Victor Grech, Consultant Pediatrician (Cardiology) and Associate Professor of Paediatrics, University of Malta

Address Of Corresponding Author

Prof. Victor Grech – MD, PhD (London), PhD (Malta), FRCPCH, MRCP(UK), DCH
HUMS, Humanities, Medicine and Sciences Programme at the University of Malta
Email [email protected]



Star Trek is a popular cultural phenomenon. One of the spin-offs, the Voyager series, features a naïve and lonely young human officer called Harry Kim who repeatedly falls for warm and affectionate “dark haired girls” or cold and calculating “schizoid women” as famously categorized by N. Katherine Hayles about Philip K. Dick’s oeuvre. This essay will analyse these two Dickian female archetypes in the love affairs of Harry Kim. It will be shown that Voyager attempts to demonstrate that in the future, not only will human males continue to yearn for compassionate “dark haired girls,” women with whom they can form genuine relationships, but that they will also find allure in physically attractive but unemotional “schizoid women”, thus providing a cautionary tale versus the inauthentic that may attempt to supplant the real in our emotions.


Star Trek has been with us since 1966, when the initial series was launched, with a total of 735 hours of viewing time, and has become part of our everyday background, such that allusions to the franchise are recognised even by non-viewers. Each new series results a reinvention of the cast, both human and alien, thereby providing myriad opportunities to examine many fascinating aspects of popular culture.

The Voyager series was created by Rick Berman, Michael Piller, and Jeri Taylor. Voyager comprised the fifth incarnation of Star Trek and was produced for seven seasons (1995 to 2001). The show follows the Odyssean adventures of the starship USS Voyager. During the ship’s maiden voyage, alien technology translocated Voyager to the other side of the galaxy, 70 years away from Earth at top ship’s speed, a journey that was eventually shortened to seven years due to various intercessions of an almost deus ex machina nature.

Harry Kim was a human Starfleet officer on the Voyager, during the ship’s seven year return journey back to Earth and the role was reprised by Garrett Wang. In the original writers’ guide, Harry is described as

of Asian descent, and had the happiest day of his life when he reported to duty aboard Voyager. He knew his parents were proud

[…]. As the only child of a couple which had tried for years to conceive, he was their great pride […]. He grew up with love, warmth, and support, and an assumption that he would excel at whatever he chose. […] he was also raised in a somewhat sheltered way. […] Having never experienced adversity, he has fewer of the tools for coping than some of the others. […] He goes about his duties with diligence […] but more than anyone else, Harry is suffering. […] The others know this, and in their varying ways, try to give the young man a helping hand. (Piller, 1994, pp. 12-13)

The combination of somewhat callow youth, naivety and loneliness makes Harry the perfect vulnerable target for predatory females. This role is occasionally reprised by other young characters in the franchise in other Star Trek series, such as Wesley Crusher in The Next Generation, Jake Sisko in Deep Space Nine and Trip Tucker in Enterprise, but these are beyond the scope of this paper and in any case, their participation in this trope is far more restricted than that of Harry’s.

N. Katherine Hayles famously investigated the trope of the “Schizoid Android” or “Schizoid Woman” in Philip K. Dick’s oeuvre, noting that Dick created female characters who “ambiguously figure either as sympathetic, life-giving “dark-haired girls” or emotionally cold, life-threatening schizoid women” (Hayles, 1999, p.  24). The term “dark-haired girl” comes from Dick’s essay on the matter (Dick, 1988, p. 171).” In Dick’s oeuvre

the schizoid functions as if autistic. Typically gendered female, she is often represented as a bright, cold, emotionally distant woman […] characterized by a flattening of affect and an inability to feel empathy, incapable of understanding others as people like herself. Whether such creatures deserve to be called human or are “things” most appropriately classified as androids is a question that resonates throughout Dick’s fictions and essays […] the schizoid android represents […] a person who acts like a machine. (Hayles, 1999, p. 61)

This essay will focus on manifestations of Dick’s “dark-haired girls” and “schizoid women” in Star Trek, through a reading of Harry Kim’s encounters with the opposite gender at the far side of the galaxy.

Star Trek and Science Fiction Literature

Star Trek episodes accede to Darko Suvin’s definition of science ficion as “the literature of cognitive estrangement” accompanied by one or more futuristic elements, which Suvin referred to as “a strange newness, a novum” (Suvin, 1972, p. 372). In these narratives, the novum is multiple and includes the existence of sentient and humanoid alien life, the possibility of faster-than-light travel and numerous other technological wonders in all of the sciences that are attributed to the inexorable march of invention and progress.

