They've annihilated entire star systems without batting an eye. They've murdered best friends, sons, and romantic interests. They've destroyed alliances, committed genocide, and commandeered space stations -- sometimes quoting Shakespeare as they go. The villains of Star Trek are as numerous and unique as the stars they traverse, though as with stars, some antagonists shine brighter than others. We've combed every inch of the known Trek universe -- from The Original Series to the latest Abramsverse phaserfest -- to find the baddest of the bad; hell, we even re-watched Into Darkness, The Final Frontier, and every episode of that 'Temporal Cold War' travesty for the sake of science. You're welcome.
In a way, attempting to rank these iconic villains is futile. The sheer volume of evil Trek entities is overwhelming, with enough top-notch options to fill several lists over. Not every fan of the franchise will agree with our rankings, and Lord knows the comments section is about to get hotter than the Enterprise's warp drive. Regular readers know that we never shy away from starting a good argument, though, so our phasers are set to stun. We're boldly going where no one has gone before, and you're coming with us.
Honorable Mentions: Commander Kruge, Whale Probe, All Seven Weyouns, Lt. Cmdr. Gary Mitchell, The Duras Sisters & Every Klingon Ever, Lore, Kai Winn, Mirror Spock & Kirk
16 The Gorn
We would probably find ourselves drawn and quartered by bloodthirsty Trekkers if the Gorn didn’t show up somewhere on this list. While many Star Trek villains are deeply-written masterminds hell-bent on conquering the known galaxy, the Gorn are actually the exact opposite. These angry, bipedal lizard-men have lived in infamy since their 1967 debut, and rightly so; possibly the slowest antagonist ever created, the plodding Gorn wear awesome space-foil vests and haven’t blinked in like 50 years.
In the 1967 TOS episode “Arena,” Captain Kirk is forced into single, unarmed combat against a member of the Gorn species after being transported to a desert planet by the omnipotent Metrons and warned that the loser would see their ship and crew destroyed. After a few, ah, “riveting” fight sequences, it’s clear that Kirk’s strength is no match for that of his reptilian opponent’s. Our beloved captain adjusts course, blasting Señor Scales with a homemade canon fashioned entirely out of conveniently-placed PVC pipes, a couple of strings, and several space gems. Gotta love that Starfleet ingenuity!
15 General Chang
Anyone who sports an eye-patch is suspect. Anyone who sports an eye-patch that is bolted to their face probably (read: definitely) shouldn’t ever be trusted, ever, under any circumstances, at all. Slippery and scheming, Chang serves as an outstanding foil to the Gorn in the context of this list. Where the Gorn are all raw power and animal aggression, Chang is extremely intelligent and manipulative. That’s the beauty of Klingon General Chang: he knows the only way to destroy the Federation-Klingon truce is from the inside out, and isn’t afraid to do a little murderous-murder to get the ball rolling.
Played wonderfully by Christopher Plummer in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the war-mongering Chang attempts to frame Kirk and Bones for the assassination of a distinguished Klingon Ambassador. He even stands in as prosecutor during the trial, hedging his bets as best he can. Ultimately, General Chang earns a spot on this list for daring to dream bigger dreams. Not every Trek villain has designs for all-out war, but Chang gets points for going after what he wants and (annoyingly) quoting Shakespeare along the way.
Only their desire to achieve utter isolation stops the Tholians from emerging as one of the greatest threats in the galaxy. This highly-advanced race of crystalized space-spiders has achieved notoriety thanks (in part) to their frakking awesome battle tactic, the Tholian Web. Calculating and territorial, the Tholians have traveled into nearby systems and conquered the lifeforms within. They leverage superior technology and tactics to remove potential threats, though they seem more interested in creating their own 'safe space’ than achieving intergalactic domination.
Wouldn’t the re-vamped Star Trek universe be so much cooler with these aggressive arachnids in it? They’ve appeared in both The Original Series and Enterprise, with the latter episode technically taking place in the alternate mirror universe. Since the new Star Trek franchise isn’t part of the television continuity, bringing back a bunch of energy-web slinging baddies would be both plausible and awesome. Abrams' loss could prove to be Bryan Fuller’s gain; quick, everyone go badger him on Twitter!
13 The Doomsday Machine
We are aware that the Doomsday Machine is, in fact, a machine and not an actual human / alien / cyborg baddie. But if we’ve learned anything at all from Hollywood, it’s that machines generally want to destroy all the things because they are evil and stuff, so the Hungry Hungry Space Hippo known as Doomsday gets the nod here. This wandering, planet-eating behemoth was introduced to TOS in 1967 and played upon the Cold War-era fear of “mutually assured destruction.” Precious little is known about the voracious berserker ship, except that it didn’t get CC’d on the memo to power down when its creators kicked the bucket. Also, it chews up ships and star systems like nachos.
