Star Trek is full of heroes – principled idealists like James T. Kirk, Jean-Luc Picard, Spock and Will Riker. But Starfleet just wouldn’t be the same without some bad guys to keep things interesting. Over the course of five TV series and 12 big-screen adventures, viewers have shivered at the sight of all kinds of freaky aliens, warlords, interdimensional beings and garden-variety psychopaths. With Star Trek: Into Darkness hitting theaters, we went back and counted down the franchise’s top 10 villains of all time. Read on to see where your favorites ranked.
This sad-looking creeper earned a spot on our list almost entirely by being in the right place at the right time. In "The Man Trap" – the very first Trek episode, beamed out to the universe on September 8th, 1966 – the Enterprise visits the desolate planet numbered M-113, only to lose several crew members under mysterious circumstances. The culprit turns out to be this shape-shifting beastie, the last of its kind, which has been killing people to feed its serious salt cravings. There were much scarier foes still to come for Captain Kirk and his crew, but we'll always remember the M-113 Creature as their very first.
Even when they're on the wrong side of history, you have to respect the Klingons, a proud warrior civilization that has produced some of the United Federation of Planets' most implacable enemies (as well as its closest peacetime partners). Klingon General Chang, memorably played by Christopher Plummer in 1991's Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, is a prime example. He's a nasty, scheming conspirator who tries to provoke a war between the two great powers, framing Kirk and Bones McCoy for the assassination of the Klingon chancellor. (Not cool, Chang!) But he's also a Shakespeare buff who quotes the Bard in the middle of a chaotic space battle. Now that's what we call a great villain.
Modern-day Vulcans are supremely logical folks, by and large, but even they have their share of myths. Take Sha Ka Ree, the long-lost site of the universe's divine creation, according to ancient Vulcan legend. In 1989's Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, an enigmatic Vulcan named Sybok (pictured) takes the Enterprise to a planet that he believes to be the true Sha Ka Ree. Once there, they encounter a shimmering mystical manifestation that sure seems to be some kind of god – only to get suspicious when this so-called deity demands they turn over their starship. Turns out it's not a god at all, just some weird, mean-spirited being manipulating everyone for its own ends. Hate when that happens!
Some Star Trek villains are complex characters, shaded with ambiguous motivations and moral nuance. Not the Gorn. They're just angry, hissing lizard-men that will probably rip your head off if you give them the chance. In the 1967 original series episode "Arena," one representative of the species tries very hard to kill Kirk when they're forced to fight each other by a third alien race. The Gorn captain's brute strength gives him the upper hand, but Kirk eventually outsmarts him – and chooses to spare the life of the snarling reptilian that was just attempting to murder him. Generous guy, that Kirk.
Yes, we know: the Doomsday Machine, as first seen in the 1967 episode of the same name, is technically more of a mechanical menace than a villain, per se. But come on – this is one scary contraption. It's a flying weapon of mass destruction that roams through space, chewing up planets and starships everywhere it goes. (So, basically a Death Star, 10 years earlier. Sorry, Star Wars fans.) Just seeing it is enough to drive high-ranking Starfleet officer Matt Decker mad. Can you really blame him?
There are lots of good reasons to fear the "mirror universe" version of Spock introduced in the classic 1967 episode "Mirror, Mirror." For starters, Mirror Spock is an officer of the fascistic Terran Empire – a terrifying alternate-dimensional regime in which he serves as the right hand of a violent, craven Mirror Kirk. He's nothing like the peaceful Vulcan of integrity we know and love in the primary Star Trek universe. But let's be honest: The real reason Mirror Spock placed so high on this list is his beard. That neat little goatee just screams "evil genius."
Q is the most powerful being on this list: A time-traveling, teleporting, virtually omnipotent member of the immortal race known as the Q Continuum. Throughout Star Trek: The Next Generation's run, he would periodically pop up and sow some extradimensional mischief. The very fact of his god-like powers – and the fact that he seems to enjoy using them mostly to taunt and toy with the Enterprise crew – means Q has to rank high on any Star Trek villains list, even if he sometimes played a more benign role when he felt like it. Always ready with a sarcastic quip, and played to the hilt by guest star John de Lancie, Q is the kind of antagonist who made any episode he appeared in worth watching.
Tolian Soran, as played by the excellently malicious Malcolm McDowell in 1994's Star Trek Generations, was pretty much your standard mad scientist: Crazy glint in his eye, wants to take over the universe – that kind of thing. So how did he make it to the Top Three? By killing Captain Kirk. This bastard did what countless aliens and lunatics tried and failed to do over the course of three seasons and seven films – he actually knocked off our hero, and all because of some stupid interdimensional ego trip. We're getting mad just thinking about it.
You can run, you can hide, but if the Borg decide to come after you, it's pretty much game over. A teeming collective of countless cyborg drones, all ruled by a single hivemind, they fly their ugly cube-ship wherever they please and force innocent species to join their ranks. Even Captain Jean-Luc Picard got assimilated for a brief, awful time. Can anyone who's seen 1990's classic two-part episode "The Best of Both Worlds" forget the moment when we first saw him as the creepily dead-eyed Locutus of Borg? Just face it – resistance is futile.
You knew where this list was headed, didn't you? Khan Noonien Singh is the ultimate Star Trek baddie, hands down. No wonder fans got so excited when we heard the first rumors that he might play a shadowy role in this year's Star Trek Into Darkness. We met the genetically modified superman in 1967's "Space Seed" episode, where he was discovered and defrosted by the Enterprise crew 300 years after his reign as a sorta-benevolent despot on Earth. Of course, that was just the beginning. He returned 15 years later for 1982's Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, widely recognized as the franchise's greatest film. Over the course of the two stories, Khan came into his own as a most worthy adversary – a tragic hero of sorts, undone by his own desperate need for revenge. He's also entered Internet legend as the subject of an all-time great meme. No other Star Trek villain comes close.