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Top 10 Star Trek Villains

It is Star Trek month here at emagill.com, leading up to the release of the new J.J. Abrams movie. For the next few weeks, I will embrace my Trekkiness (and yes, I consider myself a "trekkie" rather than a "trekker") and espouse my opinions about which are the best episodes, which are the best movies, which are the best villains, and then how I feel about the new film.

Star Trek is a remarkable phenomenon--one that is not likely to die--and it can be attributed to any number of things; the uplifting vision of a better future, the prescient social commentary, the exciting space opera, etc. I feel no shame in talking about Gene Roddenberry's brainchild on the Internet, for without Star Trek (and porn), the Internet might not have ever caught on.

This week, we're going to zero in on the best Star Trek villains. Without its diverse range of alien baddies, crazed humans, and omniscient super-beings, Star Trek would be incredibly uninteresting. There have been a few villains so fascinating that they have transcended the television or movie screen and have embedded themselves in the American subconscious. The question, of course, is not so much why they are so great and evil, but rather who is the greatest and most evil of them all. There are so many great villains, in fact, that some of the best aren't able to make this list (the Maquis, the Horta, Shran, and the Tholians are among the ones that just barely missed out). If you are a Trekkie like me, there's probably at least one villain you probably think should be on this list that isn't. Feel free to make your case in the comments at the end.


#10
The Gorn
The Gorn
The Scourge of Cestus III

Easily the most laughable-looking villain in this list, the Gorn are a cold-blooded race of vicious lizard people. They only appear in two episodes (not including the animated series), the original series' "Arena" and Enterprise's "In A Mirror, Darkly," but they make for an interesting villain because so little is known about them. In the original series, the Gorn are considered an urban legend until the Enterprise comes to the aid of a human colony on Cestus III that has been completely dessimated by them. This leads to Captain Kirk's iconic battle with a Gorn captain, in which we learn that the Gorn are intelligent, cunning, and inhumanly strong. It's just unfortunate they look so incredibly stupid.


#9
The "Conspiracy" Bugs
The 'Conspiracy' Bugs
Remmick deep-throating an alien parasite

No one denies that the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation is pretty lame, especially when compared to every season that follows it. However, there are one or two episodes that shine above the rest, including the episode "Conspiracy," in which a species of neural parasites infiltrates the highest levels of Starfleet and nearly destroys it before anybody realizes something is amiss. The neural parasites are body snatching bugs that crawl beneath the skin and control you by attaching themselves to your brainstem (not the most original idea in Star Trek, but a cool one nonetheless). They make you eat mealworms and give you super strength, and they are controlled by a really gross queen who lives inside a special host body. In the end, after killing several key admirals and Federation leaders, Picard and the Enterprise crew manage to stop the coming invasion, but they are unable to prevent the bugs from sending out a homing beacon, which leaves one of the greatest loose ends of the series' run.


#8
Silik
Silik
Silik as a foot soldier in the Temporal Cold War

Silik is a Suliban, the villainous race introduced in Enterprise. Silik is genetically altered using technology from the future and takes orders from an shadowy figure who is never revealed. Thus, his motives are unclear, though his missions usually put him at odds with Captain Archer and the Enterprise crew. Silik is able to manipulate his body in unnatural ways, cloak himself, and see in the dark, among other things, and his slippery voice is both hypnotic and menacing. Episodes with Silik are usually better than episodes without him.


#7
Gul Dukat
Gul Dukat
Don't forget; this guy killed Jadzia Dax--one of the hottest alien women in Star Trek--and for that, he should be infamous

Gul Dukat, the Cardassian thorn in the side of Deep Space Nine, is one of the most complex characters in all of Star Trek. He is somewhat delusional and self-righteous, and he is a frightening man of power simply because he believes that every evil thing he has done has been for the right reasons. As his character's arc climaxes, he comes to realize that he is driven by racism and paranoia, but rather than reject this, he embraces it. Unfortunately, from this point on, he becomes obsessed with Bjoran folklore and eventually allows himself to be possessed by the equivalent of a demon. If only his character had followed a more logical progression, he might have made it closer to the number one spot on this list.


#6
The Romulans
The Romulans
He's a Romulan, but he's also a Vulcan; as a kid, I was confused because I thought he was also Spock's dad

In the original series, the Romulans are a shadowy group of villains who live on the outskirts of known space. The Enterprise crew is shocked to learn that they are, in fact, Vulcans who long ago rejected the ways of logic and peace in favor of something else. They are the ultimate chess players in the Star Trek universe, and it is rare for them to be more than three or four steps ahead of everybody else. They have massive warships and deadly weapons, but their power lies in how little they need to use them.


