With an unbelievable fifty-year legacy, spanning every medium, Star Trek isn’t just an entertainment franchise, it’s an important piece of Americana. Though it maintains a certain amount of optimism at its core, Trek has had many villains that stand not only as great within science fiction circles, but in fiction as a whole. There’s Gul Dukat the conflicted mass murderer, Khan Noonien-Singh the poetic dictator, Karidian the ashamed madman, and many other classic bad guys that are more than just antagonists, but well-developed characters in their own right.
Of course, the problem is that you just can’t hit a home-run every time. With a franchise that spans six television series, 726 episodes, and 13 movies, you’re going to have some truly god awful villains sprinkled in along the way.
Whether it’s due to costume/makeup, the actor, or some good old fashioned hack writing, Star Trek might be a series that’s produced fascinating characters like the Female Founder, but it’s also given us folks like Neelix and Wesley Crusher. As a matter of fact, it took a great deal of effort not to just list those two repeatedly in this article simply because their obnoxiousness seems to be weaponized, but that wouldn’t be fair. They’re not technically villains, and that would mean plenty others would get away without getting their due scolding, and that simply wouldn’t be fair to the 15 Lamest Villains In Star Trek.
The writers never really seemed to know what to do with Q. The god-like being often would show up just to annoy, and only in his later TNG appearances did he appear to have become something like humanity’s benefactor. Afterward, he showed up on sequel series Deep Space Nine and Voyager for ratings boosts that would often find him either tacked on to a plot just to pad out the script, be central to plots that might have him looking for a mate, or show us that the Q Continuum is not nearly as interesting as we thought it was.
Q was often spastic and petulant, never quite the same in any of his appearances. That would lead the audience to one of two conclusions: either Q was a deeply complicated character, or an absolute mess of a plot convenience that was good in small doses, but had little point other than forcing a spotlight on better characters. We here at Screen Rant tend to think the latter.
There’s a law in fiction about introducing a long-lost evil twin. However, there’s nothing in those law books about badass evil android twins. Lore is, actually, a pretty cool villain. His positronic brain allows him to look at things in a purely logical way based on his own experiences. In that way, he’s not all that evil, he’s just following what he believes is right. Plus, that emotion chip allows him to add layers of creepy to his personality. Having Lore show up was a rare treat.
But then you have the two-parter “Descent,” which is a very appropriate title, as it managed to not only damage our view of Lore, but of the Borg as well. Of course, the Borg have much further to fall; more on them later.
In “Descent,” Lore found a group of drones led by Hugh (the Wesley Crusher of the Borg) who had been disconnected from the hive mind. He then decided to become a Mengele-inspired cult leader who experimented on his Borg followers. For some reason, he came to resent all non-Android life and built this small militia so he could…do…something that was never really explained.
13 The Ferengi
Thank god for Deep Space Nine. Prior to Ira Steven Behr essentially rebooting the species into greedy comedy acts, Gene Roddenberry created the Ferengi to be villains. He wanted them to be for TNG what the Klingons were for The Original Series. But look at them. They’re lawn gnomes.
The build-up to the character reveal didn’t help them any. Picard mentions the Ferengi numerous times, saying they like to eat their business partners, and even mentioning they destroyed his first ship, the Stargazer. Then the viewscreen flickers on “The Last Outpost,” angling on the already cartoonishly large cinnamon bun-shaped years, and you can help but laugh.
Then, good god, when we meet them, they bounce around like imps and have hunchbacks for some reason. As villains, it really doesn’t help that they emit a high-pitched wail whenever they’re startled and look like Dr. Phlox can beat them up and take their lunch money.
DS9 saved the Ferengi by excising that villain stuff, making them shady business people in lighthearted episodes, but even that show couldn’t quite make us forget those early TNG episodes.
The Next Generation’s “Skin of Evil” episode was a magnificent disaster. How might something this dumb have ever happened? Well, judging from the background information given since the series concluded, the production went like this:
Writer #1: “Denise Crosby wants out of her contract. We should kill off the character. Should we bring in some Klingons? They’re an old classic.”
Writer #2: “Maybe someone new.”
Writer #3: “What if a giant Metamucil monster shot her as an irrelevant plot point?”
Writers 1&2: “Brilliant!”
Since there was no budget to have a fully-formed monster, most of the time, the cast was talking to an oily black slick on a soundstage. Tasha Yar’s death received the same amount of attention her character did in life: none.
Armus didn’t fare any better, either. He was a villain because that’s what the script said he should be. He’s pissed off and wants to kill people. He’s also the only living thing on the planet. Why? Never answered. Armus was the result of writers who put no effort in and put all the pressure on a make-up staff that didn’t have the time or the budget to distract the audience from the incredible laziness of the writer’s room and the plot device character they created.
11 The Hirogen
The Hirogen are another example of Star Trek defining an entire species’ culture by a single trait, no matter how flimsy and ridiculous. In this case, hunting. Their entire society revolves around the rituals of the hunt, turning them into discount Klingons. The problem is, they actual had potential. Voyager needed a recurring species that were an actual threat, and god knows the series had castrated the Borg already, so what better than a hulking species whose entire value system is based around beating people up?