Sole survivor of the U.S.S. Constellation and the only person to have witnessed Doomsday’s power, Commodore Matthew Decker attempts to destroy the dreadnought with a kamikaze-style attack. He fails, leaving the ship intact and the galaxy in grave danger. Kirk and the Enterprise crew take Decker’s plan one step further, piloting the massive Constellation into the core of Doomsday. Only Scotty’s quick thinking saves Kirk from the nuclear explosion that follows, something fanboys and fangirls alike are eternally thankful for.
Arguably the most powerful (and most ridiculous) being in the entire Star Trek universe, Q (John de Lancie) is a time-traveling, dimension-hopping, immortal/amoral pain in the ass. He’s a member of the omnipotent and god-like species, also called The Q, who live inside the Q Continuum. Sounds like the creative team ran out of steam on this one, huh? Q never really lived up to his full villainous potential on Next Generation, mostly popping in and out of the picture to mess with Picard & Co. and remind them all of how powerful he could be if he really wanted to.
In a very basic sense, Q is the Loki of Star Trek canon – several worlds have even known him as the God of Lies. Q has made it clear that humans only continue to exist because he and his Q brethren allow them to, though if you caught “All Good Things…” (Next Generation finale), you’d know that he has an itty-bitty soft-spot for Earthlings. For an undying alien who can manipulate matter and jump through time and space, Q spends an awful lot of time badgering the humans he claims to care so little about. Maybe that's the ultimate proof of just how powerful Q-tip really is?
Starfleet considered the Talosian race such a threat to humanity that it declared their entire home world off-limits; those who ignored the warning and made contact with the planet Talos IV were subject to the death penalty. Sounds pretty serious, eh? First created for the franchise’s original pilot (“The Cage”), this race of dome-headed villains possess tremendous psychic powers and are notorious for trapping their victims in fantasy-filled hallucinations. Footage from “The Cage” was later edited and re-purposed for the two-part event “The Menagerie,” pitting Pike, Kirk, and the rest of the Enterprise crew against the crafty Talosian humanoids.
Turns out the inhabitants of Talos IV just wanted to stabilize their decimated population. They had tagged our beloved heroes as the perfect breeding stock, because seriously just look at Kirk and those dreamy eyes. While the egg-headed Talosians shouldn’t be classified as a direct threat to the greater good, their tremendous powers must be recognized. Had they been written as a more vindictive or greedy race, the Talosians could have used their mind-bending telekinetic abilities to conquer every race in the known galaxy. Now that would have been a real menagerie.
10 The Jem'Hadar
These rhino-faced warriors are the only race capable of making Klingons look like Kardashians. Seriously though, look at ‘em. Used as shock troops by the nefarious Dominion (more on them later), the Jem’Hadar are genetically engineered to bring death and destruction wherever they go. They rely on a highly-addictive drug (Ketracel-white) to fuel their murderous ways and live by a simple motto: “Victory is Life.” Jem’Hadar soldiers are several times stronger than an average human and can deploy an active camouflage-type cloak, rendering them invisible to the naked eye.
For fans of Deep Space Nine, Jem’Hadar berserkers represented a constant threat to Captain Sisko and his crew, especially when commanded by the malicious Dukat. They feel no remorse and don’t understand the concept of mercy; they’ve even initiated kamikaze-style attacks on Federation star ships in the face of defeat. It’s unclear what happened to the remaining Jem’Hadar after DS9's Dominion War, but we’re 100% interested in seeing their triumphant return to the Trek universe.
9 The Xindi
The cold, hard facts: seven million Earthlings dead in a single attack. A single attack which, it’s important to note, was carried out by a prototype. Piloted by a single lizard, the experimental Xindi weapon seemingly appeared out of nowhere (“Enterprise: The Expanse”), dealing death from Florida all the way down to Venezuela. Regardless of how you feel about Enterprise and the "Temporal Cold War," (i.e. one of the dumbest sci-fi concepts ever), this list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Xindi War of Aggression.
The Xindi's attack on Earth was motivated by false intelligence (provided by those damn Sphere-Builders), though that doesn’t absolve them of blame. Ruthless in their attempts to eradicate humanity, the Xindi were even willing to travel back in time and deploy potent bio-weapons. If the combined forces of good hadn’t proved to be fantastic detectives with magnificent timing, Earth could have been wiped out several times over across multiple timelines.
8 Gul Dukat
There are some Trek baddies that apply brute force to every situation. Others rely on superior intellect, outsmarting and outmaneuvering our beloved heroes. Gul Dukat (Marc Alaimo), a villain veteran of nearly seven seasons (Deep Space Nine), did both. And boy, did he do them well. A commander of the notoriously-ruthless Cardassian forces, Dukat was deluded and obsessed with power. He had convinced himself that he was the hero of the Cardassian story, a benevolent dictator dedicated to serving and protecting the people. Spoiler alert: he was not. Regardless, Dukat’s conviction is what made him such an intriguing and vibrant character. He was cunning and clever, and while he may have been absolutely bonkers, Dukat was the perfect enemy for Captain Sisko’s DS9 crew.