#5
The Dominion
The Dominion
Dominion superstars, from left to right: shape-shifting uber-bitch, blurry Jem'Hadar badass, and Weyoun, the re-animator

The Dominion is, essentially, the anti-Federation. Ruled by the shape-shifting Founders, the Dominion is a collection of alien races, all hell-bent on taking over the known universe. These races include the Vorta, a race of cloned middle managers who represent the cunningly diplomatic side of the Dominion, and the Jem'Hadar, a genetically engineered race of warriors who serve at the Dominion's front line and are controlled by a religious fervor to serve their creators. When the Dominion makes its way to the Alpha Quandrant and faces off against the Federation, what results is an interplanetary war that threatens to destroy the entire galaxy. This war is one of the greatest story arcs in all of Star Trek, and it is made great by the sheer force of will that is the Dominion.


#4
Q
Q
Q as he appeared when messing with Jean-Luc's afterlife

How do you fight a being so powerful he can destroy you by snapping his fingers? Simple: you make sure you're so interesting he can never get bored of you. This is the interplay between humanity and Q, an arrogant but endearing being so advanced he might as well be omniscient. Q appears to the Enterprise-D once or twice a season on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and claims to be judging humanity in order to decide whether we deserve to exist at all. He has a specific fascination with Captain Picard, whom he chooses to take humanity's final test in "All Good Things..." Q is impish, tempermental, and provocative, and is clearly the most entertaining villain in the Star Trek canon.


#3
The Klingons
The Klingons
Christopher Lloyd and John Larroquette, believe it or not, are two of these klingons

In my first version of this list, there were just too many klingons. There's the bug-eyed Gowron, the sisters Lursa and B'Etor, the Shakespeare-quoting General Chang, Duras (both of them), and of course, Commander Kruge, the klingon bastard who killed Kirk's son. So, rather than have them hog the spotlight, I celebrate all the great klingon villains here at the number three spot. First designed as a none-too-subtle proxy for communists, the klingons are the most omnipresent villains in Star Trek lore, appearing in all five television series and all ten movies. However, not all klingons are bad, as Commander Worf and General Martok demonstrate. Still, when you find yourself on the wrong side of a klingon, you're not likely to die a good death. They are violent to the extreme--living in a culture that glorifies warfare and respects honor at the end of a bat'leth--and they are among the most alien of the major alien races, eating things like Gagh and Bloodwine while keeping Targs as pets. They make great villains because they are quick to battle and tough to defeat, and there is no such thing as Klingon diplomacy.


#2
Khan
Khan
"I'll chase him 'round the moons of Nibia and 'round the Antares Maelstrom and 'round Perdition's flames before I give him up!"

Khan Noonien Singh is the only human on this list, albeit a genetically modified one. Modern audiences are surprised to learn that Khan lived during World War III, which happened in the mid-1990s, of course, and involved a world-wide dispute over eugenics. Khan escaped Earth with nearly a hundred of his genetically superior comrades, only to be revived over two hundred years later by Captain Kirk. After a failed attempt to take control of the Enterprise, Khan and his people are exiled to an inhospitable planet in the Seti Alpha system, where most of them die. Bitter and angry, Khan manages to escape his exile with one singular purpose: to avenge himself on Admiral Kirk. There is something special about Khan, whether it be the acting styles of Ricardo Mantalban (which are a perfect match to those of William Shatner), the constant references to literature, or the intensely psychotic superiority complex, but whatever the cause, Khan is definitely one of the most memorable and awesome villains of all time.


#1
The Borg
The Borg
We are number one. All others will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.

Introduced to humanity by the number four villain on this list, the Borg is a hive-mind collective of trillions upon trillions of beings of many races. Unlike the Federation and Dominion, however, the Borg assimilates these races into itself using cybernetics and nanotechnology. Once assimilated, an individual ceases to exist in the traditional sense, instead becoming a tiny piece of the massive whole. A Borg vessel is a self-replicating chunk of homogynous technology, powerful in much the same way as the Borg itself, in that no one piece is essential to the relentless collective. The Borg, as it was originally conceived, is the most frightening concept in all of Star Trek, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention how the idea of the Borg is utterly ruined--castrated even--by the introduction of a queen in Star Trek: First Contact and the painfully inept treatment of the Borg by the writers of Star Trek: Voyager. Despite this, the Borg remains the best villain in Star Trek history, one so evil and powerful that it is dubious to think even the Enterprise could slow it down.


-e. magill, 04/13/2009








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