Intraspecies sexual relationships are portrayed not only as possible, but as probable, with aliens who are actually depicted as strange but attractive, not only to the protagonist within the narrative, but also to the viewer. This ignores the sheer improbability of different species which evolve on different planets somehow being able to mate. Moreover, these assumptions ignore other mating prerequisites such as being in heat in species with an oestrus cycle, mating cues and a myriad other factors as famously outlined by Larry Niven in his essay “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex” with regard to the alien Kryptonian Superman’s sex life with Lois Lane.

Superman is an alien, an extraterrestrial. His humanoid frame is doubtless the result of parallel evolution, as the marsupials of Australia resemble their mammalian counterparts. A specific niche in the ecology calls for a certain shape, a certain size, certain capabilities […]. Be not deceived by appearances. Superman is no relative to homo sapiens. What arouses [his] mating urge? Did kryptonian women carry some subtle mating cue at appropriate times of the year? Whatever it is, Lois Lane probably didn’t have it. We may speculate that she smells wrong […]. (Niven, 1971)

Within science fiction narratives in general, including in Star Trek, such affairs are therefore simplified and made to stand in as metaphors for contemporary relationships, even to the extent of postulating a sexually transmitted disease that could potentially be transmitted across species. These developments would appear to intentionally defy David N. Samuelson’s dictum that “[t]he trick in hard SF is to minimize cheating, not just disguise it with fancy footwork” (Samuelson, 1993, p.193), perhaps for the deliberate purpose of making the franchise more palatable to a wider range of viewers, an injunction that is doubtless applied to all SF narratives. Harry Kim is therefore a metaphor for everyman, that is, every Star Trek fan who enjoys the franchise and believes in the principles of the Federation.

Furthermore, some science fiction narratives in general and some episodes of Star Trek in particular emphasize concerns found in the works of Philip. K. Dick, “epistemological questions that reveal how shaky our constructions of reality can be […] cybernetic themes […] that […] radically destabilizes the ontological foundations of what counts as human” (Hayles, 1999, p. 24), and it may be argued that when Harry falls for an ex-Borg drone or a hologram, he falls foul of this tenet and indirectly informs viewers of a particular aspect that binds most of the gesamtkunstwerk of Philip K. Dick.

The romantic interests of Star Trek Voyager’s Harry Kim

Harry excelled at school both academically and in sports and was also an accomplished saxophone player. He graduated valedictorian from Starfleet Academy and requested and obtained an assignment on Voyager as operations officer.

Harry is the youngster of the Voyager team, often depicted as talented but a little naïve due to lack of experience […]. Harry’s temptation is to believe that he is more important than he has, as yet, become. As a young and upcoming officer, he longs to be special. (Baker, 2010, p. 86)

When he is so pigeonholed even after three years, he complains to his best friend, who jokingly consoles “I don’t see what’s so bad about being you. You’re good at your job, everybody likes you. […] Actually, since I’ve been on Voyager, I’ve tried to be more like you. […] ” Kim is unimpressed. “Being likeable is fine, but sometimes I wish I could be more, oh, confident with women. More like you” (Klink & Rush, 1997) (“Favorite Son”—s3, ep20).

When the captain admits two years later “You came to me fresh out of the Academy, wide-eyed with excitement about your first deep space assignment. From that first day, I’ve always felt more protective of you than the others,” Harry counters “that was five years ago. I’ve changed. […] Maybe I’m not the perfect officer anymore,” and the captain rejoins “[m]aybe not, but you’re a better man” (Taylor & Livingston, 1999) (“The Disease”—s5, ep17).

These episodes thereby evince a bildungsroman, with Harry Kim maturing over the seven years of the Voyager journey, developing in the way that most of us would like to: intelligent, cultured, disciplined, hardworking, reliable and respected.

However, poor Harry also displays a penchant for falling for the wrong woman, an unattainable object of desire. This is not uncommon as contemporary studies have shown that unrequited love is commoner in young males when compared to young females and to older males (Hill, Blakemore, & Drumm, 1997). Harry is depicted as a heterosexual male and unrequited love seemed to be his fate.