Speaking of which, Dukat’s forces (allied with the Dominion) were able to overwhelm Sisko and conquer Deep Space Nine in the season five episode “Call to Arms.” While undeniably well-spoken and even charming at times, this nut job made life as difficult as possible for the DS9 team and would have loved to watch them burn.
If this name doesn’t set your teeth on edge, you’re probably not a true Trekkie. Heck, if the very mention of Dr. Tolian Soran doesn’t induce uncontrollable fits of sad-rage, you might be reading the wrong list right meow. So how did this relatively normal-looking man earn himself such a prestigious slot? Simple: he killed Captain Kirk, albeit not entirely on purpose.
Soran is the kind of villain you hate to hate. Not love to hate, but hate to hate. Portrayed (excellently) by Malcolm McDowell in 1994’s Star Trek: Generations, Soran’s wife and children were slaughtered by the Borg. He survives the attack and winds up in the Nexus, a kind of dimension-between-dimensions where a person’s wishes and desires shape the fabric of reality. Long story short, the Enterprise-B crew rescues Soran from the Nexus and he’s pissed because in that un-reality reality, his family is still alive. The doc wants to go back real bad, so he devises a totally-reasonable and not-psychotic plan to bring the Nexus closer: destroy a major star system and murder hundreds of millions of innocent people. Seems logical.
Sometime during the battle to stop Soran, Picard discovers that the presumed-dead Captain Kirk was actually just chilling inside the Nexus. Picard pulls him out and the duo travel back in time to successfully sabotage Soran’s overly-elaborate rocket platform, though not before Kirk falls off said platform and dies in the least spectacular way possible. It may sound confusing, but it all makes sense in the clusterf*** that is Generations.
Maybe the scariest entry on this list. Maybe the scariest entry on any list, really -- look at this thing! Look at this sludgy tar-man, this Vader-shaped goop monster! Comprised of an unknown substance, Armus emits massive energy blasts capable of frying human brains or short-circuiting nearby ships. This thing is filled with burning rage and is impervious to phaser fire, leading Picard to theorize that it may actually be immortal.
Although the sinister and seemingly-indestructible Armus only appeared in one episode of Next Generation, it had a resounding impact on the series itself. When the USS Enterprise-D crew attempts to rescue a downed shuttle on the planet Vagra II, Armus murders Lieutenant Natasha Yar for sheer amusement. The violent and unpredictable entity remains one of the only villains in Trek history to simply show up and eliminate a major character, and worst of all, it’s still out there. While Picard and the crew managed to strand Armus on its home world, they were unable to actually destroy it. Yikes.
Want to scare children or strangers in the park? Drop this Armus line:
“I do not serve things evil. I am evil.”
5 The Female Changeling
If the Jem’Hadar are ruthless attack dogs, it’s only fair to consider the Female Changeling (Salom Jens, Deep Space Nine) their crazy kennel master. Hell-bent on ridding the entire galaxy of solids (read: all species except hers), this genocidal shapeshifter destroyed hundreds of worlds and slaughtered billions of innocent people without batting an eye. If not for her mysterious illness and strange fascination with security chief Odo (a fellow changeling), it’s easy to imagine how quickly The Founder would have continued her mission and annihilated the entire Federation.
Seriously, this gal doesn’t know the meaning of the word quit. Faced with imminent defeat at the Battle of Cardassia (“The Changing Face of Evil”), the Founder refuses to abandon her homicidal rampage, ordering all Jem’Hadar soldiers to continue fighting to the last man. She calls for the elimination of every person on planet Cardassia, intent on bringing millions down with her sinking ship. Luckily, DS9 proves once again that love conquers all. Ignoring the pleas of his comrades, Odo links with the female changeling and cures her of the deadly illness. In return, she agrees to end the war and stand trial for her crimes. Sounds easy-peasy, but she was *this* close to killing all things. All of them.
If you thought our list only had room for one massive, homicidal ship thing, think again! The V’Ger, a sentient lifeform that destroyed anything and everything it encountered, threatened to digitalize Earth in 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture. If we’re being totally honest, V’ger wasn’t actually evil. Seeking out its Creator, the entity was more like a lost puppy than a stab-happy villain. The highly-evolved V’ger viewed all organic lifeforms as potential targets for destruction and analysis, absorbing them and storing the data in its massive memory chambers. As Spock and the rest of the crew would later learn, this included everything from starships to star systems, and the occasional entire galaxy. NBD.
