Heroes and VillainsBy Karen Comer
Posted at November 30, 1999 - 6:00 AM GMT
A villain is just a hero turned upside down, at least the best ones are. Just as a classic hero has a fatal flaw, so a classic villain must have a fatal virtue. Trek has given us some of the best and some of the most ridiculous villains in television history. I will admit that the best have outweighed the worst but I can't ignore the worst. Here is my list and analysis of the Good, The Bad and the Boring.
James Tiberius Kirk: A hero in the most classic sense. Kirk is brave, driven, charismatic, a born leader. Say what you like about his flaws you know that if you are onboard his Enterprise you have a much higher chance of coming home alive. Kirk never gives up, never admits defeat, and seldom loses. His fatal flaw? Perhaps it's his obsession with the Enterprise. He's never happy unless he's in command of this particular ship. As Spock says, it is his first, best destiny. Kirk will never have the "flesh woman" he longs for because of it.
Spock: Even more of a hero in my eyes. Spock is probably my single favorite Star Trek character of all time. He is absolutely the best, most loyal first officer anyone could have. He will follow you to hell and back and calculate the odds along the way. His fatal flaw was obviously his inability to accept his dual nature for so long. Now that he has overcome this, he will achieve his destiny as Uniter of Worlds on Romulus. The Enterprise and Starfleet were never his first best destiny.
Picard: A less flamboyant hero than Kirk, Picard is hands down my favorite captain. He has just as much angst about personal relationships but he's not a skirt chaser. Phillipa calls him "A pompous ass and a damned sexy man." I could have kissed him when he called the Devil turned into a woman ( I can't remember the ep), "Vulgar and obvious". Kirk, of course would have tried to teach her about "love". Picard doesn't waste his time on the vulgar and the obvious. Fatal flaw? Admiral Jarok told him he had sacrificed too much for his career by having no children. Admiral Jarok tops my list of Alien heroes.
Sisko: Hands down my LEAST favorite captain. Sisko is icy, over controlled, amoral, and has one of the nastiest tempers I've ever seen. He's an antihero at best. He told Q "I'm not Picard", and he wasn't exaggerating. It's one of the ironies of the universe that we now know he was divinely conceived and the Messiah of Bajor. God indeed moves in mysterious ways. Sisko can live with the cold blooded murder of the Romulan ambassador, an act which would have sent Kirk, Spock, and Picard into paroxysms of lifelong guilt. His fatal flaw? He has no heart. I know he cried and wept over Jennifer but I honestly think he was just feeling sorry for himself. I never could buy his love for Kassidy or Jake. He keeps people at arms length and prefers it that way.
Janeway: I liked her at first until I realized Kirk would have said "Starfleet regulations be damned, I'm saving my crew!" Can you imagine him allowing his crew to be stranded in another quadrant for a REGULATION? Regulations are made to be broken, but Janeway couldn't see that. Her fatal flaw? Overintellectualism. Ideas and principles are more important to her and more real to her than people. Kirk was a skirt chaser and Picard a pompous ass, but at least they FELT things. She's turned the whole crew into little clones of herself. Bellana is a tamed Klingon, and wonderful smartass Paris is now a well scrubbed Starfleet boyscout. Like Sisko, she makes a show of feeling but I sense little behind it.
Odo: A hero without a doubt, but a hero who made huge mistakes. Of course he always thinks he's right, and his insecurity and meticulousness led him to collaborate with the Cardassians. He's brave and never violates whatever principles he believes in. Like Spock he tries desperately to be something he isn't, a solid. This led him to try to overcompensate by imagining himself "in love" with a solid. He finally snapped out of his trance, grew up, and returned to the link where he belonged. Fatal flaw? Rampant insecurity which caused him to try to "morph" himself into what others wanted.
Kira: Kira inhabits the grey area between heroine and villainess. Her favorite phrase is "When we were in the resistance." People who lived on the edge of life and death the way she did develop a taste for hell's kitchen. Her two main virtues are physical courage and patriotism. Kira can't adapt to the new, peaceful (relatively) world she lives in now. She longs for the old days when Bajor's cause was the holiest thing there was, when right and virtue were on her side. Kira doesn't have real principles that she has worked out for herself. She mouths Bajoran platitudes but she doesn't understand the essence of her own religion. She is a religious legalist, a Bajoran Pharisee who says all the right things but does not have them in her heart. Like the Pharisees it would be better to do as she says but not as she does. She knows the letter of the law but not it's spirit. She and Sisko top my list of least favorite Trek characters of all time. Her fatal flaw? Smug, overweening self righteousness.
This list is going to be much longer simply because a TV show seems to create a "villain of the week"
The two TOS Romulan commanders: The male, who's name we never learned and the famous female Romulan commander. The male is courageous and self sacrificing, the female passionate and headstrong.
Kor: A Klingon bad guy oppressing the Organians. He has the grace not to seem to like his job too much. He's glib, charming, and sexy and he knows at a glance that Kirk doesn't like to be pushed and Spock doesn't look like a shopkeeper.
Trelane: A Q wannabee. He was a naughty (Q continuum?) child who wanted to play dangerous games with Kirk and his crew until his parents intervene. Fatal Virtue? A wicked sense of fun, wit, and intelligence.
The Horta: The first villain who's not really a villain and an example of Trek at it's best. The Horta is a monster to the miners who are being killed by it until Spock discovers it's only a mother defending it's young.
Khan: One of my favorites. He's smarter, stronger, and faster than everyone else. He was right to hate Kirk for leaving him stranded on a planet and never checking up on him.
Seska: She's smart, sexy and she hates Janeway. What more could you ask for? Do you blame her?
Kai Winn: Her twisted sugary sweetness was original and delicious. Fatal virtue? She wants to be a good Bajoran but doesn't understand the essence of her religion, like Kira.
Janice Lester: Earliest advocate of Girl Power in the Trek universe. She wants to be a captain but Starfleet won't let her so she switches bodies with Kirk. Recipient of the most sexist line in Trek History. "If only she could have been content being a woman."
The Borg: Chilliest, scariest villains ever. They have no fatal virtue except efficiency.
The Dominion: The changelings are scary because they just don't give a damn. Self absorbed and superior, they want only order. They were right though, weren't they? They warned Sisko to leave them alone but he had to explore and he got what he deserved, a war. Their fatal virtue is they really just wanted to be left alone but felt compelled to defend themselves because of solid prejudice.
Dukat and the Cardassians: Again glib, charming and sexy. A Cardassian's Cardassian. Or is he? His fatal virtue is to feel with such intensity it's scary. It's ironic that icy Sisko gets to be a Fed and passionate Dukat a Cardie. The writers were never sure what to do with him. He was too complicated for their black/white version of good and evil. He was too much Villain for them to handle. He's the best example of the hero turned upside down theory. What could he have been had he been born somewhere else? He's a tragic villain who is destroyed more by his virtues than his flaws in the same way the classical heroes always fall into destruction because of a fatal flaw. His fatal virtue is that he loves things obsessively and without reservation.
Their only job is to siir up trouble and create false obstacles for our heroes to overcome.
The majority of female villains on TOS: Six foot green haired Amazon women in steele brassieres, they have been called. Stupid, or oversexed, or power mad or insane, they wear skimpy outfits and need Kirk to teach them about "love"
Kostamojen: The Prophets/PaghWraiths could have been a fascinating plotline for Jadzia. She would see them as fascinating beings to be studied. This would have provided a good foil for Kira's unquestioning faith and produced a little natural conflict. Instead they are turned into "The Exorcist part IV"
The Kazon: I don't think I need to explain this one.
The Ferengi (TNG): They inspired laughs rather than fear and TNG bigwigs had the sense to see it and correct it.
The Intendant: We know nothing about her or what motivates her and we could care less. She's an oversexed, underdressed overacted caricature A writer's tip. Think SESKA!
Post season five Dukat: He's Insane, no he's posessed, no he willingly embraces and embodies "pure evil" and displays fang dripping hate for Bajor (yawn) couldn't my Jadzia/prophets plotline have worked here? TOS did a proper posession story with a Jack the Ripper entity. This is merely "Jack the Ripoff." I felt for Marc Alaimo as he manfully tried to make sense out of a nonsensical plotline and dialogue suitable for an episode of "Dynasty".
Karen Comer is a regular contributor to the Trek Nation