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My question is simple. Have there ever been any characters, or actors of Indian descent in any of the Star Trek official canon, and if not is there some in universe explanation/theory as to why they are so vastly under represented?

The caveat here is that yes I am aware that Khan Noonien Singh has an Indian last name. I cannot recall though if in TOS or the original Wrath of Khan if they explicitly communicated if he is in fact of Indian descent. For that matter if he was of Indian descent, why in multiple appearances of this character did they not use the opportunity to cast an Indian actor to play Khan?

Are there any in universe or out of universe explanations for the lack of representation here? In a prior nuclear war did Pakistan and India blow each other off the map?

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    Khan is identified as being (probably) ethnically Indian in Space Seed. – Valorum Sep 12 '16 at 17:32
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    @Praxis good point about Khan. There are plenty of other cases where an actor plays a character of a different ethnicity to the actor. James Doohan, an Irish-Canadian with a knack for accents, played Montgomery Scott on TOS and played him up as the stereotypical Scotsman. – Robert Columbia Sep 12 '16 at 23:57
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    Let’s not forget Commander Chakotay from Voyager. He was highly ranked. – tchrist Sep 13 '16 at 1:49
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    @tchrist Wrong kind of Indian. – Crashworks Sep 13 '16 at 3:37
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    @Xalorous ..."were, unsurprisingly with their enhanced intelligence, sociopathic"... Smart people are sociopaths? – Shane Sep 17 '16 at 4:24
66

Captain Chandra from TOS: Courtmartial

enter image description here

Played by Reginald Lal Singh

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    This is a good one --- very early in Star Trek. – Praxis Sep 12 '16 at 19:51
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    Is there any confirmation that he's Indian? Other than having an Indian-sounding name and looking Indian, obviously. – Valorum Sep 16 '16 at 9:53
  • ...and the actor's actual name of course...but he was born in 1905 in British Guiana...but his ancestry...I dunno. – Paulie_D Sep 16 '16 at 9:56
61

In 'The Voyage Home', there is a ship commanded by an Indian captain, the U.S.S. Yorktown. His name is Captain Joel Randolph. His ship has been disabled when it encountered the alien probe. He talks about the solar sail they are crafting and the high hopes they have for it.

By accent alone I'd say he's of Indian decent for sure. He was played by Vijay Amritraj.

enter image description here

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    Well, the actor who portrayed him is Indian. – user58 Sep 12 '16 at 17:58
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    Extremely common Indian surname, is "Randolph". – Lightness Races in Orbit Sep 13 '16 at 8:19
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit so surname determines ethnicity? – congusbongus Sep 14 '16 at 0:05
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    @congusbongus No, but neither does the ethnicity of the actor determine the ethnicity of the character. – Williham Totland Sep 14 '16 at 13:47
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit - quite a few Indian families have adopted western (mostly English and Portuguese) surnames (particularly when converting to Christianity) - one of my university lecturers' surnames was Johnson, and another was Thompson - they had migrated to Britain from India several decades earlier as children, and still had a discernible accent. So, it is not impossible for a "Randolph" to be of Indian descent. – HorusKol Sep 15 '16 at 23:15
49

In the TNG episode The Lonely Among Us, Lieutenant Junior Grade Singh was the assistant chief engineer of the Enterprise under Chief Engineer Argyle. He didn't last long.

Lieutenant Singh was played by Kavi Raz and was the first crew member of the Enterprise-D killed on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

enter image description here

(thanks to NKCampbell for the reminder)

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    This was the other Indian I was struggling to remember. He was killed in the TNG: 1x07 episode "Lonely Among Us". – RobertF Sep 12 '16 at 19:28
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    Hmm... Not wearing red shirt. – Robert Harvey Sep 12 '16 at 20:08
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    at the risk of a 'me too' comment @RobertF ...I'll say nothing other than to reference my own comment to OP :) – NKCampbell Sep 12 '16 at 21:56
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    To be fair, the Enterprise D went through 4 chief engineers before La Forge... – user11521 Sep 12 '16 at 23:44
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    @RobertHarvey they swapped red and gold between TOS and TNG... – Immortal Blue Sep 13 '16 at 8:46
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Lt. Rahda, the replacement helm officer in the episode "That Which Survives", is shown wearing a bindi (a traditional Hindu symbol) on her forehead.

enter image description here

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    Kinda looks like Alice from the Brady Bunch. – LarsTech Sep 13 '16 at 18:43
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    @LarsTech: It's the hair. – sfhq_sf Sep 13 '16 at 20:37
  • Played by Naomi Pollack, born on May 17, 1930 in New York, New York, USA as Naomi D. Pollack. – Paulie_D Sep 16 '16 at 10:11
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    She also has an Indian name. Radha is the consort of Krishna. – Revetahw Sep 17 '16 at 10:04
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Marla McGivers identifies Khan Singh as being (probably) of Indian descent.

MARLA: Yes, sir. The leader was often set to revive first. This would allow him to decide whether the conditions warranted revival of the others.

MCCOY: Heart beat now approaching forty per minute. The respiration pattern is firming up.

MARLA: From the northern India area, I'd guess. Probably a Sikh. They were the most fantastic warriors.

