Welcome to this week’s installment of Geek Girl Authority Crush of the Week, wherein we shine a spotlight on strong women who inspire us. These ladies are a prime example of female empowerment and how crucial it is for youth to have said example to follow.

DISCLAIMER: The following article contains spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery through season 5 episode 2, as well as for the Star Trek: Short Treks episode “Runaway.” 

Sylvia Tilly

Burnham and Tilly work side-by-side early on in the series.

Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/CBS © 2017 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

Fast Facts

Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) was first introduced in Discovery season 1. At that point, she was still a cadet and had her eyes set on the goal of being a captain. A skilled theoretical engineer, Tilly worked alongside Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) in Engineering. However, in spite of her goal of becoming captain, fate had plans in store for Tilly, and the catalyst for those plans was Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green).

When Burnham first arrived on Discovery, she and Tilly were roommates. Together, the pair grew, with Burnham helping Tilly to overcome her anxiety surrounding Starfleet and Tilly coaching Burnham on romantic social interaction. 

RELATED: Here are 8 Star Trek: Discovery that Prove Disco Will Never Die

Throughout Tilly’s journey (but especially earlier on), Tilly is plagued by self-doubt. Much of this self-doubt grew from seeds planted by her mother, Siobhan (Mimi Kuzyk). This is because Siobhan frequently expressed skepticism about her daughter’s abilities and aptitude. 

In addition to being critical of Tilly’s professional performance, Siobhan also sowed doubt in Tilly in other ways. Just one last example is her disappointment that Tilly chose to join Starfleet instead of following in her footsteps as a member of the Diplomatic Corps.

Mirror Mirror Mirror

Captain Killy and her crew in Discovery's mirror universe.

Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/CBS ©2020 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

In the Discovery season 3 episode “Terra Firma, Part 2,” we finally meet Tilly’s mirror counterpart. A vicious and unmerciful authoritarian, “Captain Killy” (also nicknamed “The Slayer of Sorna Prime” and “The Witch of Wurna Major”) was so brutal she even impressed Emperor Phillipa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh).

RELATED: Geek Girl Authority Crush of the Week: Phillipa Georgiou

Back in the prime universe, in the Short Treks episode “Runaway,” Tilly meets Me Hani Ika Hali Ka Po (Yadira Guevara-Prip). And, in the Discovery season 2 finale, “Such Sweet Sorrow” Parts 1 and 2, Tilly’s friendship with Po becomes essential when they require tech created by Po to charge Burnham’s time suit.

Speaking of time, Tilly is one of the Discovery crew members who chooses to travel to the unknown future at the conclusion of season 2. This means she must leave behind everything she’s known in the 32nd century, including her complicated relationship with her mother. 

The Real Deal

Tilly is the real deal. After arriving in the 32nd century, she at first continues to serve aboard Discovery. Her impressive performance across multiple missions earns her a promotion. However, she continued to yearn for a greater challenge. To this end, she worked with Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz) on extending herself beyond her comfort zone.

Tilly leads a team of Starfleet Academy cadets. They're aboard a shuttlecraft.

Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+ © 2021 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

In the Discovery season 4, Tilly was presented with an unexpected opportunity: to become a consultant for the newly revitalized Starfleet Academy.  This gives her the chance to reevaluate her career goals and reconsider the destiny towards which she wishes to navigate. In the episode “All is Possible,” Tilly leads a team of cadets on a dangerous away mission, and the experience convinces her to accept a permanent teaching position at the Academy.

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In Discovery season 5, Tilly has temporarily returned to Discovery. However, in the episode “Under the Twin Moons,” a conversation she has with Adira Tal (Blu del Barrio) makes it clear that at Starfleet Academy, Tilly has found the place she belongs. Nevertheless, when her best friend Burnham comes calling, Tilly won’t hesitate to take a temporary leave of absence to help out the ship and crew who were once her home.

Why She Matters

Why does Tilly matter? Tilly shows us that at the outset of their journey, not every hero is brimming with confidence. She demonstrates that friendship and loyalty are just as important to a team as other desirable qualities. 

Tilly cleans up a replicator mess in Short Treks.

Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/CBS © 2018 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

Furthermore, she shows us that while the journey may seem arduous and winding while it’s being undertaken, there can still be an unexpected and wholly rewarding destination in store. And through her friendship with Burnham, Tilly shows us that even when we have a lot to learn from another person, they can still learn from us, too.

RELATED: Catch up with all of our Star Trek: Discovery recaps by clicking here.

So, be like Tilly. Don’t be pinned down by your self-doubt, no matter who planted it inside you. Remember that you don’t have to model your leadership style after the figureheads of the nasty authoritarian systems, but can instead offer guidance as a compassionate mentor. And at the end of the day, don’t underestimate the value of unwinding with a few rounds of beer pong.

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New episodes of Star Trek: Discovery are available for streaming Thursdays on Paramount+.

Geek Girl Authority Crush of the Week: MICHAEL BURNHAM

Avery Kaplan