10 Starfleet Engineers Ranked
If it had not been for his interpersonal problems and his lack of focus, Reginald Barclay could already have been a great engineer when he came aboard the Enterprise-D. He possessed the technical skill set and the dedication, he only needed more guidance than his colleagues. His overall nervousness and his odd leisure activities in TNG: "Hollow Pursuits" aside, in the same episode Barclay eventually contributed to the solution to the problem that threatened the ship. A few years later, Barclay is visibly more relaxed, and is competent and well-respected in his profession. He plays a vital role in establishing and maintaining contact with Voyager in the Delta Quadrant, as seen since VOY: "Pathfinder".
Jett Reno's (Tig Notaro) idea of engineering is a very practical one, and in contrast to the scientific method cultivated by Stamets. Lacking medical knowledge, she keeps the injured crew members of the Hiawatha alive by means of applied engineering, as seen in DIS: "Brother". Reno remains aboard the Discovery, perhaps against our expectations, and regularly teams up with Stamets. Her acerbic humor may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I think she just likes to be tough on the outside and soft on the inside.
Stamets (Anthony Rapp) doesn't have a great start as a character on Star Trek Discovery. He comes across as arrogant and spiteful in his first couple of episodes, beginning in "Context is for Kings". But we may and we probably should excuse him because the circumstances exonerate him. Stamets is a scientist who is all into his research on the spore drive but suddenly finds himself in a war, with a captain who seems to care little for his crew. He lightens up in future episodes but could still work a bit on his soft skills. Stamets volunteers to act as a navigator for the spore drive, and an interface is implanted into his arm. Overall, despite this daring leap of faith, his way of working remains scientific, and repeatedly clashes with the hands-on approach of Jett Reno, although I think the two are of one mind more often than they would admit.
Andarithio "Andy" Billups (voiced by Paul Scheer) is the embodiment of all stereotypes about engineers. He loves his engines, and he loves people who too love engines. What makes Billups an interesting character is his back story that is revealed in LOW: "Where Pleasant Fountains Lie". He is the descendant of something like a fairy-tale monarchy, in which mysticism rules over science. When he joined Starfleet, it was more or less an escape, even more so as he chose to become an engineer, in defiance of the technophobic culture he comes from. Oh well, and there is that little detail about him still being a virgin because otherwise the throne would fall to him. It would absolutely fit the cliché about nerdy engineers, but I am glad that his virginity actually has a different reason.
Samanthan Rutherford (voiced by Eugene Cordero) is a nerd par excellence. He builds model ships (as a "social deflector dish", as Tendi quite sadly remarks). He has a unique idea of what is romantic. He is very honest but not when there is a chance to
steal borrow a brand new scanner. Tendi is the only person who really understands him. In his job, Rutherford is a pleasure to work with and is always enthusiastic, even though for anyone else most of it would be just boring routine. But he also frequently seeks challenges. In my view, he has the potential to outperform his boss and role model Andy Billups, and so I put Rutherford ahead of him. We'll definitely still hear a lot from the ensign!
B'Elanna (Roxann Dawson) is the perhaps most unusual engineer on this list. Her path of life is anything but a straight line. The half-Klingon girl was born an outsider. She went to Starfleet Academy but dropped out and decided to join the cause of the Maquis. Her engineering style is often like tinkering, like keeping things together instead of taking time to optimize them. This approach proves useful in her work on a ship that is on its own in the Delta Quadrant, and saves the lives of fellow crew members more than once. B'Elanna can be ingenious, for instance when she reprograms the Cardassian Dreadnought to attack a Cardassian target, giving the automated weapon a completely new identity. However, when it comes to disable Dreadnought after it has gone rogue, her improvising skills are in demand yet again in VOY: "Dreadnought". As B'Elanna's soft skills are concerned, she is not the greatest team worker, but she is someone that Captain Janeway can blindly rely on.