Harry first finds himself attracted to a young alien woman early during Voyager’s return journey, but this romance is quickly cut short as Voyager continues on its way (Perricone, Elliot, & Landau, 1995) (“Prime Factors”—season1, episode10), a recurrent and inevitable trope in this nomadic starship. We also learn that that he managed to have a successful but short relationship with a girlfriend on Earth after graduation, just before Voyager is stranded. Harry’s shyness with members of the opposite sex is emphasised by his confession that it took him three weeks to work up the courage to ask this girlfriend out on a date after first meeting her (Braga & Livingston, 1995) (“Non Sequitur”—s2, ep5).

The unfortunate Harry also fell in love with a holodeck character, a simulacrum of a human female. “I’m in love, and I don’t want to be. […] She’s not a member of the crew. She’s a character on the holodeck. […] That’s the problem.” This turned out to be an unattractive alien humanoid female who remotely controlled the alluring holodeck character. “She’s manipulating the holodeck […] using the […] character like a puppet. […]. As an interface, a way to move around Voyager to interact with us.” The alien becomes infatuated with another crewman, precipitating Harry into a fit of jealousy. It is eventually discovered that character is actually a lonely alien on a remote outpost who interfaced with the ship’s technology in order to obtain some relief from the ennui of her post. “Your feelings […] may be evidence of a deeper need, a more profound loneliness than you are willing to admit. Why don’t you call for a replacement? […]Attempt for a time to live among your own kind.” Once again, the relationship is terminated as the ship moves on (Menosky & Picardo, 1997) (“Alter Ego”—s3, ep14).

Later on in the journey, Harry began to exhibit alien facial markings and an apparent resurfacing of alien memories. An alien (Taresian) species almost convinces him that he is a changeling, a Taresian implanted as an embryo in a human woman. However, Harry discovers that the males of this species are killed on their wedding night after genetic material is removed for the creation of the next generation. “That’s why there are no men here. […] they’re killed!” This is because “true male children are very rare here, and that we seek out new DNA to sustain our race. We need males of other species, like you, who can be transformed into compatible mates” (Klink & Rush, 1997) (“Favorite Son”—s3, ep20). Harry escapes and again, the ship moves on. Harry appreciates the similarities between his plight and that of Odysseus, and recounts this myth to fellow alien crewmembers:

Odysseus had been warned that these women, the Sirens, sang a song so beautiful that any man who heard it would be lured to his death. […] He told his crew to cover their ears so they couldn’t hear the Siren’s song, but he also had them tie him to the mast of the ship so he could listen himself without being led astray as they sailed past.

His audience sympathises. “Anyone would have been drawn in […]. I have never seen so many beautiful women in my life.” Part of the attraction was that these sirens were “overtly offering the lure of no less than group sex. Their sexual drive is, however, channelled specifically for reproductive purposes” (Baker, 2010, p. 87). Kim further confesses “It wasn’t just the women, there was also something exciting about having a new identity and being more than just young Ensign Kim” (Klink & Rush, 1997) (“Favorite Son”—s3, ep20).

Harry later became infatuated with Seven of Nine, a rescued human Borg drone who metamorphoses out to be a blonde bombshell once the majority of her mechanical protheses are medically and surgically extracted. Thus, metaphorically, “for Dick, this fictional predicament does not far exaggerate the conditions of nonfictional reality, of an existence progressively altered by innovations in technology” (Galvan, 1997, p. 413). This hybrid individual is initially liminal, with a body that is biological but with lingering technological enhancements and a residual unemotional and coldly logical attitude.

Seven of Nine is sexually alluring but is alien to sexuality. With her cold Borg bravado, her superstrength and who-knows what residual Borg appliances lurking in her body, she is rather too fierce to be approachable to men (Lundeen & Wagner, 1998, p. 96).

Seven realised that Kim had developed a crush on her and confronted the overwhelmed ensign in one of the funnier scenes in the entire series:

I may be new to individuality, but I am not ignorant of human behaviour. I’ve noticed your attempts to engage me in idle conversation, and I see the way your pupils dilate when you look at my body. […] Are you in love with me, Ensign? […] Then you wish to copulate? […]  All of these elaborate rituals of deception.,, I didn’t realise becoming human again would be such a challenge. Sexuality is particularly complex. As Borg we had no need for seduction, no time for single cell fertilization. We saw a species we wanted and we assimilated it. Nevertheless, I am willing to explore my humanity. Take off your clothes. […] Don’t be alarmed. I won’t hurt you.

