The Enemy - Part 1By Fred Shedian
Posted at July 29, 2000 - 6:08 PM GMT
When Star Trek first aired in the 1960's, two primary threats were brought to our eyes. The Klingon Empire and the Romulan Star Empire were shown to be the bad guys in this universe, the ones who cared nothing about the galaxy and worried only about their own affairs. When Star Trek: The Next Generation aired, their version of an enemy also developed. Although the Romulans became a bit more of a threat, the underlining evil presented was a four letter word which has haunted the franchise ever since, Borg. Yet again, with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Cardassian and then the Dominion came to light as the underlining evil empires. Finally, Star Trek: Voyager attempted to create several different enemies...first the Kazon, then the Hirogen and finally returning to the Borg. Yet, through all of this, it appears that writers often ruin one show's enemy to benefit another. For the next several columns, I wish to examine the logic and problems with this mentality.
In The Original Series, writers have admitted that they intended for the Romulan Star Empire to be the "greater evil" against the Federation. However, due to costs of makeup at the time, the Klingon Empire became the Federation's version of the U.S.S.R.. Examining the thirty years this relationship existed in the 23rd Century, it was a well played and choreographed battle. The 23rd Century Cold War was handled almost like the real one, more like a game of chess than anything else. Yet, even before this saga had come to an end, the Star Trek Franchise had ruined the ending. For years, it was not known if these two people would eventually become allies. However, all of that changed with Lieutenant Worf's appearance on the bridge of the Galaxy Class U.S.S. Enterprise.
At the time Star Trek: The Next Generation hit the small screen, the release of Star Trek IV was still fresh in everyone's mind. The conflict and differences between the Federation and the Klingons were found to still be at a critical point. Yet, The Next Generation's first two seasoned confirmed that a peace had been established between the two governments. And then, in a chain of episodes, the mystery of the "Klingon" started to disappear. We started to learn more about their culture, about what was important to this race and gained a better understanding of why it had taken so long for a peace to actually develop. Yet, for all of these positives, the attributes that had made the Klingons attractive for so many years disappeared. They were no longer ruthless savages, bent on domination of the galaxy. Now, they were people...with their own set of ideals and morals which had basis for being respected.
Due to this issue, The Next Generation had to create it's own "villain bent on domination of the galaxy." The result was a gift from the ever talented Q...a trip to encounter The Borg. The initial setup and introduction of this species was one of the best I have seen in a very long time. It was not handled in one season, yet took a period of years for the true nature of the Borg to come out. The basic structure of the entire society was laid out in the first forty-five minute episode featuring a cube....they were half robot/half organic, acted like a bee hive, wanted to make you part of the hive and had some pretty powerful technology to make that happen. By the time "The Best Of Both Worlds" had come, it was clear the Borg were a villain no one wanted to deal with. However, reaching to the movie franchise of TNG, the mystery and fear that the Borg presented was slowly eroded.
Although First Contact offered some excellent insights into the species, the Borg stopped being this "collective hive of minds" and took on a singular image...the Borg Queen. Thinking back, many people fail to talk about the Borg thinking of a "group." Instead, a conversation talking about the Borg normally has words and phrases indicating that you are discussing one evil/corrupt individual...the Queen. This, mixed with the Borgification of Star Trek: Voyager, has resulted in the Borg loosing their muscle, their dangerous edge and our perception of them as being the devil's gift to the galaxy.
As fans of the Star Trek Franchise in the year 2000, questions we must deal with. Do we hate the Klingons the same way we did when the wagon train took to the stars? Do we fear the Borg today the same way we did almost a decade ago when they were introduced? As longtime fans, we must make sure to deal with the fact that sadly...today's villain may become tomorrow's Barney.
Next time, I will take a look at how Deep Space Nine's initial villains, looking at how they were downgraded and twisted by the time the show left the air. In addition, I will discuss Voyager's attempt to establish a successful villain...and the results this has taken on the show and our perception of the Delta Quadrant as a whole. Later, I will look at several villains which have maintained their dangerous edge over the years...some by not having direct exposure, and others by well written episodes.
As always, remarks are always welcome. Feel free to submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear your feelings about this series of columns and any suggestions for future editions. If you have a villian you would like to hear me discuss in a later edition of this series, please let me know.
Until next time....
Fred Shedian writes a weekly 'A Take On Trek' column for the Trek Nation.