But, this is Voyager, which only looks like a good show when compared to Enterprise. The Hirogen are never developed beyond their hunting trait, and when you come to think of it, they aren’t even the bad guys in the end. Janeway was the one who gave them holographic technology without the means of understanding it, only to be surprised when it nearly wiped out their race. (Janeway really turned the corner on giving Federation technology to less advanced species, didn’t she?)
In the end, the Hirogen are hunters. Nothing more, everything less. They’ll show up when there’s a need for some action scenes, but expect anything more than that.
10 The Catullan
Star Trek always prided itself on being socially relevant. Sometimes, episodes like that were smugly condescending, and others were too afraid to make a point. Then you have episodes like “The Way to Eden” and you think, “Man, they managed to make everyone look bad.” The Enterprise picks up a group of space hippies (not to be confused with the space herpes Kirk was treated for). These hippies, the Catullans, are so obnoxious—but somehow so well-connected—that there’s a Federation protocol that demands they are to be handled with “extreme tolerance.”
They spend their free time singing folk music and calling anyone of authority “Herbert” as some kind of pejorative. They’ve rejected modern culture and technology (but have no problem stealing ships from time to time). They are caricatures of caricatures, and it was really edifying to see them burned with acid from Eden’s grass (not a metaphor).
There is an attempt at a message—really trying to side with the hippies, but after they attacked people and stole starships, it’s hard to like them, and the fact that they took over the Enterprise is baffling.
9 The Triannon
As in our previous entry, Star Trek’s record at social commentary is spotty at best. The Triannons are meant to be religious extremists, but end up falling flat. There are some obvious parallels to radical Islam—parlance like “heretic,” is thrown about, and the use of suicide bombers—but it’s only explored in rote and superficial ways that undermine the complexity of the issue.
The problem with the Triannons is the same as with the Pakleds or the Catullan: how are we supposed to believe they could overpower the technologically advanced Enterprise crew? Oh, wait, this is an Enterprise episode? Never mind. Under Jonathan Archer’s command, Navy SEALs could lose to roadkill.
The Triannons really could have been a strong, sober commentary on fundamentalism, but in their predictable semi-religious ramblings and the series’ half-hearted finger-wagging, the episode just feels like the first draft of a story that could have been okay at best.
8 The Suliban
The Suliban are an oddity on this list. Where most of the villains are here because they’re conceived or written poorly -- and yes, they’re from Enterprise, so of course they were written poorly -- but it’s the level of bad that gets them on this list.
These Gumby-looking schmucks can stretch their bodies like Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four, camouflage themselves, and survive the vacuum of space. They are almost entirely genetically engineered and have access to future-tech thanks to their boss, who looks like an even cheaper version of Supreme Leader Snoke. And they still manage to get beaten by Jonathan Archer.
Jonathan Archer. A man who never met a fist fight he couldn’t lose; whose bloviations ruined First Contact after First Contact; a dude who makes command decisions to spite T’Pol and talked himself into committing genocide with Dr. Phlox. This guy almost started an interstellar war because his dog got sick.
The Suliban couldn’t—with all their advantages—beat this guy?
7 The Pakleds
The Pakleds are said to be scam artists. They’ve ripped off the Romulans and the Klingons. Like the Ferengi, they’re immediately undermined when we meet them. They were literally written to be idiots. Actual idiots. Their ship is armed but they can’t figure out how to power it. They’re round and as articulate as a drunken toddler.
Pakled 1: “We are powerful.”
Geordi: “You’re armed to the teeth.”
Pakled 2 [confused]: “Teeth are for chewing...”
And then they outsmarted the Enterprise crew, all while usually answering questions with “uh-huh” or “…we are Pakleds…we need things to make us go.” Why their species is like this, how they managed to get into space (let alone create a warp engine), and why the writers do this to their audience are questions that have never been answered. This was in the second season of TNG. We were all still figuring out who these characters were and why we should like them—especially after the disastrous first season. And then we’re given an episode where absolute morons outsmart our heroes. That doesn’t help our opinion of the Enterprise crew, and it doesn’t endear them to us either.
The Pakleds would later be seen in the background of DS9; they were usually drunk at Quark’s bar or sleeping one off in Odo’s drunk tank, and that makes more sense than anything else.
Remember earlier when we mentioned the stigma of using a character’s long lost evil twin? Well, this is Spock’s long-lost, evil older brother. He’s obsessed with finding Sha Ka Ree, which, again, sounds like something from yoga, but apparently means Eden in the context of the story.
Instead of going there himself, Sybok just hangs in Paradise City, which isn’t so bad (the grass is green and the girls are pretty), but when you’re the villain and your plan is to be a charity case looking for someone to buy him something to eat, you're not likely to be viewed as much of a threat.
He claims to receive visions from God—brain tumor? Crazy? It's never explained, but it manages to do real damage to the Vulcan species just by existing. The attempts to use Sybok as a means of exploring Vulcan culture and religious practices manage to confuse and embarrass, and Sybok’s passive aggression just makes him come off like a whiny child.
