question of the day: What are the makings of a great science fiction hero?

Nathan Fillion as Mal Reynolds in Firefly

SFX magazine recently conducted a poll to determine the Top 10 Sci-fi Icons Of All Time, and the just-published results (not yet online at SFX’s Web site, available via a press release) are a tad surprising:

1. Captain Mal Reynolds (Firefly)
2. The Doctor (Doctor Who)
3. Captain Jack Harkness (Torchwood)
4. Buffy (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
5. Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
6. Ianto (Torchwood)
7. Harry Potter
8. Mr. Spock (Star Trek)
9. Dean Winchester (Supernatural)
10. Starbuck (Battlestar Galactica)
I confess to stunned amazement that Mal Reynolds tops the list. Not that Mal isn’t a great character, and from one of the very best SF shows ever. But he is of such a different quality from the other characters in the top 10.

Perhaps that’s what makes Mal so special. With the exception of Ianto (whom I’m also surprised to see on the list, though again not that it’s not deserved), there’s actually nothing “special” about Mal. He’s normal human man. He has no superpowers. He’s not an alien. His past is nothing spectacular. His future is very much in doubt. He has lost almost everything and has nearly nothing left to lose… which is much like the new incarnation of the Doctor, except Mal doesn’t have the resources the Doctor does. (The Doctor never worries about money; Mal almost never stops.)

Maybe we can identify most with Mal, and that’s what makes him special.

What do you think? What are the makings of a great science fiction hero? And who would be your top sci-fi icon of all time?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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