Friday, January 20, 2017

Top 10 Star Trek Movie Villains - Part 2

In my last post I talked about numbers 10-6 of the top Star Trek movie villains. If you want to check it out, just read Part 1. If you want a quick recap, they were:

10. Sybok
9. Khan (Into Darkness)
8. Shinzon
7. Nero
6. Soran

Now, let's take a look at the Top 5, starting with...

5. Krall (Star Trek: Beyond) – Ah, now we are striking some gold! In Star Trek: Beyond we are introduced to the demonic looking Krall, played with ferocious intensity by Idris Elba. Formerly the Starfleet Captain Balthazar Edison, Krall uses alien technology he discovered on the planet Altamid to prolong his life and to formulate a plan to destroy the Federation. It does not take long for Krall to destroy the Enterprise and imprison much of her crew while he strikes out at starbase Yorktown. Krall demonstrates a villain with a cause and a blood-thirsty attitude that has been lacking in many of Trek’s villains that appear lower on this list. He has a plan, and it is huge. Some have said he could be Trek’s poster child for PTSD that afflicts too many of our veterans. His actions are brutal and terrifying, and he has the face to match. His use of the alien technology mutates him into a demonic looking warlord, giving us a nice little surprise when we learn his origins. More than Nero, more than Kelvin-Khan, Krall gives Kirk and company a genuine fight. If it hadn’t been for that blasted Beastie Boys song, he might have destroyed the starbase and everyone on it. My only complaint with him is that he spent much of the movie arguing that the diversity in the Federation was its greatest weakness, and yet when Kirk finally defeated him, there was nothing in his downfall that proved his theory wrong. He was bested by a better warrior and tactician, but there was no indication that the diversity he so despised was not the weakness he claimed it to be. Still, as far as villains that have actually destroyed the Enterprise, he was the most fearsome and effective in all the Kelvin Timeline films.

4. Chang (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country) – How can you tell that your Klingon opponent is tougher than most? When he has his eye patch bolted to his skull. The talented Christopher Plummer gave us one of the most unique looking Klingons to serve as main adversary in the final voyage of the original crew. On the eve of peace between the Klingon Empire and the Federation, there were those who wanted to tear those plans asunder. The tension between these two super powers was easily compared to the Cold War between the USA and the USSR at the time, and as in the real world there were the old dogs on both sides who had difficulty letting go of past mistrusts, so too in Star Trek. Chang was the epitome of this. He orchestrated the assassination of his own Chancellor, collaborated with the enemy to sabotage the peace talks, and with his state-of-the-art bird of prey (that just so happened to have the ability to fire when cloaked) almost destroyed the Enterprise and her crew. His love for Shakespeare (in the original Klingon, of course) added a witty dimension to his character, and he delivered his lines with delectable emotion. We suspected from the trailers that he was up to no good, but we didn’t need to be surprised in the reveal of his part to enjoy the destruction he brought to the story. He was the ideal foil to Kirk, and his defeat at the end was satisfying.

3. The Borg (Star Trek: First Contact) – if ever there was an enemy from one of the TV series that was made for the movies, it would be the Borg. In First Contact, they are back with a vengeance. A single cube decimates another Federation armada, but is soon stopped by Picard and his crew of the new Enterprise E. That it is far from the end, however. Unlike before, the Borg had an extra trick up their collective cybernetic sleeves. A smaller sphere vessel escapes the cube’s destruction and goes back in time, assimilating Earth of the past. Picard follows and destroys the sphere, but not before the Borg beam aboard the Enterprise and starts to assimilate the ship. During this, we are introduced to the Borg Queen, played with delicious mastery by Alice Krige. She is the collective. Upon capturing Data begins to seduce him to her side, promising him the gift of merging his synthetic with the humanity he has always desired. The Borg, as shown many times in the Next Generation, always seemed to be so very close to beating the Federation. In arguably the strongest of the TNG films, the Borg are just as relentless as we had come to expect, but the addition of the Queen added to the stakes like never before. Her introduction was one of the best effects in the franchise, and her individuality added a great layer of complexity to the most feared enemy. Their goal was simple: assimilate humanity. They again came so close to succeeding. If only she hadn’t underestimated the will and loyalty of Data, she just might have done it.

2. Kruge (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock) – OK, for the #5 entry I claimed Krall was the best villain to have destroyed the Enterprise, but what about Kruge? Simple, Kirk destroyed the ship, not Kruge, but it was the only way Kirk could win. That is what made this Klingon such a threat. Kruge was masterfully portrayed by Christopher Lloyd with relish and calmness. He was an intriguing foe for Kirk. First, he felt completely justified in his actions. He saw Kirk and the Genesis device as a legitimate threat to the Klingon Empire. So he went about to acquire all information he could. He was able to tie up loose ends, even if it meant personal sacrifice (RIP Valkris). He would quickly and severely deal with incompetence on his ship. Remember the poor gunner who was vaporized after his “lucky shot” destroyed the USS Grissom? In later generations, we learned that such is often the way on Klingon warships, but Kruge did it first. He also cared. He cared about his dog…lizard…uh, whatever that was. He cared about his crew, as he demonstrated when Kirk tricked most of them onto the Enterprise just as is it was about to self-destruct. He cared about the glory of the Empire. I suspect that is he had somehow survived and lived long enough to see peace made between the Klingons and the Federation, he would not have changed much and likely would have fit in well with the likes of Gowron and Martok. He caused the death of Kirk’s son, showing strength in his resolve. Up until the end, Kruge fought for the Empire. While his actions were brutal and calculated, his motives were understandable. He was much more complex than many gave him credit for.

1. Khan Singh (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) – Ah, Khan. With all due respect to the supremely talented Benedict Cumberbatch, nobody does the genetically enhanced superman like the delightful Ricardo Montalban. It is true that Khan had the benefit of already having a back story to establish his wickedness (see the first season episode Space Seed), but it took nothing away from how wonderful an adversary he was. He committed horrible crimes of murder and mayhem, torture and treason, all in the name of vengeance. Long before Picard was compared to a certain peg-legged whale hunter, Khan personified the trait of revenge. He was clever, devious, charismatic, and ruthless. Where Kruge and Chang did what they did out of loyalty towards their empire, and the Borg out of a goal to achieve ultimate perfection, Khan did what he did out of a personal thirst for revenge. Where Nero, Shinzon, and Krall had similar motives, it was Khan that took it to the personal level. The others had an out-of-control rage that boiled over on numerous occasions, Khan was mostly in full control of the situation. His intelligence and self-discipline allowed him to bring Kirk to the brink of defeat. Even as he breathed his last, he felt that he had, at the very least, taken his hated foe with him. Had it not been for Spock’s ultimate sacrifice, Khan would have succeeded. He was a villain with nothing to live for but revenge, and he almost had it. And not once did he ever face Kirk in the same room. His mere presence on the view screen was enough to elicit fear in those who had faced him before. There are many reasons why Wrath of Khan is considered to be the best Trek film of all time, and Khan would definitely be a huge factor in making that case.

So, there they are. How did your favorite movie bad guy fare? Any surprises? Leave a comment.

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