TOS: Space Seed

This ties in nicely with the prequel comic issued alongside the Star Trek Into Darkness film which identifies his place of birth as New Delhi, India.

enter image description here

This comic serial also deals with the reason why "John Harrison" looks so very different from his earlier portrayal in TOS. In short because his face was altered as part of an elaborate ruse to trick him into working for Section 31

enter image description here

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    Nice. I believe the Eugenics Wars books by Greg Cox also identifies his birthplace as India. Those books have at least semi-canon status (unlike most ST print media). They are well received as filling in an important gap in Star Trek history and not contradicted by Alpha canon as far as I am aware. – Praxis Sep 12 '16 at 19:47
18

The reason that Indians, and all asians for that matter, are under represented to us is because in the Star Trek Universe during the Eugenics War and WWIII the Asian population was nearly completely wiped out. While you could say that 300 years is enough to recover I would point to the Native American population currently where there are very few pure blooded Native Americans remaining.

Then why are there more Native Americans than Asians? The answer to that is that Native Americans have largely been cloistered apart from other groups and so when Space Travel became a thing it wouldn't be out there to suspect that they'd leave and settle their own worlds apart from other human groups where as Asians, while xenophobic in a lot of ways have always blended and been a part of overall civilization meaning they likely would integrate, rather than separate and segregate on other worlds. This would lead to a regeneration of Native Americans while Asians would just become part of the common mix of humanity and their traits and pure lineages would slowly become more rare.

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    Is this speculation or is this well established in canon? I have heard this claim before but wasnt sure if this was ever explicitly stated. – maple_shaft Sep 12 '16 at 22:37
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    It's established in canon loosely. The Eugenics War(s) were fought through out Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. These are specifically mentioned and as such should be seen as the pre-dominant focus of events, but surely the Americas and Europe got involved in some way, but probably didn't suffer or fall to Eugenically engineered Rulers. Similarly the Post-Atomic Horrors and such were focused in Eastern European countries and Asia so we can assume this the combination resulted in massive populations dying on top of the recounted number of dead from WWIII. – Durakken Sep 12 '16 at 22:46
  • Also if we assume a starting population of around 6billion. We know that more than 350 million asians died due to just the wars alone. That is more than 10% of their population. If we include the radiation, the genecides, post-atomic horror, and general fall into dark ages which comes with famines we can easily see that number rising several times over. Earth as a whole can only sustain 600mil HG style which they'd be living in leading which means their population probably fell by something like 90% taking it all into account. – Durakken Sep 12 '16 at 23:13
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    If you want to add a reference, I believe the Eugenics Wars books by Greg Cox describe this. They are at least semi-canon (see my comment below Valorum's answer). – Praxis Sep 13 '16 at 2:33
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    @DavidWallace, any group that maintains a distinct cultural and racial identity while a minority group in a region should be considered to be as isolationist as, if not more than, the group they're failing to blend in with. You cannot maintain the identity through multiple generations without sticking to your own group. – Separatrix Sep 13 '16 at 7:38
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Wasn't Dr. Bashir indian?

Also Captain Robau, George Kirk's captain in Star Trek (2009) was Pakistani or Indian, played by Faran Tahir (who interestingly is playing Othello on stage in DC these days).

Bashir with parents
(source: elnil.org)

Captain Robau
(source: ex-astris-scientia.org)

Not to say they aren't under-represented... which I attribute to (a) blind spot on the writer's part or (b) targeting a local audience as opposed to an in-universe explanation such as eugenics wars which sounds more plausibly like a plot point to make up for said under-respresentation...

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    Bashir is either Arabic or North African. – maple_shaft Sep 13 '16 at 14:40
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    "In my mind, Julian was of Sudanese (like Sid), Indian, or Pakistani extraction, but that the family's roots were probably in England, hence the accents." - Ronald D. Moore – Valorum Sep 13 '16 at 15:03
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    "Sid" in the quote of Moore above would be a reference to Alexander Siddig (Siddig El Fadil), the actor who played Dr Bashir. – Glen_b Sep 14 '16 at 0:59
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    I'd agree that (subcontinent) Indians are under-represented, considering they are about a fifth of the world's population today. Probably the best explanation is that they wanted to depict a multicultural human society, but historically had to use the actors they had available to them half a century ago in LA. That means they would naturally end up rather heavy on people of European descent, and same but to a lesser extent with people of African, Native North American, and east Asian descent. – T.E.D. Sep 14 '16 at 13:36
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    ...the US Census didn't even count Indian Americans separately until about 1980, and at that point there were less than half a million of them in the entire country, with likely less than 100K of them in the western USA. That's as opposed to (in 1980) 3 times that many Native Americans, and 26 million "blacks". – T.E.D. Sep 14 '16 at 13:46
3

The character Lieutenant Ilia (Star Trek the Motion Picture) was a Deltan, and thus not any human ethnicity, but she was played by Persis Khambatta, an Indian actress, model, and author.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persis_Khambatta

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    Ilia was a non-human character, specifically a Deltan. – Irishpanda Feb 19 '18 at 13:42
  • @Irishpanda thanks for the clarification. Would it be appropriate to edit that into the answer? – Steve Feb 19 '18 at 17:05

protected by Rand al'Thor Sep 16 '16 at 1:06

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