Here’s where things get dicey. Turns out the V’ger was actually NASA’s long-lost Voyager VI probe fused with a mysterious race of living machines. The simple probe evolved exponentially over the course of its travels, attempting to “learn all that is learnable” and report back to its creator. Now sentient, V’ger determines it must fuse with humanity in order to complete its quest for knowledge. It digitalizes Lt. Ilia, creating the Ilia Probe, and threatens to consume the entire Earth. Distraught over the loss of Ilia, Captain Decker sacrifices himself and merges with V’Ger, catapulting the living machine into a new level of existence. The new lifeform disappears from Earth’s system in a blinding flash, apparently satisfied with the answers found in Decker’s data.
Good thing, huh? That could’ve gone sideways real quick.
3 The Borg
Running is futile. Fighting is futile. Everything is futile, guys; once the Borg have tagged you for assimilation, your days are numbered. The hive-minded cyborgs known as “the Borg” exist only to conquer and absorb every sentient species in the cosmos. They travel from system to system, sucking entire civilizations dry and adding zombified victims to their endless army of drones. The Borg integrate various technologies from every fallen world, adapting to new threats and rendering once-powerful weapons obsolete. Just one Borg cube was able to wreak havoc on Starfleet, destroying nearly 40 ships and killing/assimilating over 11,000 people.
Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise first encounter the relentless Borg during the second season of Next Generation (thanks a bunch, Q!). While the drones prove to be nearly unstoppable in that first meeting, it is Captain Picard’s season three capture (and subsequent assimilation into the hive) that truly defines the Borg as an apocalypse-level threat. The menacing Borg Queen (Alice Krige), who serves as the primary antagonist in First Contact (1996), was absolutely brilliant. The Queen was so well-received that she later returned to plague Captain Janeway and the crew of Voyager. Even after countless deaths, the mind of the Collective lives on -- don’t be surprised if the Borg wriggle their way back into the Star Trek universe for the coming revival!
BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH WAS THE BEST VERSION OF KHAN, LONG LIVE CUMBER-KHAN! Just kidding. C’mon, you knew Khan was going to show up eventually. Though die-hard fans claim Star Trek: Into Darkness absolutely butchered the character, the legendary Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalbán) still stands as one of the greatest Trek villains, ever. That’s probably why he was chosen to star in Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan, 15 years after his first appearance. More importantly, he’s probably the reason Wrath is still considered by many to be the franchise’s greatest film to date.
The genetically-modified Khan was first introduced in the 1967 episode Space Seed, quickly solidifying himself as both a household name and Kirk’s antithesis. The only thing more impressive than Khan’s super-human intellect was his epic hair/pec combo -- a combo that would become more impressive still with each passing year. He proved to be an indomitable foe, nearly stealing the Enterprise from Kirk in their first meeting and almost destroying it in their second. After a 20 year banishment on the planet Ceti Alpha V, Khan was relentless in his quest for revenge. He would have his vengeance in Wrath of Khan, triggering the sequence of events that would ultimately lead to Spock’s demise.
1 Bonus Entry: Nomad!
Wooo! Bonus entry! The Motion Picture basically created a carbon copy of Nomad and gave it a much cooler name (V’ger), leading us to believe that the O.G. Papi Chulo of Genocidal Probes deserves its own entry. Redundancy be damned! When Kirk & Co. first encounter Nomad, they are unaware that it had just finished casually “sterilizing” an entire star system, including the 4 billion inhabitants of Malur. The probe attacks Enterprise, deploying incredibly-powerful energy projectiles and deflecting counterattacks with ease. Mistaking Kirk for its creator, the Nomad boards Enterprise.
Spock comes to learn that the probe, which was originally launched from Earth in the 21st century, gained sentience and a new modus operandi after fusing with an alien craft (the Tan Ru). Instead of exploring the galaxy as intended, it roamed the stars searching for (and remorselessly sterilizing) imperfection. Nomad demonstrates the extent of its god-like power throughout the episode, killing guards at will and erasing Uhura’s memory. The probe even ices Scotty, though it does “repair the Scott unit” and revive our beloved Redshirt. Ultimately, Kirk is able to catch the machine in a logic loop; he points out that Nomad mistakenly identified him as its Creator (Dr. Jackson Roykirk), inferring that the probe is also imperfect and must therefore sterilize itself. Kirk: 1, Probe: 0.
The Nomad -- like the V’ger – was considered a nigh-unstoppable entity. Equipped with far superior weaponry and shielding, Kirk believed that the probe could have gone on to eliminate all life throughout the Galaxy. While Nomad might kinda look like the Keurig sitting in our break room, the Word of Kirk is law, and we wouldn't dare second-guess our beloved Captain.
Did we forget your favorite big bad from the final frontier? Let us know in the comments.