Harry, very embarrassed, untruthfully denies all this,

I don’t know what you’re talking about. […]  No! I mean, I, I don’t know what I mean. […] Look, this is a little sudden. I was just trying to. Part of the team, you know? Maybe we should just quit for now.

To which Seven replies “All right. Let me know when you wish to resume our work.” (Klink, & Biller, 1997) (“Revulsion”—s4 ep5)

This defuses this particular uncomfortable situation though Harry’s residual obsession with Seven is later manifested in a hallucination (Bormanis & Singer, 1998) (“Waking Moments”—s4 ep13).

Harry also attempts to create a relationship with one of twin sisters on Voyager. However, although he fancies Megan, she does not reciprocate, while her twin, Jenny, does. His best friend cannot understand his difficulty, semi-facetiously pointing out “[w]hat is the difference? […] They’re the Delaney sisters, Harry. They’re twins.” Harry remonstrates: “[a]re you kidding? They’re nothing alike. Jenny’s aggressive and sometimes annoying, but Megan, she’s quiet, artistic, and she’s got that cute little dimple in her right cheek.” His friend concludes: “[w]ell, you’ve done it again, Harry. […]. Fallen for the unattainable woman. First it was a hologram, then a Borg, and now the wrong twin,” and Harry concedes, “[a]t least I’m consistent.” (Biller & Kolbe, 1998) (“Thirty Days”—s5 ep9).

Harry once again becomes involved with an alien, to whom he feels an irresistible attraction “[f]rom the moment we first saw each other”. This leads to sexual intimacy and goes contrary to many Starfleet protocols. His breach is even more serious as he contracts a sexually transmitted disease. His only defence is that “With all due respect, this wasn’t a fling.” Fortunately, his condition isn’t life-threatening, and once again, Voyager moves on (Taylor & Livingston, 1999) (“The Disease”—s5 ep17).

History repeats itself for Harry when he once again becomes infatuated with a character, this time in a holodeck simulation of rural Ireland (Berger & Kroeker, 2000) (“Fair Haven”—s6, ep11).

During his days at Starfleet Academy, Harry had developed a crush for a fellow student called Lyndsay Ballard, but he failed to reveal his feelings for her. Lyndsay eventually joins Voyager and dies on during a mission. Harry later reencounters Lyndsay who was revived by an alien race known as the Kobali, and transformed into a Kobali. The doctor’s investigations show

a genetic pathogen in your bloodstream. It appears to have converted most of your human DNA into a Kobali protein structure. […] The biochemical changes have affected every system in your body. I’m afraid there isn’t enough of your original DNA left to make you human again. But I believe I can effect some cosmetic changes. […] The alternations would literally be skin-deep, and it may take several treatments, but […]. Physiologically, you’d still be Kobali.

Lyndsay gladly accepts as “I’d look human.” Harry eventually confesses:

You really don’t have any idea, do you? Think about it. I rearranged my schedule at the Academy just so we’d be in the same classes. I let you teach me how to skate even though I hate the cold. I’m crazy about you. I have been since the day we met.

Lyndsay asks him “[w]hy didn’t you ever tell me?” and he sheepishly explains “I was never good at public speaking, remember, but I figure, how often do you get a second chance? Which is why I’d very much like to kiss you now.” Unfortunately, Lyndsay’s changes are too profound at both a mental and a physical level, and before she returns to the Kobali, when Kim pleads “I don’t want to lose you,” she comforts him: “[y]ou already did, but at least this time we’ve been given the chance to say goodbye.” Harry’s best friend once again lists: “[n]ow, let’s see. For those of us keeping score, Harry Kim has fallen for a hologram, a Borg, the wrong twin, and now the dearly departed”, with Lyndsay inadvertently causing yet another disappointing relationship for poor Harry (Doherty & Windell, 2000) (“Ashes to Ashes”—s6 ep18).

Toward the end of the series, Harry encounters a humanoid female racer for whom he develops feelings: “I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun. She’s funny, smart we get along without trying. I’m going to ask her if she wants to spend some time on Voyager after the race.” His best friend smiling informs him: “Actually, I was just going to congratulate you. She’s not a Borg, she’s not a hologram, and she’s not dead. Looks like you might have finally found yourself the perfect woman.” However, it turns out that the lady was simply manipulating him in an attempt to sabotage the race with an act of terrorism through an explosion that would involve

more than a dozen ships there. Spectators, officials. […] All congregated in the name of peace. […] some sort of attack. There are hundreds of innocent people there. […] The fuel converter […] Rig[ged] to explode […] a warp core breach […] never survive the blast. Neither will anyone else within a million kilometres.

