Posted on February 16, 2010

Top Black Characters in Science Fiction

Lonnie Morgan, Wired, February 1, 2010

{snip} I can imagine a date in the future, when we refer to each other as Terran (as opposed to Martian or Titanese) or even just human.

Over my lifetime, a few movies and TV shows have got it right by casting a black actor in a particular role, not to get a stereotype on the screen, but because the actor or actress was the right fit for the part; they were the embodiment of the character.

The character was not a slang-talking, gangsta-riding jokester with a background in the ‘hood. Not a sex kitten or ultra-pro-black (or as David Alan Grier says, “Mike Tyson black”), holding the gun sideways. Not a drug-dealing, pimping, dancing and jiving stereotype. They were just another excellent player in said show or movie. They made us forget about race as a divisive issue.

So, in recognition of the first day of Black History Month, here is a list of my top 10 favorite African American sci-fi movie & TV characters of all time.

1. Ben Hanser, Night of the Living Dead, played by Duane Jones: One of the first black hero characters in a mostly-white movie? Maybe, but I am not a movie expert. Duane Jones showed us all how to take out a zombie or two.

2. Lornette “Mace” Mason, Strange Days, played by Angela Bassett: {snip}

3. Benjamin Sisko, DS9, played by Avery Brooks: Running for six years in the ’90s, Star Trek: DS9 was a great entry into the canon. And Avery Brooks owned the role of the space station commander. While most geek folk remember Avery for DS9, I still like the Hawk character better.

4. Geordi La Forge, Star Trek: The Next Generation, played by Levar Burton: {snip}

5. Lando Calrissian, Star Wars, played by Billy Dee Williams: {snip}

6. Sgt. Apone, Aliens, played by Al Matthews: While the tough-as-nails black sergeant is a running stereotype in Hollywood, Al Matthews was great in Aliens. Just wish he would have cracked a few more alien heads before being taken out in that tunnel.

7. Morpheus, The Matrix, played by Lawrence Fishburne: {snip}

8. Lt. Uhura, Star Trek, played by Nichelle Nichols: The queen. While her role was limited in most episodes, Nichelle Nichols was a fixture on the Star Trek bridge. Because of her casting, many more opportunities opened up for black actors. And that kiss was controversial for its time.

9. Lt. Vanessa Damphousse, Space: Above & Beyond, played by Lanei Chapman: {snip}

10. Mace Windu, Star Wars, played by Samuel Jackson: {snip}