The Enduring Legacy of Kira Nerys and Michael Burnham in Star Trek

The Enduring Legacy of Kira Nerys and Michael Burnham in Star Trek

An exploration of the impact of Kira Nerys and Michael Burnham on the Star Trek franchise, and their role in redefining the portrayal of female characters in the series.

Nana Visitor's Praise for Sonequa Martin-Green

TREK Talks 3

Star Trek: Discovery's Sonequa Martin-Green was recently praised by Star Trek: Deep Space Nine actor Nana Visitor, who indicated that she expects great things from Martin-Green in the near future. Visitor played Major Kira Nerys on Deep Space Nine for all seven seasons of the show, while Martin-Green leads Discovery as Captain Michael Burnham. Both women have left an indelible mark on the Star Trek franchise, with Michael being the first Black female Captain to lead a series and Kira revolutionizing the standards of how a female character was portrayed in Star Trek, especially in the franchise's popular 1990s era.

Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham in Star Trek: Discovery.

Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham in Star Trek: Discovery.

During TrekTalks 3, a series of live-streamed Star Trek panels that raised money for the Hollywood Food Coalition, Nana Visitor was interviewed by Tamia Harper. Visitor discussed her upcoming book Star Trek: Open a Channel: A Woman's Trek, a project exploring the scope of what the franchise has done for women. Visitor talked to a wide range of people during her research for the book, including Sonequa Martin-Green. The Deep Space Nine actor had nothing but good things to say about her impressions of Martin-Green when asked. Visitor expressed her high expectations for Martin-Green's future, praising her authenticity and character.

TrekTalks 3 ended up raising over $109,000 for the Hollywood Food Coalition thanks to a matching donation from Eugene 'Rod' Roddenberry.

Michael Burnham from Star Trek: Discovery.

Michael Burnham from Star Trek: Discovery.

The Emotional Depth of Kira Nerys and Michael Burnham

Aside from Visitor's words of praise, Michael Burnham and Kira Nerys have some important things in common. Earlier in her TrekTalks panel, Visitor discussed the importance of Kira as a character, stating that she felt as though Kira was allowed to explore and express her emotions in a way that other characters she had played before weren't. Visitor pointed out that, even though Kira was Bajoran, she demonstrated 'the full spectrum of human emotions' during her time on Deep Space Nine, and was not forced into a smaller, more socially acceptable box like so many female characters of the era.

Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor) from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine stares at the camera.

Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor) from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine stares at the camera.

Visitor's statements about Kira also apply to Michael on Star Trek: Discovery. Although female characters are less boxed in on modern television, there are still unspoken rules about when they should display emotions or how they are allowed to act. Like Kira, Michael is an emotionally driven character, who makes mistakes and isn't always portrayed in a way that makes the audience like her. Showing Michael as a complicated human rather than the idealized version of a woman has not only made her a more interesting character but has helped carry on Kira Nerys' legacy.

Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) smiles sadly off-screen in Star Trek: Discovery.

Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) smiles sadly off-screen in Star Trek: Discovery.

Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine are both available to stream on Paramount+. Discovery season 5 premieres in April 2024.

The Impact of Kira Nerys and Michael Burnham

Both Kira Nerys and Michael Burnham have had a significant impact on the Star Trek franchise and its portrayal of female characters. Kira Nerys, played by Nana Visitor, revolutionized the standards of female character portrayal in the 1990s era of Star Trek. Her emotional depth and character development paved the way for future female characters in the series to express a full spectrum of human emotions, breaking free from the socially acceptable boxes they were often confined to.

Kira and Garak liberate Cardassia in the Star Trek: DS9 finale.

Kira and Garak liberate Cardassia in the Star Trek: DS9 finale.

Similarly, Sonequa Martin-Green's portrayal of Michael Burnham as an emotionally driven and complex character has redefined the expectations of female characters in the modern era of Star Trek. Both Kira and Michael have shattered stereotypes and demonstrated the strength and complexity of female characters in the Star Trek universe.

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Editor: Denni

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