Once discovered, the plot is naturally foiled (Taylor & Kolbe, 2000) (“Drive”—s7, ep3).

And finally, in yet another of the more humorous moments in the series, Harry discovers that he is very attractive to “a fine specimen of Klingon womanhood”, arguably one who is excessively so and who will not take no for an answer. He goes to the doctor for the treatment of a small neck wound, “a bite mark […]. She was aroused. […] how to convince a female twice my size that I’m not interested. […] She’s been following me everywhere.” The doctor replies

You probably can’t […] you have two options. Kill her, or mate with her. Since the first option is clearly unacceptable. […] Authorisation for you to engage in intimate relations with a member of an alien species. Be sure to get the Captain’s approval as well.”

Luckily, a fellow crewman finds this Klingon lady very attractive and takes her off Harry’s hands (Sussman, Strong, & Windell, 2001) (“Prophecy”—s7, ep14).

The dark-haired girls and schizoid women of Philip K. Dick

Philip Kindred Dick (1928–1982) was an American writer, whose works are mostly science fiction. He explored philosophy, sociology and politics, often in narratives where the protagonists face monopolistic corporations or authoritarian governments, and wherein said protagonists often also had to contend with altered states of consciousness (Umland). Indeed, he often drew upon his own life experiences in addressing issues related to drug abuse and psychoses, such as paranoia and schizophrenia, as explained in his posthumous publication The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick (Jackson & Lethem, 2012). This is amply reflected in Dick’s own observation: “In my writing I even question the universe; I wonder out loud if it is real” (Bertens & D’haen, 2014, p. 229).

In all, Dick published forty-four novels and 121 short stories, and eleven popular films are based on his works. As already mentioned, Hayles (1999) noted that

For Dick, the android is deeply bound up with the gender politics of his male protagonists’ relations with female characters, who ambiguously figure either as sympathetic, life-giving “dark-haired girls” or emotionally cold, life-threatening schizoid women. (p. 24)

These two groups represent a Lévi-Straussian dyadism that recurred in Dick’s oeuvre, an alternation between the “dark-haired girl” archetype, an emotionally warm women female who represents Dick’s “twin sister, Jane, who died at six weeks of age because Dorothy did not have enough milk for both infants and was too ignorant to realize that the twins, already underweight at birth, were becoming fatally malnourished”. Dick was fully cognizant of these events and harboured a degree of guilt. The oppositional trope is the “schizoid woman,” modelled after Dick’s mother, Dorothy, an “intellectually gifted but emotionally cold woman who denied him warmth and affection” (p. 165).

And yet, Patricia Warrick (1979) notes that Dick’s fiction in this regard is structured such that the male character finds it well-nigh impossible to resist these women, in much the same way that Harry Kim is beguiled by the women that he encounters in his journeys and therefore cannot help becoming romantically attached to them, despite their in- or nonhumanity. This trope troubled Dick, who opined that

our environment, and I mean our man-made world of machines, artificial constructs, computers, electronic systems, interlinking homeostatic components – all of this is in fact beginning more and more to possess what the earnest psychologists fear the primitive sees in his environment: animation. In a very real sense our environment is becoming alive, or at least quasi-alive, and in ways specifically and fundamentally analogous to ourselves. (Dick, 1995, p. 183)

The ensuing tension here is that of the fear of the elision of humanity, a blurring of the borders between android and human since the former is almost indistinguishable from the latter. This forms part of Dick’s larger and equally deliberate elision of the boundaries between reality and fantasy. “I want to write about people I love, and put them into a fictional world spun out of my own mind, not the world we actually have, because the world we actually have does not meet my standards” (p. 226).

Dicks’ oeuvre is replete with these two female archetypes and only a few representative examples will be given.

In We Can Build You, Dick (1972) portrays Pris as a schizoid woman who is both “fascinating but also terrifying” with an “emptiness dead center,” an inability to experience empathy and emotion (Hayles, 1999, p.  171), an android analogue. Indeed, Dick himself noted that “[t]o define what is real is to define what is human, if you care about humans. If you don’t you are schizoid and like Pris and the way I see it, an android: that is, not human and hence not real” (Dick, 1988, p. 171).

