Saturday, July 22, 2017

Episode Review - The Ultimate Computer (Original Series, Season 2)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here

Overview – The Enterprise is ordered to serve as a test vessel for a new computer system, the M5, which has been designed by the brilliant scientist Dr. Richard Daystrom. The M5 is designed to take over the functioning of the ship, which distresses Kirk more than a little. As the battle drill begins, the M5 begins to act in a way that is far more than its designer had originally intended, and Kirk and his officers are suddenly in a real life and death scenario.

Score: 8/10 – This is a great episode, due largely to the complex and tragic character of Richard Daystrom. Played brilliantly by William Marshall, Daystrom is as compelling as guest stars come in Star Trek. He is brilliant, driven, and devoted to his work. That is countered by feelings that have given him a motive to prove himself at any cost. He used his own engrams to make the M5 more efficient and human-like, unaware that his own insecurities and resentment towards his lack of recent success was setting the scene for a nervous breakdown. This leads the M5 to be a seriously flawed piece of technology. It begins to take over non-vital ship systems, attacks unnecessary targets, and eventually begins to attack the Federation fleet that had been assembled as part of the test. We quickly see Daystrom’s descent into madness and the skeleton crew left on the Enterprise scramble to retake control of the ship from the ever-dangerous M5. All the while Kirk, Spock, and McCoy have a philosophical look at the use of technology and its roe in humanity’s society. There is suspense, action, drama, and even some humor mixed in. There are also a few interesting lines that to this day cause me to raise my eyebrows a little. Of particular note is the M-5, when describing why it cannot commit murder, says that murder is “against the laws of man and God”. While nothing in Star Trek has suggested that there is no religion on Earth in the 23rd Century, this is one of the mere handful of references of God in any meaningful context.

Relevance – 2 points. Richard Daystrom, despite his breakdown and setback in this episode, will eventually go on to wither found or be the inspiration for the Daystom Institute that is referenced to in the Next Generation and subsequent sequel series. Another point is scored for Kirk quoting from John Masefield’s poem “Sea Fever”. He recites “All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by”, which he will also recite in Star Trek V. This line is also on the USS Defiant’s dedication plaque.

Continuity – 2 points. Character continuity is strong here, especially among the trifecta of focus (Kirk, Spock, and McCoy). As the idea of the M5 replacing Kirk and many of the crew on the Enterprise is presented, Kirk shows a realistic resistance to the notion. McCoy, ever he humanist, speaks out quite vocally against the thought of computers further running things in his life. While initially Kirk and McCoy joke that Spock would feel more at home with computers and machines rather than humans, Spock responds that while computers make excellent servants, he has no desire to serve under them. He shows that the starship runs best when the crew has loyalty to its captain. Universe continuity also works, as once again we see how a super intelligent computer can be more of a danger than a benefit. Story continuity runs into a bit of a problem for me. When the M5 attacks the wargame fleet with full power, Commodore Wesley blames Kirk for the attack. What doesn’t work for me is that it was Wesley who ordered Kirk to have the M5 installed on the Enterprise and should have known that it was the M5 in control, not Kirk.  

Character Development – 2 points. This episode is a good example of how to balance a phenomenal guest star while still giving the main cast some good development. While McCoy ad Spock both get a fair bit of screen time in this episode, this story focuses on Kirk as he tries to come to terms with the possibility that he is not as essential to the functioning of the ship as he had originally believed. This is shown very well when asked what his recommendations are for an away team mission. The M5 assigns a different junior science officer, and then does not assign McCoy or Kirk to the team. Kirk seems a little put in his place when the M5 explains that the captain’s presence is not necessary on this mission, which goes against Kirk’s desire to be where the action is. Kirk still manages to show how the human soul can be superior to a computer when he uses his instincts to save the Enterprise and the crew still aboard from being destroyed by Commodore Wesley’s wargames fleet by keeping the shields down, gambling that Wesley’s compassion will overrule his orders to destroy the Enterprise.  

