'Deep Space Nine' empowers women


LOS ANGELES -- Beware, manly space cadets.

Your excess testosterone won't be any help with Maj. Kira Nerys.

Way out on the conflict-ridden frontier of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," Major Nerys will bust your macho chops.

Unlike previous women in the "Star Trek" universe, Kira is definitely in charge. She's empowered. And that's no cheap thrill, says Nana Visitor, who portrays the brassy Bajoran.

"That was one reason I was so excited when I received the script and read a woman in command. "But she isn't just politically correct, because she's not perfect. She makes mistakes."

As a do-right Bajoran woman, Kira is the second-ranking officer to Cmdr. Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) on the "Deep Space Nine" space station. She's a former terrorist who possesses spirituality, aggressiveness and lots of ideas.

Not to mention that nifty, ridged Bajoran nose. "It makes me feel interesting, weird and otherworldly," joked Ms. Visitor.

And don't think the female stars of sister series "Star Trek: The Next Generation" haven't noticed the strong new woman on the intergalactic block.

"I think there is a way to go in terms of our show," Gates McFadden, who portrays Dr. Beverly Crusher on "TNG," said diplomatically.

Her low-key discontent was echoed by Marina Sirtis, who portrays Deanna Troi, the Enterprise's psychological counselor.

"The fundamental difference is that the two female officers in 'Deep Space Nine' are a science officer [Terry Farrell's Lt. Jadzia Dax] and a Bajoran major who is second in command of the

space station," said Ms. Sirtis. "The two female characters on 'Next Generation' are a doctor and a psychologist. As such, you're kind oflimited as to what you can do with a doctor and a psychologist."

Female "TNG" producer Jeri Taylor acknowledged there's a gender empowerment gap in "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry's mythical outer space world. It's demonstrated in the original "Trek" series and "The Next Generation."

"Gene gave the women on the show the role of nurturers and care-givers, which is in many ways appropriate but it is limiting," Ms. Taylor said. "It's hard for us at times to put those people in situations where they can show their stuff."

Or, as Ms. McFadden described the common plot predicament for herself and Sirtis: "I know that Marina and I always laughed about the fact that both of us can do fencing and that sort of thing, yet we're the ones who bash the pots over the warriors' heads instead of doing our karate or whatever."

Meanwhile, Ms. Visitor, who starred in the short-lived NBC sitcom version of "Working Girl," is luxuriating in the comfy, in-control world of Major Nerys.

"I like that she's a fully truthful, emotional being," she said. "I feel Kira uses female power, not male power. There's a long history of female warriors. So she doesn't have to ape men."

No space pun intended, we're sure.

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