2016 Gave Us Some of the Best Female Sci-Fi Characters on TV

Here are my top 10 science-fiction shows featuring badass women.
Publish date:
December 13, 2016
sci fi, tv shows, Strong Women Characters, TV

Science-fiction television is having a comeback, and it’s smarter and more modern than ever, often featuring some of the most diverse casts on TV and creating some of the most fully realized female characters. The women in these shows are smart, talented, and humanized.

So here are, what I believe to be 2016 top 10 best sci-fi shows featuring badass women in 2016.

Orphan Black

Tatiana Maslany finally won an Emmy for her outstanding portrayal of our favorite clones and got to play them all again on a fantastic fourth season of Orphan Black. There were three additional clones: MK, the computer genius who also happens to be (rightly) paranoid, Beth, the mysterious suicidal detective, and Krystal, the “Barbie” clone who shows off her impressive investigative skills. Oh, and she can take you down if need be.

We also met Felix’s biological sister Adele (Lauren Hammersley), who, although a drunk, has lawyer skills that actually come in handy, the previously thought dead Susan Duncan (Rosemary Dunsmore) who may be the man behind the mask of Neolution, and the almost Rachel, Evie Cho (Jessalyn Wanlim).

And of course, all of our favorite characters return, unearthing a new layer of the conspiracy in the process. It is easily the most female-heavy show on TV.

Mr. Robot

You may have heard of a little show called Mr. Robot about a guy named Elliot just trying to hack the system. Well, this year, it upped its game and truly enhanced its female cast.

First off, Darlene (Carly Chaikin), Elliot’s sister, has to take over F.Society, which is actually a lot of hard work when you're hiding from the FBI. Angela (Portia Doubleday) becomes a Power Suit at Evil-Corp and shows off that she is more than just a pretty face. We learn so much more about Whiterose (B.D. Wong) and how exactly she is so damned good at running the Dark Army. And last but not least, there is the new character, Dom (Grace Gummer), who seems to be the only competent person in the FBI. I mean, yes, you don’t want her to figure it all out, but you kind of do just because she’s so on top of it.

Dark Matter

You might have thought that Dark Matter was just a fluffy sci-fi show full of tropes, but this year it was so much more. Two (Melissa O’Neill) is more than just a leader; her enhanced biology not only adds to the plot but also gives her crucial abilities. Five (Joelle Ferland) is still the heart of the group, but her friendship with The Android is everything, and her continuing ability to fly under the radar is still useful. Oh, and she just happens to have the key to changing everything. The Android (Zoie Palmer) saves asses on more than one occasion; we learn she does have feelings (and why), and she has a new ability that will surely be vital next season. Then there is the new character, Nyx (Melanie Liburd); at first you think, “Wow, she is truly feared and can actually defeat Two!” and then you learn there is a reason why.

All of these women are more than their stereotypes, and we get to see their full range of emotions.


Sure, this show was about bounty hunters in space, but that is only a means to an end this season when they have mysteries to solve and people to save. Dutch (Hannah John-Kamen) is still probably the coolest character on television, and we finally learn her history and why she was trained as an assassin. Pawter (Sarah Power) learns to use her influence to take charge and try to save all of Old Town, all while stealing Johnny’s heart. And then, of course, there is still the sassy spaceship Lucy (Tamsen McDonough) who can always swoop in to save the day.

12 Monkeys

Two words: Jennifer. Goines. If you loved Emily Hampshire as this character last season, she has way more screen time this time around, and we learn why she is so bizarre yet so wise. Also, Cassie (Amanda Schull) is now a time-traveling doctor who can use a gun, which is immensely important because someone has to help Cole save the world. Dr. Jones (Barbara Suchow) is still the smartest person in the room and one tough cookie; she also probably has the biggest emotional roller coaster of the season. On its top layer, 12 Monkeys may have at one time seemed like the men were saving the world, but once you watch, it’s abundantly clear that women are the ones making it all happen.

The 100

There was controversy this season, but that doesn’t mean that the female characters were anything less than expected. Clarke (Eliza Taylor) still plays the savior, but if it weren’t for Raven’s genius and Lexa’s kick-ass skills it would be all for naught.

In fact, Raven (Lindsey Morgan) probably had the hardest story arc this season; she's definitely turning out to be the strongest character and she also has magical computer hacking skills (yeah, I thought she was a mechanic too, but we’ll just let that go). We also got to see Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey) rule over the 12 tribes and show us exactly why she had the commander position in the first place. Indra (Idina Porter) has a sort of fall from grace, but we see her get back up and again fight for her people. Octavia (Marie Avgeropoulos) kind of loses it, for good reason, but she can still do her duties. It turns out a female AI actually destroyed the earth and is trying to do so again, so we meet her designer, Becca (Erica Cerra), from 100 years ago, who eventually saved those who became the Grounders.


Kirsten (Emma Ishta) is a genius with a dubious past which, with the help of technology, gives her the ability to go into the minds of dead people to help solve their murders. Meanwhile her roommate/frenemy Camille (Allison Scagliotti) is also a genius who becomes this jack-of-all-trades type who can help out with most things in the super-secret government program they are involved with. This program happens to be run by a tough-love kind of woman, Maggie (Salli Richardson-Whitfield), who is also willing to go to bat for her team when necessary, especially when it comes to the real reasons behind said super-secret program.

The Expanse

Billed as the next Battlestar Galactica, one can only imagine how epic and complex this show is. It has a diverse cast of female characters who always seem to command the room. Although we are often led to believe that one of the men is leader of the belter (as in asteroid belt) engineers, Naomi (Dominique Tipper) is very clearly the brains and has the coolest head.

The most featured Martian on the show is Captain Theresa Yao (Jean Yoon) of the Donnager, who interrogates the belter engineers after a misunderstanding about a mysterious incident. Within The Belt on Ceres Station is Detective Muss (Athena Karkanis), who tries to help Detective Miller solve the disappearance of the all too mysterious heiress Julie Mao (Florence Faivre). Meanwhile on Earth, Chrisjen Avasaria (Shohreh Aghdashloo) is an influential member of the UN and quite the manipulative politician. But what is most impressive about The Expanse is that you can’t actually figure out who are the “good guys” or “bad guys.”


Following the most recent trend of turning movies into TV series, Frequency actually succeeds really well. First off, it stars a female detective, Raimy (Peyton List), who saves her cop dad who died 20 years in the past by communicating with him through an old ham radio. But of course, if you mess with the timeline, bad things can happen, so Raimy’s mom Julie (Devin Kelley) is now dead in the future. Now it’s up to Raimy, who remembers both timelines, to use her detective skills in the future and combine them with her dad’s in the past to catch a serial killer before he gets to her mom (who, by the way, is a pretty great character, too). It’s great as “light” sci-fi because it combines that beloved cop drama formula with technology that totally flips it on its head.

Stranger Things

If you somehow missed the cultural phenomenon Stranger Things, you have probably at least heard of this girl called Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) who kind of falls into that wonder-child trope — but she does it so well. Having been taken as a baby and experimented on by the government her whole life, she lacks social skills but definitely makes up for it with her telekinesis, among other things. There's also Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder), the mother of a missing kid, who is quite ingenious when it comes to supernatural communication. She grows a backbone to get what needs to be done, done, no matter how crazy people think she is.