Every spaceship needs an engineer to get it off the ground, to add to the ever expanding crew roster of captain, first officer and doctor. In compiling this list I realised there is a great deal of overlap in fiction between engineers, inventors, mechanics and scientists. I suppose engineers are more concerned with fixing existing engines than they are with inventing new ones.
Here's my list of Top Ten Engineers:
10 - Bruce Sato
In addition to being M.A.S.K.'s mechanical engineer and Matt Trakker's right hand man is also a toy designer and a Confucian philosopher. Sato drove Rhino, the truck which converted into M.A.S.K.'s mobile HQ. In the cartoon his mask was called Lifter and it created an anti-gravity field that enabled him to lift heavy objects, while his second mask in the toy range was called Grasshopper and allowed him to jump great distances (and presumably worked exactly the same way as Lifter, but in reverse).
9 - Charles Tucker III
'Trip' to his friends, Tucker worked on the Warp 2 NX-Beta program and so was enormously proud of the Warp 5 engine aboard his NX-01 Enterprise. The NX-01 left Earth unfinished and Trip was forced to install parts of it on the move. Despite the lack of exposure his species had to alien and holographic technology somehow Trip successfully managed to fix both repeatedly.
8 - B'Elanna Torres
Following the death of the USS Voyager's Chief Engineer, Torres sufficiently impressed her captain to be promoted to the position over a superior officer. She proved to be very adept with warp engines, transporters, holograms, robotics and arguing.
7 - Reginald Barclay
Nervous and obsessive compulsive, but genius holographic engineer who suffers from bouts of holodiction, transporter phobia and arachnophobia. Served on two USS Enterprises, Jupiter Station and the Pathfinder Project. He was briefly the most intelligent man that had ever lived, de-evolved to a spider and successfully achieved two way communication with the distant USS Voyager.
6 - Geordi LaForge
Originally Star Trek: The Next Generation didn't have a regular Chief Engineer, but over the course of its first season the writers realised they needed one. Hence possibly the fastest promotion in Star Trek. LaForge was Chief Engineer on two USS Enterprises. He was an expert in computers, holograms, cybernetics and thanks to a bit of time travel he also invented the intermix chamber for Earth's first ever warp flight.
5 - 'Brains'
Aircraft, submarines, spacecraft and huge tunnelling drills: the inventor of the Thunderbirds built them all. 'Brains' is clearly a mechanical genius and he has obviously earned his nickname, but deserves even more credit for using the excellent alias of Hiram Hackenbacker.
4 - Kaywinnet Lee Frye
Firefly and Serenity's 'Kaylee' just seems to understand engines intuitively. On her first day aboard she diagnosed a problem whilst having sex with the ship's subsequently former engineer. Mal offered her a job on the spot and she managed to keep his boat in the air, even without a port compression coil in proper working order.
3 - Montgomery Scott
Known to just about everyone as 'Scotty'. He was Chief Engineer aboard two Enterprises and an Excelsior. He was the inventor of both transparent aluminium and transwarp beaming. Scotty also got a reputation as a Miracle Worker. His attitude to technological improvement is probably best summed up with the quote "The more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain" and yet he was still capable of keeping up after he spent 75 years in a transporter beam in stasis.
2 - Miles O'Brien
O'Brien was an enlisted man with a wealth of engineering and tactical experience. He served as Transporter Chief, married and raised a daughter aboard the USS Enterprise-D, but O'Brien was apparently a man who liked a challenge. He transferred to the recently abandoned Deep Space Nine as Chief of Operations and transformed it from an almost derelict space station in orbit of Bajor to a fully functioning one at the mouth of the wormhole, which then enabled it to become "the most important piece of real estate in the Alpha Quadrant". He fixed the design faults of two USS Defiants and retrofitted DS9's weapon systems and saw it through two wars. It seemed that there was nothing he couldn't fix.
1 - Rom
His skills went unappreciated in a culture which prizes business acumen above all things, but Rom was possibly the only waiter in the universe capable of successfully combining Ferengi, Cardassian, Bajoran and Starfleet technology. Rom signed on as a Diagnostic and Repair Technician, Junior Grade in DS9's waste extraction and also worked as an unlikely spy, terrorist and mercenary, before becoming Grand Nagus of the entire Ferengi Alliance. He had a talent for seeing the bigger picture which saw him save the Prophets from genocide, design the minefield at the mouth of the Wormhole which prevented the Dominion from receiving reinforcements and changed the course of the war saving billions of lives. Rom might just be the single most important character in all of Star Trek. When I first published this, Rom was at number #4, which was deemed too high by one reader. I reassessed what I'd written and instead decided that Rom was more deserving of the top spot.
Who are your favourites?
Next month: Top Ten Pilots