10 Star Trek Characters With Wasted Potential

There's a show all about the Romulans - so where is our favourite blonde Commander?!

Sela Star Trek Next Generation Denise Crosby

"STAR TREK is… " are the words that began the franchise all the way back in 1964 in Gene Roddenberry's first pitch for the show, and writers, producers, and fans alike have been trying to fill that ellipsis ever since. Roddenberry's treatment for Trek did make some things clear: there would be "strong central characters" at its core, and the story would emerge through their travels to "meet the action-adventure-drama" on distant, but terribly familiar, worlds. Differently named in the pitch (except for a certain then "half-Martian" with "semi-pointed ears"), The Original Series quickly settled on the triumvirate of Kirk, McCoy, and Spock around whom most of the plots focussed.

Other series in the franchise took readily to the ensemble approach, of which Deep Space Nine is almost certainly the finest example. With a vast cast of main characters, some could have easily fallen by the wayside, but, in general, most were almost unrecognisable by the series' end when compared to our first glimpses of them in Emissary.

The Next Generation, Voyager, and Enterprise also tended to have strong arcs for its central characters – B'Elanna and Tom Paris from outlaws to in-laws, for example. Certain characters, however, came bursting onto the screen with such dazzling potential only to dim into the background or disappear completely. The most recent incarnations of Star Trek, some more character-based than others, have also had varying degrees of success in this regard.

Here are 10 such characters whose initial promise was ultimately wasted.

10. T'Rul

Sela Star Trek Next Generation Denise Crosby

When the Defiant suddenly decloaked nigh-on inside Deep Space Nine's shield perimeter, you were probably sporting a similar astonished look to that of the quintet of fazed faces in Ops. ("A little surprise for the Dominion.") Had Starfleet finally taken the Admiral Pressman approach to The Treaty of Algeron? Nah! They were just borrowing a cloaking device from the Romulans, strictly for use in the Gamma Quadrant, to be supervised and operated by new arrival, Romulan subcommander T'Rul.

Played by Martha Hackett, later of Seska fame/infamy, T'Rul was originally devised as a recurring character along with the also freshly-embarked Lieutenant Commander Michael Eddington (cue Odo side-eye). Whilst Eddington would go on to appear in several more episodes, the character transforming from (seemingly) stringent Starfleet Security Officer to devoted Maquis leader, T'Rul was not quite so fortunate.

After some relatively compelling action for the character in fighting the Jem'Hadar, and a fairly epic 'death' in the Vorta simulation in The Search, Parts I & II, T'Rul simply shimmered out of existence as if she'd accidentally cloaked herself. Apparently, the Romulans suddenly decided they didn't need anyone to supervise their technology.

Having a permanent, obligatory Romulan presence on the Defiant and, by extension, on the station could have provided countless story opportunities, in particular the development of Romulan-Federation relations with T'Rul in a role similar to that of T'Pol (avant la lettre), the first Vulcan to serve aboard a Starfleet vessel (although with some obvious differences between the two). T'Rul may also have had to decide where her loyalties lay in moments of crisis: with her immediate shipmates or always, and no matter the circumstance, with the Romulan Empire?

It would have been fun to find out.

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Jack Kiely is a writer with a PhD in French and almost certainly an unhealthy obsession with Star Trek.