When I do a theme series of columns, there’s a certain amount of pretending going in when time comes for image selection. After all, it’s possible I first think of the person from somewhere else. Oh, sometimes, I amuse myself and use the same image for everybody—I did that for M*A*S*H and Remington Steele and Zorro and Mork & Mindy—but mostly, I glance through the person’s IMDb page, sigh, and search for an image of them from that month’s theme. This is even true in October, which is horror-themed despite my dislike of horror generally.
So let us discuss Nana Visitor. There’s a lot to discuss there. She’s the child of a ballet teacher and a choreographer—and when I tell you that her mother’s name is Nenette Charisse, you will be aware of exactly what kind of dancing family she’s from. (Though both sisters clearly changed their name, as the original family name is Finklea.) Starting in the ‘70s, she had the Standard TV Career. Lots of shows you’ll recognize there, from Doogie Howser, MD, to Empty Nest. She did an episode of Remington Steele, in fact, about nude pictures. She was three different characters on Matlock and two on MacGyver.
In 1990, she got a job that must have seemed like the ticket to success. She was sixth-billed on Working Girl, a sitcom version of the successful movie. And it is true that the woman playing Tess McGill on it would go on to bigger and brighter things, including an eventual Oscar win. (And a couple of Razzies.) I’ve never seen it, but from what I can tell, she was basically playing the Sigourney Weaver role from the movie, Tess’s boss. It wouldn’t have been the first movie based on a TV show to become a success, but it also isn’t the only one to last less than a season instead.
Deep Space Nine is the Star Trek that, when I’m describing it, causes me to sigh and say, “It’s really a Western if you think about it.” It’s that kind of frontier outpost sort of thing it’s got going. It’s not a complete parallel; the politics of Bajor and so forth get really complicated, and it’s got the deepest and weirdest spiritual undertones of any Trek. Major Kira is a former member of the Bajoran Resistance who is now basically under the authority of another outside force, and she’s not always thrilled about that even if she likes having the muscle of Starfleet to keep out further invasions. But still, it wouldn’t be completely impossible to pick up the basic structure of the show, even unto Kira’s personality, and set it down in the American West of the 1880s.
Though of course Kira wouldn’t be a woman in that hypothetical Western. She’s the second-ranked person in the complicated hierarchy of the station, with more authority than several Starfleet types, but also she’s one of the only major women of the show. I get why they didn’t make, say, Quark a female character; the Ferengi are one of the only groups with worse sexual politics than TV executives. And at least her character’s pregnancy was an organic part of the show, used because Visitor herself was pregnant at the time. Still, there were places for more women on that station.