Social Commentary – 3 points. There are several messages or meanings that can be drawn from this episode. Most obvious is the ever-enduring question concerning the replacing of man with machine. Kirk admits that only a fool would stand in the way of progress, while McCoy reminds Kirk that “we are all sorry for the other guy when he loses his job to a machine. When it comes to your job, that’s different.” Indeed, the modernization of our society makes more jobs obsolete causes many of us concern, and we debate whether replacing the human element is truly a more efficient system or a better system, or even if efficient and better are the same thing. On a different note, the character of Daystrom provides an interesting commentary on the dangers of putting too much pressure on oneself to repeat past success. Daystrom had great success early in his career, leading to the many of the computer systems currently being used in Starfleet. He resented the under-appreciation from his peers and felt left behind as the research went on. In many fields of work and study we may find ourselves in a similar situation, thinking that we have achieved greatness and finding ourselves quickly left behind in our past glories. It can be taxing to our mental health.

Cool Stuff – 2 points. One point for Dr. Daystrom. In future series, his name is the attached to a renown research institution. Knowing that makes this character even more compelling as we get to see the man behind the legend. Another point is scored for the M5, which takes its place among the most problematic computers that have threatened the crew of the Enterprise.

Rank – Captain (19 points). A strong and worthy episode. Daystrom is a great guest character, and there is a little something for everyone to enjoy. I highly recommend that everyone watches this episode.

If you would like to read other reviews from the Original Series, click on the link here.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Episode Review - Revulsion (Voyager, Season 4)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here

Overview – The EMH and Lieutenant Torres respond to a distress call from an alien starship’s holographic crewmember. When they arrive at the ship, they soon learn that the hologram they are helping is hiding something dark and sinister. Meanwhile, on Voyager, Harry Kim has been ordered to set up an astrometrics lab with Seven of Nine. Seven notices that Harry is displaying a romantic interest in her, and things get out of hand very quickly.

Score: 7/10 – This episode has two dueling storylines. One, the main story, is a dark thriller that has Torres and the Doctor struggling to survive against a malfunctioning hologram that has psychotic tendencies. The suspense is huge in this episode, and skilled actor Leland Orser, in one of his four Trek roles, delivers the creepy in a big way with the character of Dejaren. The other story balances out the darkness of the first with a more comical romantic failure of Harry Kim that gives us the almost obligatory Seven of Nine angle. This being early in Season 4, Seven has to be a prominent fixture in one way or another. I think that was the eleventh commandment at the time. While the two stories balance each other quite well, the Kim-Seven angle fell a bit flat. There is definitely some chemistry, but the writers almost intentionally caused it to blow up in Harry’s face, and he never seems to even try to recover from it. Plus, I was not sure of when Seven gives the now infamous line of “take off your clothes” if she was joking or being matter-of-fact. If it was meant to be humorous, it did so in an awkward way. This episode also seemed to be used as filler for a lot of stuff that may be significant later, but for this particular episode didn’t seem to be relevant to the episode’s main stories. Examples of this are Tuvok’s promotion and Tom and B’Ellana’s first kiss. Still, it is an enjoyable episode that gives us some good chuckles and a couple jumps.

Relevance - 3 points. One point is scored for Torres and Paris taking their relationship to the next level. Two episodes prior to this (“Day of Honor”), the two had admitted feelings for each other. Well, those feelings were embraced when B’Elanna initially thought to just sweep it under the rug. Another point is scored for Paris bringing up Harry’s past failed love interest, including the hologram he fell for in “Alter Ego”. A final point is scored for the beginning of the astrometrics lab that will become Seven of Nine’s main work area. If that was not enough, Tuvok gets promoted (finally) to Lieutenant Commander.

