Boldly Go: Thinking About Heroes

A red shirt with a Star Trek communicator pin. Text: Something for Sunday; August 11, 2019; Boldly Go

Space: the final frontier
These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise
Its five year mission:
To explore strange new worlds
To seek out new life and new civilizations
To boldly go where no man has gone before

Do you recognize those lines? They’re from the TV show Star Trek. Not long ago, someone on Twitter asked people to identify their first character crush, and my immediate answer was Spock. The original Spock, that is, an alien played by Leonard Nimoy on the original Star Trek series. It was first broadcast in 1966, when I was in my early teens, and I actually made a scrapbook with pictures and quotes from the show, especially those featuring Spock. (I’ve remained a fan ever since. The communicator pin in the image is mine, and it makes a chirping noise when you tap it! I won’t say what it means that I’ve photographed it on a red shirt. Those who know, already know.) What I loved about Spock was that he was intelligent, rational, and able to make tough choices to do what was right, though others might disagree. His loyalty to his ship and its crew and officers was unquestionable. In my mind he was, to use the lingo of the day, dreamy, even though he wasn’t conventionally handsome.

Photo of Mr. Spock, as played by Leonard NimoyThis got me to thinking about what it was that drew me to that particular character. I thought about other characters who’ve been my heroes, and discovered something interesting about myself and my characters that relates to my current WIP (Work in Progress).

Another character I’d hold up as a hero is the Doctor, a character on the long-running BBC show Doctor Who, whose real name is never revealed. The Doctor is a Time Lord, from a race with the technology to travel throughout time and space and build things that are bigger on the inside than the outside. He (and I use the masculine pronoun merely as a convenience; a Time Lord’s gender is fluid) is eccentric, brilliant, crotchety, compassionate, and has an inexplicable fondness for Earth, which he has protected from a truly endless series of evil aliens. His approach to solving problems is to think them through and figure out what needs to be done, no matter how outrageous it might seem to lesser beings. His choices are always based on doing what is right, even when it is hard or dangerous. He frequently risks his life to save others who clearly don’t deserve it, but he has an especially ferocious loyalty to those he travels with. He only has one weapon, the sonic screwdriver, which can manipulate objects but not hurt anyone. The show began in 1963, but I didn’t start watching it until the early 1980s, and I’ve been hooked every since. The character has been played by many different people (14 of them in the continuity of the TV series, plus a few others in movies and other rare events). My love is for the character, not specific actors, so it doesn’t matter that some are gorgeous, some are not, or that they come in all ages and both genders.

Composite photo of all 14 actors who've portrayed Dr. Who on TV over the yearsAnother of my celebrity heroes is MacGyver, as portrayed by Richard Dean Anderson in the original show, from 1985-1992. He solved problems by improvising offbeat devices out of whatever was handy, using his broad knowledge of all fields of science and technology. He frequently championed the downtrodden or less fortunate, and would never abandon anyone who needed his help, and he hated violence. MacGyver never used a gun except to take one apart and build something else out of the parts. As you can see, Anderson is a very handsome man by most standards, so it’s not like I have anything against conventional standards of attractiveness!

MacGyver, as played by Richard Dean AndersonI could go on to list a few other character crushes of mine, but with just those three to go on I can come to the following conclusions about the kind of character I see as a hero:

  • Smart and knowledgeable
  • Unswervingly loyal
  • Inclined toward science and technology
  • Adhering to a strong moral code, even if it’s a bit eccentric
  • Brave about stepping up to save others
  • Practical about doing what needs doing, no matter how hard
  • Somewhat eccentric or offbeat

I like this list, especially because it turns out that it also fits one of the characters in my WIP. He’s a strong supporting character and turns out to be the romantic interest of my main character. It’s good that he is a hero in my book!

What makes someone a hero in your mind?
Who are your favorite hero characters?

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