Similarly, in The Simulacra (Dick, 1964), Nicole Thibodeaux is the permanent First Lady whose consorts are a series of male presidents. While the presidents are mechanical simulacra, Nicole is equally inauthentic, with her role being enacted by four consecutive actors since the death of the original Nicole. Thus, the serial Thibodeaux, “[t]he presidential simulacrum, far from being an anomaly, serves as a metaphor for the entire political process” with government “in Dickian terms, a giant android rather than a human institution” (Hayles, pp. 167).

In addition, in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (Dick, 1968), “these instabilities in the female subject position are exacerbated as the schizoid woman is broken into twin characters”, identical model androids, Rachael and Pris. The former plays the part of the dark-haired girl, to the extent of having sex with Deckard, thus becoming a “particularly ambivalent version of the dark-haired girl […] her characterization oscillates wildly between a desirable, empathic partner and a cold, calculating manipulator” (Hayles, 1999, p. 172). This is an impossibility for Pris who plays the part of the schizoid woman.

Furthermore, in Ubik (1969), Pat Conley is a highly attractive woman who also functions as a “particularly vicious instantiation of the schizoid woman” and who can manipulate the past so as to alter the present, unbeknownst to those in the new present. However, the schizoid dark-haired girl is shown to be a “mere facade, behind which stands a more “authentic” reality” (Hayles, 1999, p. 185) with the culprit being for the unfolding events being another character.

Interestingly, in Dr. Bloodmoney, or How We Got Along After the Bomb (Dick,1965), Bonny is a beautiful woman, “one of the very few attractive females who is neither fetishized as the dark-haired girl nor feared as the schizoid woman in Dick’s fiction” (Hayles, 1999, p. 183), a personage who takes life as it comes and attempts to live as joyfully as possible. Indeed, on the day that the first nuclear bombs fall in the Third World War, her immediate reaction is to make love to the first male passer-by, a reaffirmation of life that results in the conception of twins, and her next reaction is to mourn for the others who died in the nuclear exchange.

Discussion: Kim’s women as Dickian archetypes

In Voyager, Harry Kim’s forays with the opposite sex may be classified into two groups. Firstly, pleasant and attractive women who may or may not be human and who may or may not reciprocate his love. These include his girlfriend (Braga & Livingston, 1995), an alien encountered early in the series (Perricone, Elliot, & Landau, 1995), another alien from whom he contracts a sexually transmitted disease (Taylor & Livingston, 1999), a crewman who is a twin sister (Biller & Kolbe, 1998), another alien from an allied species (Sussman, Strong, & Windell, 2001) and a crewperson who returns from the dead (Doherty & Windell, 2000). These are equivalent to Dick’s “dark-haired girls” and such romantic encounters are common to all Voyager crewpersons. However, while the other Voyager crewmembers also occasionally fall prey to “schizoid women,” such encounters are rare and not as concentrated as in the unfortunate Harry, whose vulnerability may be due to his sheltered upbringing and the lack of adversity in previous life experiences (Piller, 1994, pp. 12-13).

The next group comprise inauthentic women, such as those who are holographic, schizoid women who cannot possibly reciprocate any sympathetic feelings but only simulate them. At the very best, these women constitute non-sentient and indifferent fictive beings who cannot harbour emotions for Harry (Berger & Kroeker, 2000). At worst, an alien manipulates the holodeck character, and interacts with Harry solely to use him (Menosky & Picardo, 1997). However, fully humanoid biological women may also approach Harry solely for their own selfish purposes, thus also behaving inauthentically (Taylor & Kolbe, 2000). Finally, schizoid women may also be part cybernetic like Seven of Nine  (Klink, & Biller, 1997; Bormanis & Singer, 1998). This early version of Seven, in her early stages of conversion to humanity from the cyborg, mirrors the way in which “[a]ndroids […] are judged to be lacking in empathy, the touchstone of the “authentic” person” (Hayles, 1999, p. 175). Seven is inarguably another Dickian schizoid woman. This group also comprises those who are simply using him (Klink & Rush, 1997; Taylor & Kolbe, 2000), an ancient trope that is evident in such texts as Homer’s Odyssey whose equivalent are Calypso, Circe and the Sirens. Hence, “[d]espite its twenty-fourth century setting, [the series] divests the Sirens of their role as holders of great knowledge, and instead depicts [them] in terms of the dangerous nature of female reproductive power” (Baker, 2010, p. 87), with the potential to dangerously and even fatally ensnare Kim.

