Culture

The 10 Most Obnoxious, Overrated Alien Cultures in Star Trek

10. The Romulans

What exactly do the Romulans have that justifies their defining quality, their arrogance? They’re among the most boring species in all of Trek, the kind of evil twin to the Vulcans, known for their deceitful and warlike nature.

Their only redeeming feature seems to be how cool and genuinely intimidating their warbird ships are:

9. Soong-type Androids

I think I’m over Data — not that I was ever all that big of a fan. I guess looking back at the idea that Dr. Noonien Soong could create such super advanced androids but not manage the humanlike emotions just seems dumb and the episodes with Data trying to “discover his humanity” just seem gimmicky and lame. They were trying to replicate the Spock archetype with Data, even down to his end in Star Trek: Nemesis which echoed the conclusion of The Wrath of Khan. And it just ultimately doesn’t work. When there are androids in future Star Trek incarnations I doubt future audiences will accept them in the Soong/Data model anymore than they would a typewriter.

8. The Borg

I hope that Star Trek is done with the Borg, that they’ve been thoroughly mined as a villain. They’re just not that interesting. The Borg were always more like a virus. They weren’t an evil, malevolent force; they were more like a force of nature, just feeding. The Federation wasn’t fighting an equal enemy but just dealing with a hyper-advanced animal. Boring.

And what to make of the whole Borg Queen thing that was tacked on to sex up Star Trek: First Contact and then Voyager had to run with too? Doesn’t that just make the point more? That the Borg are akin to an anthill or a beehive? Future generations of Trek stories deserve a more worthy opponent.

7. The Q Continuum

My wife helped me learn to really hate the Q. In our rewatchings of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Voyager, and Deep Space Nine she’s always insisted on skipping the Q episodes. I was initially resistant, remembering enjoying the Q’s antics during my teenage Trekkie years. But on further reflection I do find the Q episodes more in the annoying, silly, campy vein and not a direction that should be pursued. How about I put the question this way: how would you feel about Q showing up in a Star Trek movie? What if out of nowhere in the new series of Trek movies all of a sudden John se Lancie appeared with something goofy?

The Q is when Star Trek is at its most fantasy-like instead of aspiring toward believable sci fi.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lH_ZcXRUFTc

6. and 5. The Dominion’s Genetically-Engineered Slave Races: the Vorta and the Jem’Hadar

On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine the primary antagonists in the show’s final seasons are the cultures that make up the Dominion, an intergalactic empire created by the shapeshifters known as the Founders. Two of the races they created to administer and control the empire are the bureaucratic Vorta with the weird ear things and the drug-addicted, hyper-violent tough guys the Jem’Hadar. Both are essentially test-tube species who usually don’t have any genuine individuals. Throughout DS9 the same actor would show up to play different incarnations of the same smarmy, irritating vorta viceroy Weyoun, re-cloned when a previous one failed. They’re two slave cultures, one held in place by their belief that the founders were gods, and the second by their addiction to the drug Ketracel-white.

I prefer actor Jeffrey Combs, who played Weyoun in his role as the voice of The Question on Justice League Unlimited

4. The Cardassians

It made sense that the Cardassians would ally with the Dominion during Deep Space Nine; they’re a slave culture too that rejects the individual and demands submission to the state. (The show begins with them ending their decades-long enslavement of Bajor.) Like the Romulans, they’re a dreary, gray, boring culture of conformity. Thus, the intriguing paradox on the show that some of the most interesting individual characters are Cardassians rejecting and struggling with aspects of their culture. The outcast spy Garak is one of the show’s best characters.

3. The Betazoids

Deanna and Lwaxana Troi are the two primary representatives of this race of sensuous, hippie-esque telepaths who look just like human beings. They are both in their own ways some of the most irritating characters throughout the series. I hope future Trek series relegate the Betazoids back to a level of background irrelevance akin to the Bolians.

bolian-security-officer

Yeah, Deanna and her mom are about as ridiculous as this guy.

2. The Klingons

Does it make me a Star Trek heretic to say that I don’t think much of Klingon culture’s primitive tribalism and bloody death worship? Just like we skip the Q episodes, it seems like we skip most of the Klingon episodes too in our re-viewings. Sorry, but I just can’t buy into the show’s dumb, naive multicultural assumptions anymore. All the Klingon rituals, mythology, honor customs, and the tribal “House of Mogh” system are no longer as interesting now that I’ve spent more time seeing their real-world equivalents in primitive religion.

The series frequently respecting and celebrating the barbarism of Klingon culture connects with the Star Trek franchise’s underlying ideological assumptions, embodied in its most obnoxious, overrated alien culture of all…

1. The Federation

I guess I should just be honest and lay it straight out: I don’t enjoy Star Trek to the same degree that I once did now that I no longer share its ideology. The foundation of the original Star Trek is that the Federation is the United Nations in space. Captain Kirk was JFK, Spock was the McGeorge Bundy brain trust of experts who could figure out any problem. And they would lead us into a future without war where our ships wouldn’t be fighting but exploring. It was the optimistic vision of big-government 1960s Democrat Party establishment liberalism. My friend Walter Hudson wrote a few years back,

Each Star Trek iteration has starred a crew of explorers enlisted in Starfleet, the multi-purpose expeditionary armada of an interstellar political entity known as the United Federation of Planets. Conspicuously, the precise form of government practiced by the Federation has never been fully explored. However, there are a number of clues to its nature scattered throughout the franchise canon.

We know the Federation has a president who serves a defined term. We know the Federation has a governing council. We know that the various alien races within the Federation petition to join and have their culture vetted. We know there is a Federation Charter which formally established the organization. There is both a civilian and military judicial system.

Each of these characteristics were established somewhat arbitrarily throughout each series. Depending on the writer of a particular episode, the Federation might remind viewers of the United States or the United Nations. In the original series, for instance, adversaries like the Klingons and Romulans were obvious references to America’s communist opponents in the Cold War. As the franchise progressed, the Federation diversified, expanding its ranks of aliens. The Next Generation introduced evermore frequent diplomatic missions to quall tensions between alien races, thus modeling the professed peacekeeping mission of the United Nations.

For our purposes, what is noteworthy about the Federation is its unquestioned benevolence. While the occasional insurrection or insubordination was explored throughout the franchise, for the most part, no one within the Federation really questions their government.

I like Deep Space Nine most of all the shows because it parts ways with this model so much. It’s the least naive show of them all. In the Dominion the Federation confronts a slave empire disinterested in peace. Gone is the idea that a problem could be solved in an episode or two; instead extended narratives of war spreading across the galaxy take seasons to unfurl.

I hope that future incarnations of Star Trek follow more the direction of DS9 and its star writer-producer Ronald D. Moore’s show Battlestar Galactica in choosing to present science fiction with a less childish understanding of human nature and morality. What do you think? Could the franchise take a darker, more mature, DS9-style turn in the future? Or is the show’s utopianism likely to remain dominant, limiting Star Trek‘s potential to say anything substantive?