harder than I could a Federation Uniform. Not that there’s anything at all wrong with the Federation, Captain Janeway. Ma’am. I mean, Captain.
I mean… here is a look at some of my personal favorite Ladies in Space!
1.) Captain Kathryn Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager
Captain Janeway rivals Captain Picard for my personal favorite Star Trek Captain, and Voyager was certainly my favorite of the Star Trek shows. It wasn’t because she was a woman and so am I, it was because she was just such a great, nuanced character. She was decisive, but not always right. She could put her money where her mouth was, often going on away missions with her crew. I loved how she was often shown in Astrometrics, Med Bay, or Engineering, talking to B’Elanna and Seven and Harry and Tom about their jobs and how to best support the needs of the ship and her crew. It always felt like she would have been an awesome boss, more along the lines of, “What exactly do you need to get this done the way I want it? How can I facilitate this the best we can under these circumstances?” Many episodes saw her working side by side with her crew, and to me, that sent the message that she was accessible, willing to listen, and open to suggestions. The circumstances were not always ideal, and Janeway made mistakes, but she always made amends to the best of her ability and owned her choices. Her love of “Coffee. Black,” is tantamount to Picard’s, “Earl Grey Tea. Hot.” She even claims that coffee is what helped her win against the Borg. As a lady who fuctions best infused with the ‘feine as well, I understand. Hats off to Kathryn Janeway, and may replicators soon become reality!
2.) Turanga Leela from Futurama
I have a deep, abiding love for Futurama. Of all of the irreverent cartoons out there, Futurama takes the gold. It’s hilarious, bizarre, and oddly emotional. Don’t even get me started on Fry’s Freaking Dog. Nope. Witness the Great Northern Nopelope, as it nopes off into the distance. Leela is … well, a sewer mutant. She has one giant eye instead of the usual two. Despite this, she excels at martial arts, can fly and captain a spacecraft, and is even generally considered desirable by a society that looks down on mutants. Leela is badass – I mean, look at her boots! She dresses simply but has an iconic look. She excels at ass-kickery, but is also an animal lover. And, most importantly, she is pretty much the only member of the Planet Express team to consistently display competence. Every time Futurama has been cancelled and brought back, I’m on a rollercoaster of feels. Bring it back and – and leave it back, you guys!
3.) Susan Ivanova from Babylon 5
Not only is Ivanova never wrong, she is also always right. If everyone on B5 did as Ivanova said, more things would have been okay. Like the rest of the characters, she goes through ups and downs in her personal life, but unlike certain other characters, her professional performance never suffers. Ivanova is present, able, decisive, and commanding on the job, and often shows a wicked sense of humor. Without her, everyone else’s job and day suck just a little bit more. Her success in light of her difficult past – hiding out from the Psi-Corps, a mother who committed suicide, romantic difficulties – makes the woman she became all the more interesting. Also notable – she is shown to be bisexual. She admits to being in love with Talia, a Psi-Corps telepath stationed on Babylon 5, and later admits to wishing that she had allowed herself to fall for Marcus Cole, who gave up his life to save hers. Ivanova may be unlucky in love, but for me, that just made her more relatable. Sometimes the brilliant ones struggle in other areas, and Ivanova’s strengths lie in her profession rather than in matters of the heart.
If you have doubts as to how awesome Ivanova is, check out the Babylon 5 Mantra:
And then, check out this piece of awesome:
4.) Zoe Washburne from Firefly
I had a hard time choosing between the women of Firefly. I really love them all – Inara’s diplomatic skill, quiet grace, and intensely amazing fashion sense, Kaylee’s mechanical genius and bright, sunny personality, and River’s incredible intelligence, resilience, and badassery. All of that aside, Zoe Washburne is my favorite. Zoe is a military woman who has had to adapt to an outlaw lifestyle. That could not have been an easy transition – she’s still so used to being Captain Mal’s subordinate officer that she carries over much of that military attitude and respect even into her new gig as his second in command on the Serenity. Zoe is confident in her skills as a fighter and weapons expert and is able to assess a situation quickly and understand tactically what needs to happen. I love that Zoe married a zany weirdo for love. It makes sense. With a serious, dangerous line of work like Zoe’s, it’s probably really nice to come home to someone funny and gentle like Wash. Dammit, Whedon. I mean, really, REALLY dammit! You and your leaves on the wind. You magnificent bastard.
