Published Nov 12, 2022
A Guide to Star Trek’s Bad Admirals
Vice Admiral Buenamigo joins the ranks among the ‘Badmirals’ club.
Welcome back to The Lower Decks Connection, where we curate a watchlist of legacy Star Trek for you based around the latest episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks!
In the Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3 finale, “The Stars at Night,” Captain Freeman tells Admiral Buenamigo, “You are not one of those bad-faith admirals that’s up to no good.”
Unfortunately, Les Buenamigo is exactly that; he's no friend to our crew. As he explains to Freeman, “Starfleet is so competitive. Once you’re an admiral, you hit a wall. I’ve been trying for years to make a name for myself. I’m not letting you take it from me, not after everything I did to get us here.” He tells Freeman he had previously set her and the Cerritos up, waiting for the moment to unveil the Aledo and the unmanned Texas-class fleet.
This reveal puts Buenamigo in company with other noteworthy Star Trek Badmirals (Bad Admirals). And when it comes to Starfleet, it's a mighty crowded list. Here's a guide to some exceptional baddies — not just your run-of-the-mill incompetent or cowardly bosses. After all, late 19th Century British historian Lord Acton put it most succinctly, "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely."
Rear Admiral Norah Satie, known for her stringent investigations, is brought out of retirement following the discovery of a spy aboard U.S.S.Enterprise-D and possible sabotage. This led to a witch hunt aboard Captain Picard's ship where Worf gets wrapped up into the McCarthy hearings where a crewman with one-fourth Romulan heritage is targeted for the sabotage.
As the paranoia took hold, Satie turned her attention to the ship's good captain and reads him for filth on trial, hurling accusations and questioning his loyalties to the Federation. Her insidious xenophobic beliefs were exposed when Picard invoked a quote from her father, the noted Starfleet judge Aaron Satie, who strongly advocated in favor of civil liberties. "The Drumhead," with Jean Simmons' chilling performance, demonstrated how paranoia could easily warp into grandiose conspiracy theories that destroy the lives of innocent people with unsubstantiated accusations.
When a Cardassian-Romulan fleet entered the Gamma Quadrant, Vice Admiral Toddman told Deep Space 9's Commander Sisko to have the U.S.S. Defiant on red alert. The Cardassian Enabran Tain, retired leader of the Obsidian Order, formed an alliance with the Romulan Tal Shiar in pursuit of destroying the Founders and the entire Dominion. He captured Elim Garak and the Changeling Odo on his vessel, urging his former protégé to extract the Founders' homeworld from Odo.
While Toddman and Starfleet do not want war, they prefer to side with any scenario where the Dominion lose. However, Sisko requested permission to take the Defiant into the Gamma Quadrant in order to rescue Odo and Garak. Toddman denied the request, requiring Sisko to protect Bajor. When Sisko and his crew defied orders and headed to the Gamma Quadrant, security chief Eddington tampered with the Defiant's cloak device, on direct orders from Toddman, leaving them all to be exposed to the Jem'Hadar. The Dominion manage to wipe out the entire Cardassian-Romulan fleet.
Rear Admiral Erik Pressman of Starfleet Intelligence was tasked with retrieving his old starship, the Pegasus, where previously Will Riker began his Starfleet career, when it was discovered that the Romulan High Command had taken an interest in the derelict ship. Starfleet has deemed the mission a high priority as there was an experimental device aboard it, and they cannot allow the Romulans to seize it. The experiment was a controversial cloaking technology that allowed for a ship to fly invisibly through solid matter, causing a mutiny among the crew once they learned the true nature of their experiment; the Treaty of Algernon had long prohibited the Federation from developing their own cloaking device. At the time, the young Ensign Riker supported his commanding officer, which resulted in the tragic deaths of the crew, save for Riker, Pressman, and a handful of the crew, when the Pegasus ended up partially phasing into an asteroid.
While Riker carries guilt for his actions surrounding the Pegasus the first time around, the unrepentant admiral believed his experiment is "for the good of the Federation." Pressman claimed to have the backing of many officials high within the ranks of Intelligence, Security, and at Command, and this time around, no can stand in his way. And if Riker and Picard cannot follow the chain of command, they will be relieved. Additional experimental fatalities be damned.
A mentor to the likes of Christopher Pike and James T. Kirk, Admiral Alexander was dedicated to the Federation. So much so, that following the destruction of Vulcan in Star Trek (2009), the head of Starfleet Command forced the genetically-enhanced Khan Noonien Singh, after releasing him from his cryogenic state, to aid in his secret attempts in inciting a war against the Klingon Empire. He believed this approach of militarizing Starfleet would defend the rest of the Federation.
However, the release of Khan caused the Augment brought undo harm towards the Federation unfortunately killing Pike, as he turned on Marcus, his tormenter. In an extreme act of desperation, Marcus attempted to destroy the Enterprise in order to cover up his crimes, even jeopardizing his own daughter's life as Dr. Carol Marcus served aboard the starship.
