This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe. An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.
back to Character Insight! This week, we profile Guinan, the recurring character and barkeep on TNG.
Guinan is the mysterious bartender of Ten Forward, the crew's relaxation and gathering place on the Enterprise-D. Guinan's race was scattered by the Borg many decades before her service on the Enterprise, and this intimate knowledge of Starfleet's ultimate enemy proves to be very helpful as she counsels the senior staff and Captain Picard.
Guinan and Picard shared a relationship that was said to go back many years and go well beyond mere friendship. As a result, she serves as his closest mentor during some of the Captain's toughest moments, including defending Data as a sentient being and dealing with the Borg. Guinan enjoyed many pastimes with Picard, including holonovels, chess, and fencing.
The bartender in Season 2 was originally scripted to be played by an incredibly beautiful woman, but the inclusion of Whoopi Goldberg made the character so much more than a pretty face could have offered. Goldberg brought even more established star power to the cast while interjecting much of her own unique personality into the character. That results in what Goldberg describes as a cross between Yoda and William F. Buckley, which sounds about right for Guinan.
Goldberg actually had to hound Gene Roddenberry as a fan of the show to be let on as a recurring character. He thought the movie star was joking, but she had true passion thanks to the historic groundbreaking role played by Nichelle Nichols in TOS and her friendship with Levar Burton, who was also on the show. Guinan is known for her extravagant big hats, which Whoopi had a big hand in crafting as well.
Guinan shows up in 29 episodes and 2 movies, which makes her the most prevalent recurring character behind only Miles O'Brien.
The quote of the week is from Ensign Ro:
Guinan: I heard you got grounded.
Ensign Ro Laren: I really don't feel like talking right now.
Guinan: Come on, sure you do.
Ensign Ro Laren: Why is it every time I tell you something, you tell me I mean the exact opposite?
Guinan: Because you're one of those people who's got their poles reversed.
Whoopi Goldberg played Guinan, and she can now be seen daily on a morning talk show The View, as well as on Twitter @Whoopigoldberg.
Until next time, live long and prosper...