The word “scoundrel” is more often associated with characters such as Han Solo and Chewbacca from the other “Star” franchise, but Star Trek has produced its fair share of disreputable organizations during its 54-year history. Generalizing the behavior of an entire species is both irresponsible and impossible (even in a fictional sense), so we will limit our discussion to episodes where factions took specific actions that can be conveniently quantified and assembled into logical categories with similar themes. For example, the Nausicaans that assaulted a young Jean-Luc Picard were clearly looking for a fight, but their deeds could not be equated with the Nausicaans who raided ships on Star Trek: Enterprise. With that in mind, let's explore Star Trek's underworld!
7. Kolaati Smugglers in “Fair Trade,” Star Trek: Voyager
Star Trek: Voyager — Kolaati Smugglers
After Neelix's old Talaxian friend tricked U.S.S. Voyager's morale officer into participating in a failed deal to attain “medical supplies,” Wixiban revealed that he had actually been trying to procure narcotics for the Kolaati. Described as mean and merciless killers, the Kolaati operated out of the Nekrit Expanse space station and regularly profited from smuggling illicit drugs. Initially convinced into continuing with their secretive dealings, Neelix ultimately came to his senses and devised a way for the station's administrator to apprehend the Kolaati known as Tosin and his two compatriots. Neelix's ruse to catch Tosin in the middle of a criminal act worked, resulting in Neelix and Wixiban being cleared of all charges. Although this was Starfleet's only encounter with the Kolaati (at least, so far), Tosin's cold gaze and deadly demeanor left a harrowing impression.
6. Lethean Mercenaries in “Distant Voices” and “The Sword of Kahless,” Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine — Lethean Mercenaries
We first encountered the Letheans when a man named Altovar initiated a telepathic attack on Dr. Bashir after failing to procure bio-mimetic gel. It is unknown whether the gel was intended for Altovar's use or if he was working for someone. On the other hand, Duras's son Toral hired a Lethean named Soto for a very distinct purpose. Soto surprised a drunken Kor aboard Deep Space 9 so that he could probe his mind for information related to the Sword of Kahless. Once Kor, Worf, and Jadzia Dax located the mythical blade, Soto served as some extra muscle during Toral's unsuccessful attempt to steal the honored weapon. Combined with their fearsome red eyes, protruding cranial features, and bulky frames, a Lethean's telepathic abilities made them a valuable commodity-for-hire.
5. Hazari Bounty Hunters in “Think Tank,” Star Trek: Voyager
Star Trek: Voyager — Hazari Bounty Hunters
Covertly contracted by the problem solvers known as the “think tank,” the Hazari bounty hunters who sought to ensnare Voyager were classified as a technologically advanced and extremely violent species by the Borg, who also considered the Hazari to make excellent tactical drones. Seven informed Tuvok that the Hazari took pride in honoring their agreements, so they could not be bribed to leave the Starfleet crew alone. Captain Janeway compared their tactics to jackals who circled their prey. However, Janeway asserted control by revealing that Kurros from the think tank had acquired the Hazari's services while posing as a Malon. The captain hypothesized that the Hazari could substantially increase their income by capturing Kurros and his elusive cohorts. Given the reverence the Borg held for the Hazari's combat skills, it is fortunate that Voyager did not run across these bounty hunters more often.
4. Beta Annari Bodyguards in “Stardust City Rag,” Star Trek: Picard
Star Trek: Picard — Beta Annari Bodyguards
Picard introduced our fandom to Mr. Vup, a Beta Annari bodyguard who screened potential business associates and acted as a hired gun for Bjayzl on Freecloud. While Vup is the only Beta Annari we have had the misfortune of meeting at this point, his reptilian species came across as a perfect fit for the private security field. A Beta Annari's imposing stature and icy glare would be enough to deter any timid infiltrators, while their abundance of olfactory glands enabled them to sniff out lies, a person's last meal, and even an individual's most recent sexual partner. Luckily, Raffi Musiker possessed a clever concoction that deceived Vup's senses, and Cristóbal Rios displayed enough foolish bravery to go along with the plan and risk the Beta Annari's wrath. Rios survived Vup's screening process, thus enabling Picard and his team to successfully rescue Bruce Maddox from Bjayzl's custody.