Benjamin Sisko's relationship to Leyton is reminiscent of Riker's with Pressman; he served as first officer under Leyton on the U.S.S. Okinawa. In the two-parter "Homefront" and "Paradise Lost," Leyton demonstrates the prescient fear and paranoia surrounding terrorism and how those in power enact the draconian security measures at the cost of civil liberties. (For those familiar with U.S. government, this should hit close to home with events during the past one to two decades.)
When he was unable to convince the Federation President that the Changeling Founders were "infiltrating" Starfleet and the Federation government itself, Leyton faked evidence of a Dominion invasion and tried to enact a military coup that would install him as leader of a policed state. When Sisko discovered Leyton's treasonous plan, his former captain detained him as an enemy infiltrator, then tried to destroy Sisko's Defiant ship.
Admiral Mark Jameson was a lauded officer who commanded the U.S.S. Gettysburg. In his old age, he suffered from the incurable Iverson's Disease, which left him wheelchair-bound. Despite this, he was requested by the Mordan IV governor Karnas to help negotiate a new peace treaty. While the planet had ended their civil war years prior, current terrorists have captured a Federation Ambassador and his staff on their planet. The governor specifically requested Jameson as he was the Starfleet officer who negotiated the release of hostages from Mordan decades prior.
Captain Picard and the Enterprise was tasked with transporting Jameson to Mordan. Ahead of the negotiations, the admiral secretly started an age-reversing drug trial. However, he took a dosage of the unstable agent that was enough for two individuals. They soon all learn the hostage situation was a ploy to lure Jameson back to Mordan by Karnas. Turning to Picard, Jameson revealed that his career-lauding hostage negotiation was a farce. It was only "successful" as he was supplying both sides, Karnas and his rivals, with weapons, which led to the planet's 40-year war, as well as being a clear violation of the Prime Directive. There are no terrorists on the planet; Karnas himself is holding the hostages and intends for Jameson to pay dearly for the death and destruction he wrought on Mordan. Now visibly and physically decades younger, the brash Jameson demanded an armed rescue mission believing he could still balance the scales. His pomp and hubris ultimately led to his eventual death as his body shut down from the drug and reverse aging.
Another badmiral who was a straight up criminal — Vice Admiral Dougherty. Perhaps the reason so many admirals become warmongers is due the fact that once they rise the ranks and leave command of their own starship, they get bored. He not only aligned with the nomadic Son'a, who had been allies with the Dominion, but used his authority to exploit a loophole in the Prime Directive to align with the exiled offshoot of the Ba'ku. Dougherty and the Son'a tried to forcibly remove the entire peaceful Ba'ku population (robbing them of prolonged life) in order to harvest the metaphasic particles found in the rings of the Ba'ku planet, which would render the planet uninhabitable.
While the Son'a coveted the particles' rejuvenating properties and eternal youth, Dougherty sought to exploit and profit from the natural resource. When Picard and the Enterprise-E discovered the true nature of the admiral and Son'a's "research," Dougherty allowed an assault on the Enterprise in order to cover-up their reprehensible crimes that had involved the usage of Federation technology and participation.
The Enterprise-D crew on The Next Generation truly had more than their share of badmirals. Unlike the previous Jameson who was a younger officer when he fueled a civil war by providing weapons to both sides, in "Ensign Ro," Vice Admiral Kennelly was revealed to be a secret collaborator with the Cardassians, while directly selling the Bajoran terrorists weapons by way of a disgraced Bajoran ensign. This covert alliance allowed both parties to eliminate a terrorist cell led by the Bajoran Orta, whom Kennelly himself believed attacked a Federation colony on Solarion IV.
Picard soon discovered the conspiracy the Enterprise was roped into once Ro confided in him that she was ordered to violate the Prime Directive by making a deal with Orta and his terrorist cell. As long as they stopped their assault on the Federation, he will supply them with their much-needed weapons and vessels. However, Kennelly was manipulated by the Cardassians all along. They were the ones who framed the Bajoran for the terrorist attack on the Federation colony, and needed his participation in order to eliminate the Orta's cell, while deceiving the Federation to side with the Cardassians.
The distinct honor of the baddest of badmirals would go to Fleet Admiral Cartwright, while overseeing the emergency operations and security of Earth, spearheaded a conspiracy that would undermine the Federation's peace talk with the Klingon Empire and condemn them to eternal war.
The lengths Cartwright went through involved conspiring with the Romulans, the killing of the Klingon High Chancellor, the framing of Kirk and Dr. McCoy and their imprisonment on the penal colony of Rura Penthe, as well as the assassination attempt on the Federation President. His extreme desperation to neutralize the Klingon Empire and continue hostilities saw him conspiring with the very enemy he wished to destroy by way of the Empire's hawkish members. Cartwright presented audiences with the depiction of the path Kirk himself could follow due to his own prejudices and objections towards the Federation's alliance with the Klingon Empire.
Who else belongs on the Star Trek's Badmirals list? Sound off and let us know on social!
Christine Dinh (she/her) is the managing editor for StarTrek.com. She’s traded the Multiverse for helming this Federation Starship.
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