Published Jun 9, 2021
Star Trek’s Most Tenacious Antagonists
"Who among them proved to be the most devious and deadly?"
By Jay Stobie
Star Trek may be famous for pacifism and diplomatic conflict resolution, but the franchise has had a wealth of recurring villains who almost seemed to take delight in causing headaches for our heroic Federation crews. These adversaries hailed from every quadrant in the galaxy and posed threats that ranged from destabilizing the local balance of power to destroying all sentient life in the Milky Way. Who among them proved to be the most devious and deadly? Let’s find out!
The Klingon warrior Kol not only betrayed Voq and turned T’Kuvma’s followers against him, he also sought to unify the Klingon Empire under his banner and bring the Federation to its knees. That’s a pretty impressive resume for any tyrant, but Kol’s ambitious plans hit a speed bump when his Ship of the Dead faced off with the U.S.S. Discovery near Pahvo. As Michael Burnham and Ash Tyler infiltrated the enemy vessel, Discovery utilized its spore drive to develop a formula to see through Klingon cloaking technology. A few well placed volleys later, and Kol’s brief reign came to an unceremonious end.
10. The Xindi Council
How can a group that was focused on Earth’s demise and the extermination of all human colonies rank so far down on our list? Well, the Xindi leadership “only” directed their ire toward one species, after all. After testing a prototype that devastated a swath of Earth’s surface, the Xindi dedicated their resources to building a massive weapon that could eliminate the planet with one tragic blast. Luckily, three of the five Xindi factions eventually listened to Captain Archer’s evidence and chose to stand down. The Primates, Arboreals, and Aquatics even teamed up with Enterprise to chase after the weapon when it was stolen by the Reptilians and Insectoids.
9. Commander Sela
The half-human, half-Romulan daughter of a temporally displaced Tasha Yar, Sela orchestrated the capture of Geordi La Forge. After brainwashing the engineer, Sela’s forces released him in the hopes that he would murder a Klingon official and ignite a war between the Empire and the Federation. When that failed, Sela spearheaded the Romulan effort to support the Duras family during the Klingon Civil War, but was once again foiled by the U.S.S. Enterprise-D. Finally, the Romulan officer hatched a scheme to expose Ambassador Spock’s unification movement while simultaneously claiming the planet Vulcan for the Star Empire. Although that tactic did not succeed, Sela’s devotion to the Federation’s demise made her a potent foe.
8. The House of Duras
From the 22nd century Duras’s pursuit of Archer and Ja’rod’s betrayal at the Khitomer colony to the 24th century Duras’s murder of Worf’s beloved K’Ehleyr and the Duras sisters’ alliance with the Romulans, the House of Duras had quite the history of strategizing against the Federation. However, these family members share another common trait: suffering defeat at the hands of Starfleet. With their endeavors primarily confined to overtaking the Klingon Empire, the Duras clan never became more than a regional threat. Nevertheless, the Duras sisters did manage to cause the Enterprise-D’s destruction, so the entire House receives bonus points for being able to defeat the Federation flagship. Of course, they did so through deceit and trickery, but that’s another matter altogether.
As the face of the Emerald Chain, Osyraa gained a reputation for merciless brutality. While we don’t know the true extent of the territory controlled by the Chain, we know that the group of mercantile exchanges had enough starships and resources to rival the 32nd century Federation. Despite demonstrating a willingness to negotiate with Admiral Vance, Osyraa maintained a power so absolute that the Chain crumbled following her death at the hands of Michael Burnham. Perhaps we did not know the actual level of genuine affection she had for her people, but the fact that she murdered her own nephew does not tip the scales in Osyraa’s favor.
6. The Weyouns
With the exception of Weyoun 6, the Weyoun line of clones loyally served the Founders, represented the Dominion in diplomatic affairs, and oversaw the ranks of the Jem’Hadar. The Weyouns worked closely with the Cardassian leaders to map out ways to defeat the Federation, Klingons, and Romulans, yet their true allegiance always remained with the Founders. While essentially bureaucrats and middle management, the Weyouns wielded might in the form of the Jem’Hadar and the Dominion fleet. Weyoun 8 and the Breen facilitated the destruction of the U.S.S. Defiant, but the eighth Weyoun ended up being the last clone, as he was killed during the Battle of Cardassia.
