There have been countless trees killed in the name of explaining the “Star Trek” phenomenon. But to me, it all boils down to three things: starships, aliens and sex.

Starships because, with the exception of “Deep Space Nine,” every TV series and movie has been set on one. Aliens because it would be incredibly boring if the exploration of space revealed nothing more than floating meteorites and chunks of old satellites.

And sex because — well, because it’s everywhere, from the original crew’s miniskirts and Capt. Kirk’s mack daddy persona to the Ferengi, a race of sex traders whose erogenous zones are located in their ginormous ears.

The latest — and arguably the most highly anticipated — entry in the franchise, “Star Trek Into Darkness,” opened in theaters Wednesday.

The captains (and Spock) get the bulk of attention from Trekkies/Trekkers, but without strong female characters, the entire “Star Trek” universe would be about as appealing as “Star Trek V.” That is to say, nonexistent.

Here, then, are my picks for the best female characters in the “Star Trek” franchise:

Nyota Uhura (Nichelle Nichols and Zoe Saldana): Enterprise’s communications officer didn’t even get a first name until the 2009 film reboot, but that didn’t keep her from becoming the sexiest woman in space until Princess Leia — and one of the smartest. Uhura was the first woman of color on TV who wasn’t a stereotype, and she and Kirk (William Shatner) famously shared the first interracial TV kiss, albeit unwillingly, in the 1968 original series episode “Plato’s Stepchildren.”

Deanna Troy (Marina Sirtis): Half-human, half-alien, Troy had the ability to sense human emotions, so naturally, she was the ship’s counselor on “The Next Generation.” This also meant that her alien side lacked inhibition, so she hooked up with numerous members of the Enterprise crew — most notably William Riker, whom she married in an all-nude ceremony in the “Nemesis” film that we thankfully don’t see. (Imagine a nude Worf.)

Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew): Janeway is the perfect role model for girls — a strong-willed, intelligent, independent woman who’s the captain of her own starship without abandoning her femininity. (A bathtub scene with Q comes to mind.) When her character debuted on “Voyager” in 1995, it was clear the “Trek” franchise had come a long way from the days when Kirk complained about having female crew members on board.

Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan): The Borg were nasty, war-liked creatures. The Borg wanted to annihilate the human race. The Borg liked to wear high heels and form-fitting catsuits that accentuated their womanly curves. Wait, what? Actually, that last bit only applied to Seven of Nine of “Voyager,” who was still partly human and struggled to keep her human traits intact. So cut her some slack, OK?

T’Pol (Jolene Blalock): Without this Vulcan science officer on board, the crew of “Enterprise” would have wound up dead pretty quickly, especially with Capt. “Let’s Explore Our Feelings” Archer at the helm. This character was one of the few saving graces in an otherwise awful series.

Orion slave girls (various actresses): No list of “Star Trek” women would be complete with these sexy, green-skinned, bikini-wearing girls. They’re not exactly role models, but they’ve proven to be formidable adversaries ever since the first episode of the original series. By the time the 2009 movie came out, they were no longer slaves, but Starfleet cadets. And I can’t very well have a list of “Star Trek” women without including a Mainer (Rachel Nichols), can I? 

Deputy Managing Editor Rod Harmon may be contacted at 791-6450 or:

rharmon@pressherald.com

Twitter: RHarmonPPH