Continuity - 2 points. The story continuity works for this episode. If you are a stickler for time sequencing, when you consider the events of the previous two episodes (“Day of Honor” and “Nemesis”), it seems that these three episodes all occurred within a week’s worth of time. Universe continuity also checks out here. I am deducting a point for Seven of Nine’s attempt at humor when she propositions Harry Kim. It is almost as if Seven is joking when she tells Harry to take off is clothes. It seemed a bit early for Seven to try to be funny, a sentiment that actress Jeri Ran has stated.

Character Development – 3 points. Obviously, the Doctor gets some attention as he interacts with Dejaren and first help and later stop him. He also learns to loosen up a little as he saw how unstable Dejaren’s obsession with cleanliness became. Torres also gets some attention as she tries to deal with the unstable hologram, and the events of this episode bring her and the Doctor closer together. She also moves her relationship with Tom to the next level, which also adds to his character development. Harry and Seven also progress their characters along, making the evil hologram story almost as footnote to moving along at least five of the core characters. While some of the development may have zero to do with the central story, there are many significant things that happen for many of the characters.

Social Commentary – 2 points. So much happened, but what message does it give us? Perhaps we can learn to always be mindful of our biases. The Doctor wanted to be a part of the away mission to help a fellow holographic lifeform. He wanted to help Dejaren achieve what he achieved. However, we are a bit limited as to how we can help someone who is “broken”. It also gives us some insight into the dangers associated with obsessive behaviors if they are left unchecked. As few things to think on.

Cool Stuff – 2 points. I give a point here for the character of Dejaren. Leland Orser gives a convincing performance as the eerie holographic psychopath, and the character is straight out of a nightmare (in a good way). I also liked how he used his holographic nature when he tried to kill Torres. For a second point, we look to Tuvok. Even though it really added nothing to the story or the episode, I must say that it is about time that our Vulcan security chief receive his promotion. If there was one thing that bugged me about voyager’s command structure, it was the lack of Lt. Commanders.

Rank – Captain (19 points). This is definitely an episode to watch, in spite of a bit of clutter. If the fun, sometimes scary story of a neat-freak psychotic hologram is not enough, consider this. By not watching this episode, you will miss out on Tom and B’Elanna’s first kiss, Tuvok’s promotion, and Harry totally embarrassing himself in front of Seven of Nine. 

If you would like to read other reviews from Star Trek: Voyager, click on the link here.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Episode Review - Favor the Bold (Deep Space Nine, Season 6)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here.

Overview – As the war rages on, Sisko finally convinces Starfleet that now is the time to retake Deep Space Nine. On the space station, Rom is awaiting his fate in a holding cell, Damar has found success in being able to destroy the minefield, and Dukat tries to connect with his now estranged daughter, Ziyal. All this while Kira and her conspirators try to warn Sisko of the impending destruction of the mine field and Odo further falls into the lure of the Link.

Kira and Quark demand to see Odo

Score: 9/10 – In a multi-episode story arc such as the Season 6 opener is understandable that we would expect the next-to-last episode show some signs of fatigue. That would be understandable, but that is far from the case with “Favor the Bold”. The purpose of this episode is to build up to the conclusion of this six-part season opener, and it does so with flying colors. The focus seems to be centered on Kira and what is happening on the station, but that does not mean that Sisko and the Defiant are ignored. Nog receives a promotion to Ensign (I guess this is a field graduation), and Jadzia takes Sisko to task for the lack of success they are having in the war. While there is a bit of action, it is on a much smaller scale. This is good, because all the stops are pulled out for the next episode, which will feature an epic fleet battle that DS9 became famous for. Important plot pieces are moved into place, key characters are positioned with effectiveness, and the anticipation gets ramped up to the hilt. We learn some interesting tidbits about certain groups or characters through some great dialogue. As an example, Weyoun explaining both the Vortas lack of aesthetic appreciation for art and their poor eyesight yet excellent hearing is a true showcase of how well Jeffery Combs knows and plays this iconic character. Similar performances by Marc Alaimo, Casey Biggs, Max Grodenchik, and Chase Masterson are also noteworthy. Indeed, this episode seems to be a real showcase for some of the recurring characters that have become almost as important as the core cast of leads. Even Morn gets to play a significant role in how the story progresses, acting as the courier to deliver the message to Sisko. And all of this guides us to the thrill ride that will be “Sacrifice of Angels”.