Charles Tucker III aka Trip (Connor Trinneer) oversees the systems of Starfleet's first Warp 5 vessel. He doesn't have all the fine tech at his fingertips as his colleagues 100 or even 200 years later. But Tucker's way to fulfill his tasks isn't any less brilliant because of that. He ultimately becomes indispensable on the mission to the Delphic Expanse, so much that a clone named Sim is created to keep him alive at the expense of the clone's life. Trip is not a stereotypical engineer as his recreational activities are concerned; he likes to team up with Archer or Reed on adventurous trips. He is also an outspoken personality, and is conceded a lot of leeway by Archer in this regard. Even though he is notorious for getting himself into awkward situations, Trip's life is marked by many strokes of fate: the death of his sister in the Xindi attack (ENT: "The Expanse"), the suicide of the cogenitor whom he befriended (ENT: "Cogenitor"), the aforementioned death of Sim (ENT: "Similitude"), the death of his and T'Pol's daughter (ENT: "Terra Prime"), and finally the sacrifice of his own life (ENT: "These Are The Voyages").
We know Scotty (James Doohan) as a very skilled engineer and an overall very kind guy with a couple of idiosyncrasies. I personally don't believe that he actually cares more for his engines than for people. I also have the impression that Scotty is generally honest about his work, although in TNG: "Relics" he explicitly recommends Geordi to communicate exaggerated efforts in order to appear as a wonderworker. "Starfleet captains are like children. They want everything right now and they want it their way, but the secret is to give them only what they need, not what they want." As arrogant as this sounds at first, I think after reading it a few more times it makes perfect sense for him to rely on his expertise, and to interpret orders a bit more liberally. Scotty just can afford to do this!
2Geordi La Forge
When he takes over the position of chief engineer on the Enterprise-D in TNG: "The Child", Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) is proud and happy because that is what he always wanted. I like how Geordi is not content if the systems are just operational, but gives every aspect much thought in order to find the best, rather than the easiest solution. And even if time is pressing such as when his warp core is sadly going to blow up in "Generations", he keeps cool and knows what to do to ensure the safety of the crew. Geordi lives for his job, so much that he is still awkward like a teenage boy as romantic relationships are concerned. His clash with Leah Brahms over engineering as well as personal matters in "Galaxy's Child" is legendary. Other than in this example, his social skills are admirable. I just love how Geordi manages to motivate his people, and he eventually even succeeds with Reginald Barclay.
Miles Edward O'Brien (Colm Meaney) is not one of those chief engineers who are sitting in their office and delegating work. He doesn't mind crawling through the station's service tunnels (populated by Cardassian voles) himself; he wants to ensure the work will be done right and in time. No one knows better how to keep Deep Space 9 running, as becomes obvious when he is (incomprehensibly!) sent on an extended undercover mission in DS9: "Honor Among Thieves". As a non-commissioned officer, the Irishman is an underdog among his fellow engineers. But he doesn't mind that either. What matters to O'Brien above all is his family and his duty, not fame or power. I would also like to mention how he repeatedly has to suffer in the course of the series, such as when he falls victim to strange alien justice even twice, in "Tribunal" and "Hard Time". He would have been the runner-up on my list, but LOW: "Temporal Edict" convinced me that Miles O'Brien is the most important person in Starfleet's history - and maybe even the top engineer.
- With other engineers being more interesting, I decided not to include Kelvin Scotty (Simon Pegg) to the top ten list. Like his Prime Universe counterpart, this Scott is a somewhat quirky person, but more in the sense of comic relief. Only in "Star Trek Beyond" he comes across as a truly serious character.
- Sylvia Tilly (occasionally) and Adira Tal (regularly) work in engineering for Commander Stamets.
- Jankom Pog still needs to find his place on the USS Protostar but he definitely has potential.
- Rom technically isn't Starfleet. But he decides to pursue a career as a technician under O'Brien's auspices. We have to admit that Rom is not the brightest among the staff, and I would personally not entrust him with anything more than well-defined repair jobs. But Rom has a dormant ingenuity that occasionally resurfaces, such as in DS9: "Call to Arms" when he comes up with the idea of the self-replicating mines. Ultimately, however, he gives up his short-lived career to become the new Grand Nagus in DS9: "The Dogs of War", which I think is only a small loss for O'Brien - but a giant leap for the Ferengi?
Wesley Crusher and Seven of Nine both had quite a few engineering tasks and projects, but I wouldn't list them as engineers. We saw various engineers in TNG's first season with rather little screen time. Zefram Cochrane and Henry Archer were two more great engineers, but not on a starship.