5. Khan Noonien Singh
Readers may be surprised to see Captain Kirk’s nemesis landing at number five, but hear me out on this. Khan’s enhanced intelligence, strength, and ambition made him a difficult foe to defeat, as shown when he attempted to overtake the U.S.S. Enterprise, planned to conquer a Federation colony, hijacked the U.S.S. Reliant, and stole the Genesis Device. On the other hand, the augmented human’s obsession with killing Kirk clouded his judgment and ultimately led to his downfall. Rather than escape with the Genesis Device, Khan’s relentless hunt for Kirk resulted in the Reliant being left adrift and Khan perishing when he detonated Genesis in a last ditch effort to murder the Starfleet captain.
4. Gul Dukat
Whether overseeing the occupation of Bajor, waging a rogue war against the Klingons, allying with the Dominion, or courting the Pah-wraiths, Gul Dukat demonstrated manipulative tendencies and a ravenous appetite for revenge that could rival any character in Star Trek lore. At times appearing to be a potential ally and a loving father, Dukat revealed his true nature as someone who only looked out for his own interests. How so? The Cardassian was willing to sacrifice his daughter’s life when the Dominion intended to detonate a device in the Bajoran sun that would have wiped out Deep Space 9. While Dukat’s political status fluctuated, the Cardassian’s ruthlessness propelled him to the top half of our list.
3. The Female Changeling
The Vorta, Jem’Hadar, and Dominion fleet all served at the Female Changeling’s whim, yet the shapeshifter was more concerned with bringing Odo back to the Great Link than the conflict engulfing the Alpha Quadrant. Despite her discernible ambivalence to galactic affairs, the Female Changeling did seek to establish order over the “solids” so as to allow the Great Link to live without being persecuted. Her love for other shapeshifters aside, the Female Changeling displayed an unconscionable disregard for life when she ordered the Jem’Hadar to massacre Cardassia’s population at the end of the Dominion War. Only Odo’s overtures and the cure he had for a deadly disease convinced the Female Changeling to end the struggle between the quadrants.
2. The Borg Queen
She controlled trillions of drones, had countless Borg vessels at her disposal, and seemed to evade death with ease. With every world conquered, the Queen’s Collective grew in number and influence. Pursuing the perfect combination of organic and artificial components, the Borg victimized the galaxy at will for thousands of years. Captain Picard and Data succeeded in killing the Queen in Star Trek: First Contact, but Captain Janeway later encountered her in the Delta Quadrant. That Queen perished during U.S.S. Voyager’s trip home in “Endgame,” but one wonders if she simply had another body she could transfer to. Regardless, the Borg Queen’s capability to flex her influence through the actions of her drones stands as an excellent reason for her to sit in second place on our list.
You thought it was going to be Q, didn’t you? While powerful, Q usually ended up being more of a nuisance than an adversary. Originally created by Section 31, Control was a threat assessment program that began a search for the Sphere data’s files on artificial intelligence so that it could acquire them and evolve into a lifeform. Control’s ability to remotely operate Section 31’s entire fleet and reanimate organic bodies made it a truly unique enemy, but its mission to annihilate all sentient life in the galaxy is what propelled it to our number one spot. While previous antagonists aimed to control a planet, gain power over a political entity, or gradually establish order over other species, Control intended to launch an immediate and unthinkable strike to terminate all life. Fortunately, the crews of the Discovery and Enterprise held off Control’s armada long enough for Emperor Georgiou to kill the nanite-infested Captain Leland and Burnham to carry the Sphere data into the distant future.
Jay Stobie (he/him) is a freelance writer who has contributed articles to the Star Trek website and Star Trek Magazine, as well as to Star Wars Insider and the Star Wars website. Jay has appeared as a guest on Engage: The Official Star Trek Podcast, and his work has been featured on the Star Trek and Star Wars YouTube channels. Jay also serves as a remote assistant and consultant advising many actors and creatives who work on notable sci-fi productions. Jay can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @StobiesGalaxy.
Star Trek: Discovery streams on Paramount+ in the United States, airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave in Canada, and on Netflix in 190 countries.