Leeta and Quark speaking to Rom.

Relevance – 2 points. Of course we see the fallout from the previous episode, “Behind the Lines” with Rom being sentenced to death and the mine field getting closer to being deactivated, Odo’s further descent into the influence of the female Founder, and Sisko trying to organize a plan to finally retake Deep Space Nine. We also score a point for Sisko telling Admiral Ross about his plans to build a house on Bajor when the war is done. This idea will continue to develop for the remainder of the series.

Starfleet has concerns with Sisko's proposal.

Continuity – 3 points. The story continuity and universe continuity both are intact in this episode. The character continuity is especially good here. As Damar becomes more pompous and boorish towards Kira, she eventually lets him have it. She has had enough of his bullying and levels him in quick and brutal fashion when he tries to grab Ziyal. This is just one example of how the characters remain true to themselves as the important events unfold around them. I could write an entire article on this point in itself, but just trust me, here we really get to see the characters develop as we would expect they would.

Worf and Martok agree to convince Gowron of accepting Sisko's plan.

Character Development – 3 points. So while important recurring characters see their development grow (Weyoun, Dukat, Damar, Ziyal, Rom, Leeta, and Nog in particular), what about the core cast of characters? Well, as I mentioned previously, Kira finally has the throw down with Damar that she has been itching for since the whole occupation started. Odo also continues to delve further into the allure that the female changeling offers him, including a physically sexual encounter. Sisko, meanwhile, gets back into the captain’s chair of the Defiant, but it his growing love for Bajor that truly begins to blossom in this episode as he reveals his plan to live on Bajor once the war is over. This will be an important development in the development of the captain. 

Weyoun wonders if this art would be better if it were blue

Social Commentary – 1 point. OK, here is where the episode comes up a bit short. Yes, with all the intertwining storylines there are snippets of social commentary that can be extrapolated. Themes such as betrayal and loyalty, boldness and courage in the face of overwhelming odds are sprinkled throughout the episode. Nothing really sticks out, though, as a poignant comment on our lives. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it just means that I can only give this criteria a single point. The absence of serious social commentary is hardly noticed and does not diminish the episode in itself, but it does diminish the points I can award it for this category.

The trap is about to be sprung

Cool Stuff – 3 points. One point for the opening scene of the Defiant and the Rotarran springing a trap on a pair of Dominion ships. Another point for the scene where Kira totally kicks Damar’s sorry butt. As viewers we have been waiting for this to happen for some time now. Finally, the closing scene shows the two fleets approach each other, hinting at the bloody battle that will kick off the next episode. It creates the perfect mix of dread, excitement, and adrenaline that will have you anxious to see how it concludes. A well created scene with Sisko’s line of “There’s an old saying: Fortune favors the bold. Well, we’re about to find out” sets the stage for a thrilling conclusion.

Kira puts Damar in his place.

Rank – Admiral (21 points). Leading up to an exciting conclusion, the fifth of the six episode story arc is definitely a solid showing. Of course you have to watch the episode to follow the overall DS9 story, this episode could have easily reflected fatigue and weariness in the writing and viewing of it. Instead, it keeps you on the edge of the seat. For those of us that watched this when it was first aired, it made the following week a delightful mixture of eager anticipation and gleeful frustration for the time between this and the next episode.

Fortune favors the bold. Off to fight the Dominion.

If you would like to read other reviews from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, please click the following link.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Episode Review - Pen Pals (Next Generation, Season 2)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here.

Overview – Data makes contact with a young girl from a pre-warp civilization and develops a friendship. The Enterprise soon learns that her planet is undergoing extreme seismic activities that threatens the lives of its inhabitants. The Enterprise is faced with a difficult decision: follow the Prime Directive or save the planet. Meanwhile, Wesley Crusher is assigned to lead a scientific team to analyze the planet’s stability.