Like Dick’s “schizoid woman,” Kim’s women are often “represented as a bright, cold, emotionally distant woman. She is characterized by a flattening of affect and an inability to feel empathy”. Indeed, these Voyager episodes sometimes mirror the “splittings, combinations, and recombinations through which Dick’s writing performs […] complexities”.  The behaviour of some of these characters is such that they are presented as “the coming together of a person who acts like a machine” (Hayles, 1999, p. 161), with the ultimate aim being that of performing a job or task only, and with no real feelings for Harry. Arguably, the commonest fear that Harry Kim experiences from his encounters is that which is reified by “[t]he android that Dick writes about in his essays […] the loss of free play, creativity, and most of all, vitality” (p. 177), which is tantamount to dread of inhuman “schizoid women” and a yearning for benevolent “dark-haired girls” (p. 24).

Such episodes echo Philip K. Dick’s comment that “[f]ake realities will create fake humans. Or, fake humans will generate fake realities and then sell them to other humans, turning them, eventually, into forgeries of themselves” (Dick, 1985, p. 6), since in Dick’s oeuvre, as in Star Trek, “The important point […] is not how intelligent machines are built but that they could be build” (Hayles, 1999, p. 163).

Interestingly, alienness is not a characteristic whereby women are branded as being inauthentic since the entire Star Trek ethos is one that not only embraces diversity but also allows that it might be possible to fall in love with or copulate with such aliens. Rather, the inauthentic are considered those whose motivations are such that they act solely for their own selfish benefit (Klink & Rush, 1997; Taylor & Kolbe, 2000), or those who are cyborgs, blended with machine and thereby contaminated (Klink, & Biller, 1997; Bormanis & Singer, 1998), or those who are completely artificial, holographic entities (Menosky & Picardo, 1997) who mask others and provide a fake and attractive appearance solely to beguile the naïve male since they are “schizoid, cruel, unfeeling, and unempathic” (Hayles, 1999, p. 164), specifically targeting the hapless Harry.

An interesting variation on these theme, as alluded to, is Seven of Nine, a human who was assimilated by the Borg, metamorphosing from human to schizoid woman, and who slowly changes back to human by the end of Voyager, embracing her humanity and rejecting her involuntary cyborgness, a transformation from schizoid woman back to metaphoric dark-haired girl, transitioning to the equivalent of the Bonny character in Dr. Bloodmoney, or How We Got Along After the Bomb (Dick,1965).


It has been argued that the “theme of avoiding the inconveniences of intimacy may also help make sense of the propensity of Trek males to fall in love with imaginary, synthetic, or disposable women” (Lundeen and Wagner, 1998, p. 100). This limits the number of characters who are permanently romantically involved in a series, with unwanted excessive restrictions to their behaviour and actions.

Hayles has noted that Dick’s oeuvre “demonstrates how potent the android is as an object for cultural appropriation in the late twentieth century” and Voyager purports to show that the android may remain as relevant well into the 24th century as they remain “associated with unstable boundaries between self and world”. These android also foreground an overarching theme, our anxieties when facing these beings with “[s]ubterranean fears about the integrity of the subject under the cybernetic paradigm” (Hayles, 1999, p. 160).

However, in the case of Harry Kim, these women offer us a repurposing of N. Katherine Hayles’s argument vis-à-vis Dick’s schizoid women and dark-haired girls, thus going far beyond the customary throwaway love interests that are found in Star Trek. This essay has thus shown that Voyager demonstrates a future that will be much like the present, a future wherein human males will continue to yearn for compassionate “dark haired girls” while unwittingly being allured and occasionally ensnared by physically attractive but unemotional “schizoid women”, thus providing a cautionary tale versus the inauthentic that may attempt to supplant the real in our emotions.

It could also be argued that the tension between dark-haired girl and schizoid women constitutes a futuristic version of the Madonna-whore dichotomy (Garcia, Reiber, Massey, & Merriwther, 2012, p. 167), with women as either pure and thus worthy of worship, or a temptresses to be despised and reviled, though such a study is beyond the scope of this paper.

It is hoped that after finally returning to Earth, the fictional Harry Kim manages to find a suitable companion who returns his affection and with whom, in proper fairy tale ending, he lives happily ever after.

About the Author

Victor Grech is Consultant Pediatrician (Cardiology) and Associate Professor of Paediatrics, University of Malta. This article is produced in association with the Humanities, Medicine and Science Programme (HUMS), University of Malta, Tal-Qroqq, Malta.


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