Imagination Connoisseur (and guest blogger), Willow Yang, chimes in on the discussion as to whether or not all “foes” are “villains” – or just misunderstood antagonists?
I would like to comment on the letter Calvin Bowes sent in regarding some of the human adversaries from The Original Series. I know this is just semantics, but I’ve never actually viewed any of the characters mentioned in the letter to be antagonists. I guess it’s probably because they weren’t the primary threat of the episodes that they appeared in.
As much as I’m loathe to admit it, given that I’ve been trying to launch the #JusticeforTribbles movement, the main threat in The Trouble with Tribbles was probably the tribbles themselves. I saw Baris as a pompous, bureaucratic jerk, but he wasn’t a danger to anyone. Similarly, the main threat of The Doomsday Machine would be the machine itself; I actually found Decker to be more of a heroic (and also tragic) figure. Yes, he clashed with Kirk and the crew, but he was trying to save a planet from annihilation, and he ultimately sacrificed himself in an attempt to destroy the machine.
Finally, the main antagonist of Patterns of Force, to me, was Melakon and the Ekosians; although Gill made some horrible mistakes, he was pretty much a victim in the episode, and was being held captive by Melakon and used for his propaganda. And just as an aside, this might be a little politically incorrect, but Patterns of Force had one of my favourite humorous lines when Spock tells Kirk: “You should make a very convincing Nazi”. It’s already funny enough on its own, but the added irony of William Shatner (and also Leonard Nimoy) being Jewish just takes it to another level.
When it comes to human antagonists from STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES, I tend to think of the likes of Dr. Adams from Dagger of the Mind, Captain Tracey from The Omega Glory, and Dr. Lester from Turnabout Intruder. I felt that Adams was just kind of the mad scientist archetype who enjoys holding power over his patients and would stop at nothing to protect his research, regardless of how inhumane it might be. Tracey, I assume, must have lost his marbles after seeing his crew get mineralized and getting stranded on a communist planet (I thought The Omega Glory was a pretty terrible episode, to be honest). As for Lester…well, the less said about her, the better (although it was wildly entertaining watching Shatner act like a woman suffering from a bad case of premenstrual syndrome).
One human antagonist that I actually quite appreciated was Garth from Whom Gods Destroy. While I had a lot of issues with the episode itself, I thought it was still pretty incredible for a show from the 60’s to present a rather sympathetic look at people that are afflicted with severe mental illnesses. Garth did some horrific stuff in the episode, torturing and murdering people, but it was revealed at the end that the person who committed those crimes wasn’t the real him, and when he was finally able to receive his medication, he becomes a completely different man.
Instead of having him being punished, Kirk was able to exhibit compassion towards Garth, and seemingly forgive him for the hell that he had just put him through. It was one of the instances where I felt that Star Trek was very much ahead of its time in its optimistic view of the future, where we’ve overcome our stigma of mental illnesses.
Anyways, those are just my quick and rather scattered thoughts.
Live long and prosper,