Score: 7/10 – This is a cute story that had some great potential. A moral dilemma that puts, in the center, the friendship between a little girl and an android. The premise is promising, yet the execution was not quite what it could have been. It seemed as if the B-story of Wesley’s science team took away from some of the relationship between Data and Sarjenka. Sarjenka is a well-developed character of innocence and is portrayed with great success by actress Nikki Cox. So while not the best of Season 2, it is a decent episode.

Relevance – 2 points. Pulaski’s memory altering technique will be used again in the following season in the episode “Who Watches the Watchers”, although it will not be successful. Another point is scored for the opening scene with Picard riding his horse on the holodeck. This is the introduction of one of Picard’s favorite hobbies that will be revisited multiple times throughout the series and even in the movie “Generations”.

Continuity – 3 points. Story is good here as the Prime Directive continues to be something that is not entirely cut and dry. Character continuity remains intact, especially during the debate as to whether or not the crew should help Sarjenka’s planet or not. Worf and Picard predictably take the point of view of keeping the Prime Directive, while Pulaski and La Forge side for the more compassionate approach. Universe continuity is also good here. Everything seems to be working out the way it should.

Character Development – 3 points. Wesley and Data both receive some serious attention in this episode. Wesley is put in charge of a team of adults, forcing him to learn to be assertive in leadership. Data, meanwhile, continues to develop his quest to become more human. I thought it fitting that he would be the one to respond to Sarjenka’s request for communication. The ever curious android shows much compassion and empathy for one who is supposedly void of emotion.

Social Commentary – 2 points. It is important to do the right thing. Sometimes this means breaking, or perhaps in this case, bending the rules a bit. As soon as Picard heard Sarjenka’s plea for help, he ruled that the Prime Directive no longer applied and that they were obliged to assist. There is also the issue that is shown in Wesley’s story of having confidence in yourself, even if you are in charge of those older and more experienced in you. This part is a little less subtle and presented in a far too obvious manner, but it is something.

Cool Stuff – 1 point. I thought Sarjenka’s makeup to be quite intriguing. I particularly liked her long fingers and how her features were appealing yet very alien at the same time.

Rank – Captain (18 points). While this could have been a better episode if it had dropped the Wesley Crusher B-story, this is still a sweet little tale. It is nice to see Data develop an innocent friendship with a child as only the android could. I would recommend it as one of the highlights of Season 2.

If you would like to read other reviews from the Next Generation, click this link.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Star Trek: Head to Head - Khan vs Chang

Star Trek has had some pretty great villains, and in many instances they have stolen the show. After all, what better way to show how great your heroes are than to have them go up against a fantastic villain? I earlier ranked the Top Ten movie villains from the Star Trek franchise, and thought to myself: “How would one villain do against the other?” Obviously to have some of the weaker villains (looking at you, Sybok!) go toe-to-toe with the greats would be unfair, but an idea popped into my head of having two of the all-time best go bad guy-to-bad guy would be a fun idea. So, in today’s blog post, I decided to pit two real heavy weights against each other for the (fictional) first time! I give you “Khan Noonien Singh vs General Chang”.

One is a genetically modified superman hell-bent on revenge. The other is a crafty warrior that just cannot let the past of glorious battle fall into oblivion. One can lift you up with a single hand, the other can read your soul with a stare from his single eye. One quoted Melville, the other Shakespeare. Both gave Kirk a run for his money, and in both cases they lost their respective battles by the slimmest of margins. So, who was the more villainous of these two villains? Let’s explore this further by comparing them on various criteria.

Kirk's reaction to this matchup

Category 1: Motive.
Khan blamed Kirk for the death of his wife and people, for stranding him on Ceti Alpha V, and for forgetting to check up on him. His desire to not only kill Kirk but to destroy him was based solely on revenge. He was determined to see his adversary fall, and he had no lack of resolve to accomplish it. However, in addition to settling a personal score, Khan further complicates the matter by seeking the information on the Genesis project. While his motivation towards this is somewhat unclear, he once was the ruler of man and in “Space Seed” had desired to use the Enterprise to once again place himself atop the hierarchy of the human race. It is very likely that he was planning on using the Genesis device to allow him to once again rule the known world. Some may argue that his attention was divided, which would remove some of his focus. He could have taken Genesis and ruled the galaxy, but his thirst for vengeance was insatiable, which some say led to his downfall.

General Chang, on the other hand, was a grizzled veteran of countless untold battles. His motivation was much more political in nature. He did not see his battle with Kirk as a personal vendetta, but as a means to continue the way of life that the Klingon Empire appeared ready to abandon. Granted, he relished the opportunity to match steel against a worthy opponent such as James T. Kirk, but that was a layer of icing on his Empirical cake. He was driven by ideology, a warrior’s code, and a desire to embrace the old ways. While the Klingon Chancellor was talking peace because their military mission could no longer be afforded, Chang feared that he would become obsolete in the new frontier. This would not do for our fearsome warrior, so his motivation was to force the war to end all wars with the Federation.

So which motivation is more of a challenge to overcome? Is a personal vendetta coupled with galactic domination more dangerous than being driven by an ideological force to maintain a combative way of life? Both reasons are, to my understanding, very dangerous to the greater good. The motivation for both runs deep into personal territory. With an ideological and political motivation, the aggressor may choose to back away if facing a losing venture. Live to fight another day, as the saying goes. When it comes to personal revenge, the adversary may not back down ever, feeling that they have nothing to lose. That may make Khan’s motivation far more dangerous than Chang’s, so this category goes to the Wrathful One. Point awarded: Khan

Category 2: The Plan
Khan was a genetically enhanced human, giving him not only superior physicality but a superior intellect as well. While he undoubtedly imagined what he would do to Kirk if and when they crossed paths again, he had to make up his plan as he went along. He took advantage of every opportunity that was presented to him. A starship arrives and beams down its captain and first officer? Capture and brainwash them to get control of the ship. A potentially devastating device that could be used as an intergalactic weapon of mass destruction? Take it and kill all the scientists associated with it. Khan took every single opportunity that came his way, and yet he still made some crucial mistakes along the way. He let his guard down at the wrong times. He treated the nebula battle as a two-dimensional game, which allowed the Enterprise to think in 3-D and strike from below.

General Chang is a respected military commander. His plan was meticulous, intricate, and likely benefited from months of planning. He was also advantageous, conspiring with those to who he was enemy to. He invested in technology that would give him an advantage. He planned the assassination of his own Chancellor. He had an elaborate plot to frame Kirk for the assassination and carried it out with great skill. Chang may not have had Khan’s superior intellect, but he had instinct and experience on his side, and he used those tools as effectively as one could. He made some key mistakes as well, but when there was a flaw in the plan, he had something else up his sleeve. His cockiness got the better of him, though. He made a couple of key mistakes near the end, and paid for it dearly.

As we look at the plans these two masterminds laid out, it is time to decide which was the most cunning and devious. Khan was thinking on his feet most of the time while Chang’s plot was well scripted. Chang had the advantage of technology and co-conspirators, while Khan had a ship full of devoted followers and a ruthless aggression that is unmatched. In the end, however, I must concede that Chang gets the edge here. Perhaps Khan could have fared better in this round had he been given more time and resources, but the Klingon wins this part. Point awarded: General Chang.

Category 3 – Execution
Here we will look at the execution of their plan. How close they came to success and what their fatal mistakes were. Chang had an excellent and convoluted plan, and every detail was meticulously made. He set up Kirk perfectly as the man to take the blame for the assassination of Chancellor Gorkon. He had co-conspirators among Starfleet, the Klingon Empire, and even the Romulans. The master plan was executed with brilliance and came very close to succeeding. His errors were few, but costly. He had to rely on many others to complete their portion of the plan. He had hoped that the trial would have resulted in the execution of Kirk and McCoy, but instead they were sentenced to life on the penal colony Rura Penthe. The warden there was to have disposed of them quickly, but he failed. Valeris failed in her part on the Enterprise and gave Kirk the information he needed to defeat Chang. Even during the battle at Khitomer, the Enterprise looked as if it was going to fall to Chang’s advanced Bird of Prey that could fire when cloaked, but Sulu and the Excelsior arrived to draw their fire. This is where Chang made a tactical error. He was unaware that Spock and McCoy were working at arming a torpedo that could track them while cloaked, so when Excelsior arrived on the scene Chang turned his attention to the newest threat. In hindsight, I can’t fault his logic, but if he had ended the Enterprise then and there instead of gloating with Shakespearean quotes, he likely would have won the day with the Federation President dead and with him all hopes of peace. So while so many unforeseen outcomes were met with good backup plans, ultimately things changed too much for him, and it was not to be.

Khan was a man with nothing to lose. Vengeance was his driving force. His people were loyal to him, and nothing they did was anything less than perfect obedience. When an opportunity arose, he seized it and squeezed everything he could from it. His plan was being made up along the way, but he met every setback with renewed determination to destroy the man he hated most. His mistakes in the execution of the plan arose from his inexperience in starship warfare and his ego. He too took the opportunity to gloat to Kirk after the initial attack that crippled the Enterprise, and that allowed Kirk a chance to use the command prefix codes to cause Khan’s ship to drop its shields. In the nebula, Khan demonstrated two dimensional strategy in navigating the gas clouds. Most of all, however, his pride got in the way. Each time he had Kirk beaten, he couldn’t resist taunting his adversary. He had to do more than win, he had to make sure Kirk knew about it. He could have killed Kirk on several occasions, but instead let Kirk live a little longer just to satisfy is insatiable desire for revenge. He had the Genesis device and its research and could have left Kirk where he was multiple times. He could have regrouped, used the device as leverage against the entire quadrant, and been supreme ruler again, but no. He had to make Kirk suffer as much as he had. That cost him his life.

So, both mighty foes made some crucial errors. Whose error was the most devastating? I think if roles were reversed, Chang might have been successful where Khan had failed. He would have taken Genesis and regrouped, or at least finished Kirk off sooner. Khan likely would have failed in Chang’s spot, needing to further punish Kirk again and again. This one goes to the Klingon as well. Point awarded: General Chang.

Category 4 – The Cost
Chang brought the Klingon’s and the Federation to the brink of all-out war that likely would have destroyed one or both parties. He played on the inherent suspicions of both parties. His prototype vessel was set to wreak havoc across the quadrant. He had almost destroyed the Enterprise under Kirk’s final command, and may have been able to take down Excelsior as well. Imagine if he had successfully destroyed the two most respected Starfleet vessels in one battle. Perhaps the war would not have started, but instead it would be the Federation that would be surrendering. Instead, both ships were banged up but in functional. The peace accords were saved, and if Kirk was able to put aside his hatred of Klingons, then a lasting peace was definitely possible. The cost of Chang’s actions was high, but could have been worse.

Khan, meanwhile, brought Kirk to the brink of defeat. He caused the death of Captain Terrell, murdered some of the Federation’s brightest scientific minds on Regula I. Untold numbers of Kirk’s training crew were killed during the battle, bright potential snuffed out in the darknessof space. The Enterprise was crippled, and would have been destroyed by Khan’s activation of the Genesis device had it not been for Spock’s heroic sacrifice. The cost of Khan’s actions hit Kirk harder than almost anything else in his life. Perhaps, in his own way, Khan did deal Kirk a most devastating blow, because to save the ship, Kirk had to lose his closest friend. That crippled Kirk emotionally. A mighty sting to his soul.

So which villain extracted the heavier cost? Perhaps Chang’s destruction brought the Federation and Klingon Empire to the brink of war, but his defeat solidified their alliance. When the Undiscovered Country ended, there was a sense of celebration. Khan brought Kirk to his knees like he had never been before. The cost to Kirk was more personal, and more severe. At the end of Wrath of Khan, there was a more subdued sense of victory. It was a victory to have survived, and as Kirk himself said, they paid for it with their most precious blood. Spock himself remarked that to defeat Khan required great cost. The emotional toll that Khan took outweighs the damage that Chang inflicted. Point awarded: Khan Singh.

Category 5 – Presence
Looking at the overall presence of each villain, we will see how they stack up in the sheer effect they have just by appearing to their adversaries. This will include the look, the charisma, and intimidation factor.

Chang is one of the coolest looking foes the Enterprise had ever come across. Where most Klingons appeared to be simple variations of the standard long hair, moustaches, and goatees, Chang makes his own mark. He is bald, grizzled, and cold. He presents himself with an air of power and importance. One of the most effective aspects of his presence is his eye patch. While not the first one-eyed character to have appeared, he is the first to have his eye patch bolted to his skull. Now that is Klingon style intimidation! That is only a part of his presence, however. You might be impressed upon first seeing him, but wait until he speaks. He is articulate, versed in literary classics and diplomacy, and has a razor sharp wit. As he speaks his eloquent dialogue, you can’t help but feel that he is sizing you up as a potential adversary in the battlefield. While you are distracted by his missing eye, his good one is delicately dissecting your abilities. His mere presence demands immediate respect, and only a fool would dare do otherwise.

Similarly, Khan also instills a sense of awe and respect upon those he encounters. His presence involves a healthy dose of dread as well. Recall the expressions of both Chekhov and Kirk when the first lay eyes upon Khan in Star Trek II. You can almost see their guts doing swan dives into despair. It is true, and must be considered, that both of these men had a difficult run-in with Khan before, which definitely will impact their reaction. Khan is also articulate and no stranger to the classic works of literature, but he is much less flamboyant in his delivery. He speaks with the coldness of steel, the edge of a knife, and the forcefulness we expect from a coming storm. He also allows his actions to back up his words. While Chang challenges with his words, Khan will lift you off your feet to prove a point. His can vary his emotions with the expert agility of an artist, using his calmness to inflict terror as he approaches you with a helmet containing a Ceti eel. He exudes a coolness that is imposing and terrifying. He also has an impressive look to him. When I see him, he reminds me of a mighty lion; strong, fierce, and deadly.

So who has the more ominous presence? Both look dangerous, both speak with intelligence and power, and both give you ample reason to approach them with caution. Each has their own unique style and charisma, and each will have you be on yellow alert. In the end, there are a couple of deciding factors. First, Chang is quite the performer, playing one role while secretly concealing another. He instills caution because you know he is hiding something. Khan, meanwhile, is deliberate and cold. When he speaks, every word is measured and calculated. When he reveals himself, you are scared beyond what you have ever felt before. And when he is angry, you are silenced for fear of your life. I would never want to encounter either of these warriors in a dark alley at midnight, but I give the ever slightest advantage to the genetically superior Khan. Point awarded: Khan Singh

Results: Khan (3 points) vs CHANG (2 points). Winner: Khan Noonien Singh.

In full disclosure, I have always thought that Khan was one of Trek’s most impressive villains. With this new idea of pitting legendary villains in a head-to-head comparison, I thought that Khan would easily win against anyone else. I selected Chang as the most qualified candidate to give Khan some competition, but expected Khan to win easily. As I examined Chang more closely, I found that he was a far better opponent than I had originally perceived. So while Khan wins in the end, Chang has honored himself the way any Klingon warrior would desire. He won more points than I expected, and the decisions that went Khan’s way were not as easy to make as I had thought. So no matter which side of the debate you are on with this one, your pick is definitely a great choice. Do you agree or disagree with my choice? Let me know in the comment section.