Monday, August 15, 2011

Poll: Best "Villains"

Well, we've just pod-casted and reviewed "The Wounded," which very capably introduced the Cardassians, and this naturally sets our thoughts towards the question of the "best villains" in Star Trek. Of course, by villains, we mean an antagonistic culture. I am of the opinion, and I think Kevin tends to agree with me, that single villains are generally a bad idea. They always end up seeming to chew scenery, or require incredible amounts of power or ability in order to be a real threat as a singular person. Antagonistic cultures, on the other hand, are much more realistic. Just like our own Cold War, or our current "war" on "terror" (whatever these terms are taken to mean), it is usually an opposing mindset or philosophy that presents the greatest and most animated conflicts.

I mean, just look at these creeps!

So, without further ado, here is a poll asking just these sorts of questions. Which antagonistic culture do you enjoy the most in Star Trek, any series or movie? And yeah, speaking of movies, I left the Son'a off the poll. They are objectively lame and need not be included.

Justify your choice in the comments!


  1. Now with working poll! And it only took 4 and a half hours. That's service!

    I chose Klingons. This is a really hard question, actually. But the Klingons are just so omnipresent in continuity, even when it's Worf simply coming from this other culture. And generally they're done well.

    Also, the Romulans were totally ruined by the one-two punch of Nemesis and Star Trek[2009].

    The Borg are cool, but they are too powerful, and were diluted by the introduction of the Queen character.

    The Dominion are nice and all, but we really don't learn squat about Dominion worlds, instead focusing on the Founders ad nauseum.

    I think the Vidiians might be the best pure IDEA for an antagonist. But the Voyager writers almost totally ignored them in favor of the horrible, horrible Kazon.

  2. If anyone votes for the Kazon, they'd better explain why!

  3. I actually think the Romulans and the Cardassians due to the totalitarian/facist nature of their empires are perhaps more scary than my choice of Klingons. But in the end I felt that since this poll was about favorite and not most evil I choice the Klingons.

    I think the Klingon empire as a whole like Matthew is just done well.

  4. Frisco's Blog for the Family said...
    I always thought the Borg is the best. With every other race, there is a human element that one can work with, can reason with, and the hope of understanding, even if that goal is not immediate. Not with the Borg. With them, you have to outsmart and outfox. Sometimes, you can get a glimpse of the humanity they once possessed, but it is always on a very individual scale, and never a borg of enough significance to end the violence between them and the rest of the civilized universe.

    And through those conflicts, there came some great character depth and discovery.

  5. Had the borg remained the same borg we were presented with in Q Who, BoBW and I Borg, I'd agree with you.

    But Descent made them feel less menacing, then First Contact shifted the emphasis from the "collective" to the Queen. More personal = Less scary, to me anyway.

    Voyager rescued the borg just a bit by focusing on assimilation and recovery from assimilation. But it also introduced crap like unimatrix zero, and failed to deliver on an origin.

  6. Which ones are the best villains and which villains I like the best seem to be two completely different things. :-P

    I picked the Borg for best villains, though I was already thoroughly sick of them even before Voyager completely messed them up. As villains, they have the power (ships, numbers) and the scariness factor (you're lucky if they only kill you), they pose a large-scale threat, and you have a limited number of tools to deal with them (diplomacy is pretty useless, for example). Based on this, I feel like they've earned the title.

    Other species can be more interesting or even, on an individual basis, more evil or vicious than the Borg, but with each of the other species it's just not as clear-cut when you start looking at individual incidents. For example, with Cardassians, Romulans, Klingons, etc., you can find plenty of incidents where they were, quite frankly, provoked into whatever violent action they took. Even when they are the aggressors, they mostly have very specific and predictable reasons for being that way, whether it's defending their borders or needing resources. And you CAN use other tools (diplomacy, bribery, threats) to deal with them, especially on an individual basis. I agree with matthewweflen's note that more individuality makes for less scariness. With each of these species, you find individuals who vary in how reasonable they are to deal with. I guess my thinking is that if you were the captain of a Federation ship and you received a report of 10 enemy ships approaching your location, you would almost certainly much rather deal with any of the other species on the list than with the Borg.

    That said, I've definitely had enough of the Borg, and they're definitely nowhere near my favorite villains.

  7. So are we voting for the culture that we found most fun/interesting or the culture that was most villianous/most strong.

  8. I picked the Cardassians on both counts. I found the war arc on DS9 so interesting because the Cardassians were not only well developed and a credible enemy, but the way the Federation characters responded to the threat was also interesting. It's easy to be heroic and nobly sacrificing in the face of outright Borg annihilation, but the threat the Cardassians posed was different. Even fighting them was going to require becoming different people.

    The Romulans are a close second, but we don't really get the in depth look at their society. The Cardassians are as crafty, but the back story of material poverty that spurs their conquest adds a layer of desperation to their actions and makes them all the more tragic.

    In terms of motivation, threat-level, diversity, and impact on both the Federation and the characters we care about, there's the most meat on the bone.

  9. Well, I just changed my vote. Kevin, I was already rethinking my earlier vote but per our earlier conversation and your comment I am changing my choice to the Cardassians.

  10. If only my internet comments affected US political elections as easily. :)

  11. I had envisioned "best" as meaning "most fun to watch." But it's a subjective criterion that people can take the way they will.

    It's why I'm still (the sole voter) sticking with Klingons. There are a wide variety of Klingon episodes to watch, in all series, and they are animated by the Klngons' cultural "differentness."

    From "Errand of Mercy" to "Day of the Dove" in TOS, they provide a fun, militaristic, totalitarian foil to the liberal values of Roddenberry's Federation.

    In TNG, we have the post-Soviet story of Klingons trying to integrate into a world in which the Federation ideology is ascendant, while remaining who they are as a people.

    In DS9 we have the "return of the bad-asses" stories, in which the Klingons no longer have to kow-tow to Federation niceties.

    I certainly see how the Borg are or could be "scarier" or "more powerful." But I think, as portrayed, they're far less *interesting.* Their evolution is in a linear downward trajectory from high concept to lazy standby.

  12. Romulans, very probably, although that would be the Romulans of TOS. The glimpses we got into a thoroughly militarized culture were extremely well-written and telling. The TOS Klingons are a close second, though Jon Colicos' performance in Errand of Mercy has a lot to do with that. These were Klingons who ENJOYED being villains, damn it, whereas TNG Klingons were a gloomy, depressive lot; no fun to watch at all. Their absence from Voyager pleased me greatly.

    The domestication of Klingons post TOS just didn't work very well. It seemed like various shows writers were trying to depict a society and people that in fact had already been written in the form of TOS Romulans. A people who could not be divorced from their sense of honor. And, dear god, what was that business with Alexander all about? The presence of a recurring child actor is nearly always a series' death knell. God, those were horrible episodes.

    The Hirojen are a not too distant third. I think casting Tony Todd as a Hirojen lead on Voyager was a mistake, though. He has the voice for it, but at some point he took the horror icon tag too seriously, and seems terrified of inflection, lest that smear the image. Delivering every single line with the same cadence is surely a problem. Still, a species that sees you almost exclusively as prey is a pretty cool idea; daringly primitive for a warp drive culture, but sufficiently detailed in Voyager to be pleasantly credible.