I think we need to coin a new Whedonverse term. You know how the term, “the Big Bad” came from Buffy and we now apply it all over geekdom? I think we need to use, “the Big Sad” to describe that distinctive feeling when The Joss rips away from you a character you’ve invested in emotionally, rendering you speechless and angry. RIP Wash, Joyce, Wesley, Tara, Doyle, Cordelia, Fred… etc. I’m literally terrified of what might be to come for the MCU! Give me strength. Seriously. Anyway, it makes perfect sense that a person with a scary job that involves dealing with dangerous, bad people and sometimes BEING dangerous, bad people, might like a bit of Hoban Wash to come home to. Even if it’s not forever. Zoe’s sarcastic side might be my favorite thing about her. When she and Mal are making fun of Wash’s flirtation with jealousy and she replies to Mal’s joking suggestion that the only way to clear the sexual tension was for them to just do it with, ” I understand. We have no choice. Take me, sir. Take me hard.” God, I love her. So deadpan. So funny. So Zoe.
5.) Beka Valentine from Andromeda
I love Beka for so many reasons – she’s a cool, independent space lady who owns her own ship, flies it flawlessly, and has nanobots that can change the color of her hair at will. Who doesn’t want that?! But mainly, I love Beka for her faults. She’s impulsive – so am I. She doesn’t have it together all of the time – yeah, been there. She has terrible taste in men. She even has a round with addiction. But, on top of all of that, Beka is loyal, a kickass fighter, and cares deeply for her crew. Long before she joined up with Dylan Hunt on the Andromeda, Beka was trying to make a living in the Space Scrap and Cargo business with her ship, the Eureka Maru, and she’s responsible for getting my Space MacGuyver TV boyfriend Seamus Harper off of the craphole that was once Earth. Beka is like a mother/big sister/best friend/cool boss all rolled into one for her crew, and when it turns out that she’s also the Matriarch of the Nietzschean race – her genes were just so great that they were used to create a race of superhumans – her awesome factor is racheted up the scale. Like Zoe, Beka has been both pirate and officer, but Beka is at her natural best in command of her own ship.
6.) Princess Leia from Star Wars
Princess Leia was one of the first female characters I saw as a young child who made me want to BE her. She’s sarcastic – me too! She’s a Space Princess – I WANT to be a Space Princess! She’s a crack shot with a blaster, and she helps to lead a Rebellion against the Galactic Empire. Although she is first shown in her iconic white dress, she is later shown wearing – you guessed it – awesome boots and cool pants. And vesty-things. My love of boots and vesty-things was born from love of Princess Leia, as was the spark of my imagination that wanted to be an action princess in charge of a rebellion. Leia was the beginning of the space-lady love for me, and if I ever get to meet Carrie Fisher, I’ll tell her so and thank her for her portrayal of a sarcastic, crack-shot space princess with awesome boots, a sassy attitude, and the coolest job in movie history.
7.) Aeryn Sun from Farscape
If you doubt my love of Aeryn Sun, check this out. I’ve already gone on a LOT about why Aeryn Sun is awesome, not the least of which is her gender-swapped roles with her lover John Crichton. To recap, she’s physically stronger than him, a better fighter, and less sentimental. And John Crichton is no wimp! Aeryn Sun falls into the Zoe Washburne pattern of former-military-turned-outlaw, but the outlaw life didn’t agree with Aeryn as easily as it did with Zoe. Aeryn had a really hard time adjusting to life on Moya with her former crewmates chasing her down to kill her. The life she had assumed would be hers and at which she was excelling was ripped away from her when she was “contaminated” by proximity to John Crichton, a condition that turned her previous allies into enemies. To say that Aeryn took her fate in stride and gracefully would be false. She was angry. She raged. And, in doing so, started to understand emotions for the first time in her life. Her anger was justified and important to who she was becoming as a character.
In the category of honorable mention, I have to include the women of the anime Outlaw Star. From Twilight Suzuka’s assassin with a secret nice side to Melfina’s River-esque girl-in-a-box act, to Aisha ClanClan’s Cat-Alien (Ctarl-Ctarl Empire) spaceship-captain-in-disgrace, the women of Outlaw Star do not disappoint. They stand out, they evolve as characters, and they advance the plot with their storylines and character arcs. And check it out – Aisha has the requisite Boots of Space Outlawhood!
Whether they are Intergalactic Royalty like Princess Leia, actively engaged in military service like Kathryn Janeway and Susan Ivanova, former military-turned outlaw like Aeryn Sun, Zoe Washburne, and Aisha ClanClan, or mercenaries at heart like Beka Valentine and Turanga Leela, these women represent my favorite representations of women in space in science fiction and space opera. If you need me, I’ll be running around outside in my boots, leggings, and vest. For reasons.
Sara Goodwin has a B.A. in Classical Civilization and an M.A. in Library Science from Indiana University. Once she went on an archaeological dig and found awesome ancient stuff. Sara enjoys a smorgasbord of pan-nerd entertainment such as Renaissance faires, anime conventions, steampunk, and science fiction and fantasy conventions. In her free time, she writes things like fairy tale haiku, fantasy novels, and terrible poetry about being stalked by one-eyed opossums. In her other spare time, she sells nerdware as With a Grain of Salt Designs, Tweets, and Tumbls.
—Please make note of The Mary Sue’s general comment policy.—
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]