3. Orion Pirates in Star Trek: Enterprise (“Borderland” and “Bound”) and Star Trek: The Original Series (“Journey to Babel”)
Star Trek: Enterprise — Orion Pirates
Orions and the Orion Syndicate turned up in numerous Star Trek series over the years, but their guest appearances in these three episodes were intricately tied to space piracy. Of course, the “goods” that the Orion interceptors sought from the NX-01 in “Borderland” were slaves for their auctions, an unspeakable crime in its own right. The Orion privateer Harrad-Sar openly acknowledged his habit of plundering other vessels in “Bound,” yet he covertly assisted Navaar and her sisters in a scheme to capture the Enterprise and deliver Captain Archer to the Syndicate.
In a similarly manipulative endeavor, the Orion disguised as the Andorian Thelev coordinated attacks on Captain Kirk's U.S.S. Enterprise as the ship transported Federation ambassadors to a summit regarding the planet Coridan in “Journey to Babel.” Remembering reports about Orion raids on the Coridan system, Spock eventually deduced that the Orions hoped to disrupt the conference and sow mistrust among the delegates for their own financial gain. If these three instances teach us anything about Orion pirates, it is that they rely on deception and subterfuge as much as brute force.
2. Nausicaan Raiders in Star Trek: Enterprise (“Fortunate Son”)
Star Trek: Enterprise — Nausicaan Raiders
Although Odo recalled reading a criminal activity report about Nausicaan raiders who pillaged a museum on Remmil VI in Deep Space Nine's “Heart of Stone,” the most prominent example of Nausicaans foraging for valuables occurred in Enterprise's “Fortunate Son.” While assessing the damage from a Nausicaan attack on the Earth freighter Fortunate, Ensign Mayweather mentioned that the aliens were known for striking ships in the sector and once targeted his parents' cargo vessel Horizon.
The Fortunate's crew employed some cowboy diplomacy of their own, capturing a Nausicaan from the boarding party and brutally beating him in search of intelligence. The situation went south when the Fortunate took aim at a Nausicaan facility where stolen cargo was offloaded, as the raiders surrounded the fledgling freighter and sent an armed team to rescue their comrade. Along with an impassioned plea from Mayweather, the Enterprise's arrival convinced the Fortunate's acting captain and his Nausicaan counterpart to stand down. With the Nausicaans involved, describing the 22nd century's shipping lanes as being as dangerous as the Earth's ancient West seems to be quite the appropriate comparison.
1. Ferengi Marauders in Star Trek: The Next Generation (“Rascals”) and Star Trek: Enterprise (“Acquisition”)
Star Trek: The Next Generation — Ferengi Marauders
Ah, the Ferengi. From Quark's criminal plots to his cousin Gaila's arms deals, the sheer amount of questionable ventures initiated by members of this species in the name of profit is staggering. However, we will center our study on two particular instances where renegade Ferengi sought to ravage innocent vessels for financial gain. In “Rascals,” DaiMon Lurin utilized surplus B'rel-class Klingon starships to overpower the U.S.S. Enterprise-D and capture its crew. Lurin intended to force his prisoners to mine valuable vendarite on Ligos VII, while the Enterprise-D would be sold to the highest bidder on the Romulan market. Only the unexpected intervention of a preadolescent Captain Picard blocked the rogue DaiMon from achieving success.
Two hundred years earlier, a band of Ferengi led by Ulis incapacitated the NX-01 Enterprise's complement and began to steal everything they could get their hands on. The Ferengi loaded food, phase pistols, torpedoes, scanners, furniture, and Porthos onto their own craft. In even more despicable fashion, the marauders gathered the female crewmembers with the intention of selling them into slavery. Ulis's lust for wealth proved to be his undoing, as Archer's tale of a fictional vault filled with gold bars granted Trip Tucker and T'Pol with the time they required to turn the tables on the Ferengi. Although Archer warned Starfleet and the Vulcan High Command about these burglars from a then-unnamed species, Lurin's actions against the Enterprise-D demonstrated that greed continued to entice certain Ferengi into thievery for centuries to come.
Jay Stobie (he/him) is a freelance writer who contributes articles to the official Star Trek website and Star Trek Magazine, as well as to Star Wars Insider and the official Star Wars website. Jay also serves as a part-time assistant and consultant advising many actors and creatives who work on his favorite sci-fi shows and films. He can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @StobiesGalaxy.
Star Trek: Picard streams exclusively on Paramount+ in the United States and is distributed concurrently by ViacomCBS Global Distribution Group on Amazon Prime Video in more than 200 countries and territories. In Canada, it airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave.