Voyаɡer Hаd Anotһer Mаjor Stаr Trek First Besides Jаnewаy

Captain Janeway is known as Star Trek’s first female captain, but Voyager had another major Star Trek first in Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres.

Kathryn Janeway and B'Elanna Torres

Summary

  • Star Trek: Voyager introduced Lt. B’Elanna Torres as the series’ first female Chief Engineer, highlighting the show’s commitment to inclusivity and diversity.
  • B’Elanna Torres was chosen for the position based on her exceptional problem-solving abilities and unorthodox approaches, which proved invaluable during Voyager’s challenging journey.
  • The importance of B’Elanna Torres’ groundbreaking role in Star Trek: Voyager paved the way for future female Chief Engineers in subsequent series such as Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

Star Trek: Voyager is lauded for having Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) as Star Trek‘s first female captain to lead a series, but Voyager also had another major Star Trek first for women in its senior staffStar Trek: The Original Series counted only Lt. Nyota Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), but Star Trek: The Next Generation includes Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) as its Chief Medical Officer and Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis). Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s female senior staff members are First Officer Colonel Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor) and Science Officer Lt. Commander Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell).

While Star Trek: Voyager‘s cast initially includes just two women among its senior staff, both of them carry a significant amount of weight in the decision-making process aboard the stranded starship USS Voyager. Captain Janeway’s leadership sets the tone for Voyager’s crew and ensures that Starfleet values are upheld during Voyager’s journey home. The one responsible for ensuring that Voyager keeps running smoothly, amidst a dearth of Starfleet support, lack of supplies, and need for extraordinarily creative problem-solving, is Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson), Voyager’s Chief Engineer.

B’Elanna Torres is Star Trek’s First Female Chief Engineer

B’Elanna Exemplifies Star Trek’s Meritocracy As Janeway’s Pick for Chief Engineer

Half-Klingon B’Elanna Torres holds the honor of being Star Trek‘s first series regular female Chief Engineer, a position earned by virtue of her skills. In Star Trek Voyager season 1, episode 3 “Parallax”, Janeway and Commander Chakotay (Robert Beltran) need to fill the role of Voyager’s Chief Engineer, with the choices coming down to Starfleet’s Lt. Joe Carey (Josh Clark) and the Maquis’ Lt. B’Elanna Torres. As a Starfleet officer with seniority, Carey seems like the obvious pick, but Chakotay encourages Janeway to consider B’Elanna. Torres holds a provisional rank of lieutenant junior grade, dropped out of the Academy, and isn’t much of a team player, but she’s brilliant.

Star Trek‘s genuine meritocracy means that the most capable person gets the job, and Torres’ ability to come up with unorthodox solutions in less-than-ideal conditions is more valuable than Carey’s by-the-book Starfleet methods. Janeway recognizes this and names B’Elanna Voyager’s Chief Engineer. Torres steps up to the challenge as the first step in her personal journey throughout Voyager‘s run, which reveals B’Elanna’s self-doubt arises from a past marked by struggles with her half-Klingon heritage and fitting in with others. B’Elanna accepts confidence because of others’ belief in her, starting with Chakotay and Janeway recognizing Torres’ engineering talent.

Lt. MacDougal (Brooke Bundy) was the Chief Engineer of the USS Enterprise-D for one episode in Star Trek: The Next Generation season 1, episode 3 “The Naked Now”.

Discovery & Strange New Worlds Follow B’Elanna’s Lead

Discovery’s Jett Reno and Strange New Worlds’ Pelia are now Chief Engineers in Star Trek

Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds follow the precedent set by B’Elanna Torres in Star Trek: Voyager with their female Chief Engineers, not just as women, but as complex characters with interesting backstories. Tenacious PTSD survivor Commander Jett Reno (Tig Notaro) is rescued from the downed USS Hiawatha before serving as the USS Discovery’s Chief Engineer in Discovery season 2. Strange New Worlds season 2 introduces a female Chief Engineer with Commander Pelia (Carol Kane), a long-lived Lanthanite who previously taught at Starfleet Academy and provides ready insight into her crewmates’ behavior.

On Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Chief Engineers Reno and Pelia being women is a matter of course, much like the fact that women outnumber men among Star Trek‘s modern captains. All told, Discovery and Strange New Worlds feature a much higher ratio of women to men in their casts than previous Star Trek shows. This much more realistic projection of Star Trek‘s idealistic and equitable future exists in part because of what came before on Star Trek: Voyager, not just thanks to Kathryn Janeway in the captain’s chair, but also Star Trek‘s other important first for women: Lt. B’Elanna Torres, keeping Voyager running as its Chief Engineer.

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