Along the way, he babbles about the importance of optimism and positive thinking (seriously), and he eventually leads the crew of the Enterprise to an entity that looks like a bearded Zordon from Power Rangers. But at least this dumb journey with this idiotic villain allowed for the greatest dialogue in film history.
5 The Tak Tak
As if the name wasn’t bad enough, the Tak Tak use some kind of spastic interpretive dance thing while they speak, like yoga instructors who have taken their craft too far. Also, they have this bizarre piece of cartilage over the centers of their mouths that must make eating difficult, vomiting even more disgusting, and raises the horrific question of how bad that thing smells.
Shortly after insulting these idiots on accident, Janeway returns to Voyager to find it was under attack from a sentient virus (likely caused by Neelix’s cheese again). She went into full B-movie action hero mode and was shooting up and knifing the virus (yes, this really happened).
The Tak Tak show up to destroy the ship to stop the spread. Janeway confronts them, and, in an absolutely hysterical moment that destroyed all the tension the writers were going for, they continue to stretch, gyrate, and signal that they enjoy spending time at the YMCA while threatening to destroy the ship.
4 The Son’a
Star Trek: Insurrection can be summed up in three words: death by facelift. The Son’a are trying to stay young forever, and have used bizarre and disfiguring surgeries to do so, making their skin loose and pulled tight over their skulls. It actually sounds pretty cool and it's a concept that would make any make-up artist and designer excited to experiment. Instead, they looked like the rich people in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil or the evolutionary endpoint of Jocelyn Wildenstein.
If their faces contorted in any way to show emotion, their skin would literally open. They were made of paper, and were dying because of sterility and the fact that “their bodies were producing far too many toxins.” Well, aren’t we all—but how is that supposed to make for a great villain?
Attempts were made in the script, of course, but it ended laughably. Ru’afo, the Son’a leader, viciously attacks and kills a Starfleet admiral. Cool! Except, Admiral Doughtery isn’t a character we care about. He’s not even in fighting shape. He’s old, and he gets offed by a device that stretched his face out. He was killed by a facelift. A facelift!
3 The New Essentialists
Deep Space Nine had, by far, the best villains in Star Trek. The New Essentialists are not one of them. They were introduced in the master class of suck “Let He Who is Without Sin…” where the Essentialists who look like Mennonite librarians go to Risa, a pleasure planet, to ruin everyone’s vacation. They felt that the Federation was too utopian and decadent, and that it made them more vulnerable to outside forces. They were fighting against the Federation’s complacency, and maybe championing militarization, but it’s never made clear.
The New Essentialists committed a mock attack against Risa to show how unprepared everyone was. Of course they wouldn’t be! It’s a vacation resort! Why would people have their defenses up in a place that’s a known pleasure planet whose culture revolves around drinking and orgies? For god’s sake, their biggest exports are great stories and space-syphilis. It’s a party planet!
The problem with the New Essentialists is that the concept isn’t necessarily wrong. The Federation was too complacent, but by the time these morons got together, Starfleet had already whipped things back into shape. They fought a successful campaign against the Klingons and had shored up their defenses following attacks from the Borg. The New Essentialists were trying to cause a revolution that already happened.
2 The Kazon
Voyager’s first antagonist species was the Kazon, a warrior race that looks like a bunch of homeless folks at Burning Man. They were also as dumb as rocks. Namely, they had a constant drought. Too many people, not enough water. But they also had spaceships capable of going faster than light. Why not just warp to another planet that has some? And how is it that these people have the means to create a warp drive, but can’t figure out some way to distill moisture from the atmosphere. What the hell?
While never mentioned outright, it was not only obvious to fans but the writers themselves that the Kazon were a large group of very dumb people. Even when they were played seriously, they were treated with an eye-roll, fighting the Voyager crew with consistently dumb plans. They were so bad that they needed to introduce a Cardassian—an established antagonistic species—to give the Kazon a boost and make them seem competent. It only succeeded in making Seska look cooler.
1 The Borg Queen
The existence of the Borg Queen undermines the scary coolness of the Borg, and undermines the crux of the Borg itself. Their whole gimmick is that one leader with one mind can make mistakes; the collective is many voices with many minds, and together, they can be unstoppable. The addition of the Queen just makes them like any other alien race in Trek; there are the soldiers and a leader.
It also doesn’t help that the Queen is a terrible leader. When she was killed in First Contact, it caused all the Borg in the area to self-destruct. How is that a good policy? Their entire culture is based on not allowing the failure of one to damage the others. Rather, the Queen was the focal point of the entire collective. Once, they were this amorphous, faceless monster. With her inclusion, the Borg went from being many, to one.
In “Unimatrix Zero,” she destroyed entire cubes just to kill one drone who carried a disease. When trying to find out the cause of the disease, she disconnects another drone from the hive mind. Great idea! Interrogate him by eliminating the ability you have to read his mind! Plus, why would you disconnect this drone and give them their individuality back, when the entire premise of this virus is to give these drones their individuality back? Why would you threaten somebody with freedom?
Disagree with the names on our list? Did we leave any obnoxious villains out? Let us know in the comments!