The Enemy - Part 3By Fred Shedian
Posted at September 4, 2000 - 11:01 PM GMT
Continuing with Part 3 of my series "The Enemy," I take a look at how Star Trek: Voyager has attempted to establish a successful villain and the result of these attempts.
Before I begin with my column, I wish to issue to apology. To begin, unforeseen time restrictions hampered my ability to finish this edition of A Take On Trek...although the first draft has been sitting on my computer for over a week and a half. Second, suffering a Windows 98 reinstallation this past week, I have regretfully lost all mail people have sent me. If I remember correctly, there were three individuals who had written within the last two weeks that I had not yet responded to. If you fall into this category, please resend your letter so I can give you the courtesy you deserve. Now, to this edition of A Take On Trek.
When Star Trek Voyager came to the small screen, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was still in it's baby stage. Taking everyone back, the U.S.S. Defiant had not yet made an appearance, the Dominion were still a mysterious people, the Borg were still unstoppable and the Maquis were a force to be dealt with. It was from this universe that the U.S.S. Voyager set out to join Will Robinson....out, third star to the right, and straight on til evening.
The first established threat to this Federation ship light years from home was the Kazon. To begin, they appeared like a human/Klingon genetic experiment gone wrong. Overlooking this physical problem, they were a race which were quickly established to be very territorial and believed they were warriors. It appeared as if they were supposed to be Voyager's version of the Klingons....instead they appeared to be more like the Ferengi than anything else. The very complex history regarding this race, including it's split from the Trabe, was developed far too quickly. I believe one of the results of the development was the fact the audience never really appreciated the species due to a mixture of confusion regarding "what the Kazon wanted" and dumbfoundedness about their plain stupidity. I believe it became clear to the Voyager writing staff, after the situation had dropped to such a low point, that the Kazon were simply too "mentally challenged" to be a viable villain for the show in the long term. After all, they capture a Federation starship and then can't figure out how to mask a warp signautre? And thus, the show's first attempt to establish a stable villian was complete.
Ding, around two. In the year 2371, the great lost ship Voyager encounters the Vidiians. Being perfectly honest, I liked this race. Their development was very slow, with writer's taking their time. Encounters were not that numerous...if anything they were the "mysterious" enemy, but one you also had to have feelings for. This was a desperate race who was dying, with the firm belief that only harvesting would keep the species alive. There were several episodes in which we learned that the Vidiians were not initially a violent people but the disease had forced radical action. By the end of Season 3, almost all mention of these folks had disappeared. This is something I regret, as I believe this race could still have been developed in a manner to perhaps become the Delta Quadrant's version of the Romulans. However, this did not take place and their presence slowly diminished. I do have great respect for the writers of "Think Tank." Unlike previous episodes and villians, resolution and closure was brought to Voyager's encounter with the Vidiians..although many may not have realized it. In this episode it is mentioned that this "Think Tank" had found a cure for the Vidiian Phage. With this development, I still question why writers decided against continuing development and perhaps finally establishing a long term subplot....the Vidiian enemy soon becomes Voyager's best friend? May have been a good plot...
Ding, round three. The Malon's presence and existence on Voyager was very short lived, something I question. Early episodes didn't provide too much information about the race...only contact with several ships once in a blue moon. These were a people that apparently had an advanced culture and society, yet at the cost of dumping their planetary wastes in space. No contact was ever made with the Malon government...nor did we ever actually encounter a Malon colony. The only solid information which was ever established was that the Malon's had control of at least one "spacial vortex," a kind of wormhole. There were several episodes, one in particular, that really helped to develop this race...even though a ton of mystery still surrounds them. Yet, at the point you could just about say that they were a viable stable alien race that Voyager could rely on the rest of it's run...writer's pulled the plug. Although I am not saying the Malon's were the best race, they did offer several characteristics which would have made them a wonderful Delta Quadrant Ferengi. Yet, apparently, this was not what the writers had in mind.
Round four...the Hirogen were a people, I believe, introduced in an attempt to replace the bugged Kazons. This was a hunting race and apparently a somewhat powerful one. Their introduction to Voyager was done in a classic way...with the ship attempting to use technology which was theirs. The species development was done in a very a inventive way, similar to the introduction of the Dominion during Season 2 and 3 of Deep Space Nine. Here, I must give writers all the credit in the world...given the last appearance of the Hirogen, they had established a race which had the potential to be a constant thorn in Voyager's side. Yet, this was traded up for another race...a four letter one I will discuss in a moment. This is a decision I am very disenchanted with, as I believe the Hirogen had the serious potential to establish themselves as the Delta Quadrant Klingons/Cardassians/Jem Hadar. During earlier drafts of this column, I ended this paragraph here...but leave it open ended at the development of an episode that apparently (remotely at least) deals with this race once again in Season 7. I sincerely hope the writers will have us encounter them at least one more time, as they are a well defined people...yet not spoiled at the same time.
Looking to round five, we hit upon a Season Six fiasco. The Vaadwuar were a species which dominated the Delta Quadrant over one thousand years ago. Apparently, they were this quadrant's version of The Dominion at a time the Borg were still wearing their training assimilation arms. The development and mention of the "subspace corridor" helped to possibly create Voyager's "Dominion," but instead...no mention has ever been made of this race since it's single episode appearance. I find this very confusing, given extensive historical background and dialogue during the episode...quickly giving a brief summary of the race in twenty minutes. Here I believe writers dropped the ball, missing a golden opportunity. Even with the race perhaps making an appearance in Season 7, too much remains unanswered to properly assert them as a "force to be dealt with" within the Delta Quadrant.
Glancing to round six, we find that the writers had apparently given up on trying to make their own "Klingon" in the Delta Quadrant. Instead, they turned to one of Star Trek's most modern & ruthless villains...the Borg. Here, not much needs to be said...as many agree that this species has been over used and almost completely ruined in the last three years. Their use in Voyager helped to undermine what was shown in Star Trek: First Contact, making the revelation of a "Borg Queen" trivial in comparison to modern events. This race, one which had been the force no one wanted to deal with, has now become little more than a bee hive...with you holding the wasp spray. Instead of maintaining the "powerful" perception of a "collective mind," the Borg were transformed into a singular image...the "leader." This development, mixed with rumored developments during Voyager's Season 7 opener, make me question if the Borg will ever be considered a viable threat to anyone ever again. After all, one six year old Starfleet vessel has proven the ability to destroy cube after cube and remain undetected while in the heart of Borg territory. Why would Starfleet need to worry about another Wolf 359? This fact really causes me to wonder if the writers comprehend how they have, in some areas, completely destroyed the image fans held of the Borg Collective. From Locutus to Unimatrix Zero, the Borg have been transformed...and I doubt the damage will ever be undone. Although clearly set as the Voyager enemy, the cost has been their exposure and the destruction of ever seeing them in a "First Contact" way ever again.
Finally, I come to a species that I honestly believe should have taken the Borg's place....Species 8472. Season 5 development of this race was astounding and fascinating...with even plans of an Earth attack on the horizon, it really made you question "Can these people be stopped?" For many, this race had become Voyager's version of TNG's Borg. With an open ended question remaining, and a communication's frequency outstanding, will this race ever make an appearance and take their place as the "mysterious villain you don't want to deal with" for Voyager? Perhaps not...although if the writing was good, this race might have the capability of providing a Voyager "First Contact" type situation on the big screen. Only time will tell, although I doubt the above has even entered Rick Berman's mind. I suppose fans will have to live with development of this race in video games.
By the time Voyager ends, it will have established several things about the Delta Quadrant. To begin, it would have shown that the area was filled with races that were either complete morons, tactically challenged or failed in the capability to organize to the point of destroying one ship and overpowering 151 humanoids. In addition, it will be said that the Borg can easily be overcome...all it takes is a Baywatch drone conversion and an Astrometrics Lab. With the capability to still establish several former villains as quality lasting ones, can Voyager finally step up to the plate before it ends up in a junk yard? In the words of a famous figure, "Danger Will Robinson! Danger!"
Next time, I will look at several races which have maintained their mysterious qualities...while still being a viable threat to the Alpha Quadrant. I will also touch upon several races which people wrote in about, including the Breen and The Founders. Once again, your remarks and suggestions are always welcome. Feel free to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please make sure that your "Reply To" category is set with a valid e-mail address and if you are on America Online that your mail controls will allow mail from internet domains.
Until next time...
Fred Shedian writes a weekly 'A Take On Trek' column for the Trek Nation.