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45. Affable Evil and the Chaos Agents (Star Trek villains)

Anika and Liz are joined by Jules (of @juleshastweets and Bad Pajamas) to talk about our favourite villains! Complete with sidebars about Star Wars and Avatar: The Last Airbender, and a a brief reinvention as an Expanse podcast. 

Topics of discussion include: 

  • villains versus antagonists
  • redemption arcs 
  • the mirror universe
  • is Emperor Georgiou the Garak of Discovery?
  • maybe Quark isn’t a villain, but he should definitely be in jail
  • speaking of incarceration – Garak gets six months for attempted genocide, while Kasidy Yates gets the same sentence for smuggling medical supplies to the Maquis? Really?
  • concept: the Prophets are not good people
  • #seskadeservedbetter
  • the magnificence of General Chang

Finally, going technically off-topic but when did we ever let that stop us, Julia talks about Picard’s golem and Jewish myth.

Transcript

[theme music]

Liz:  Welcome to Antimatter Pod, a Star Trek podcast where we discuss fashion, feminism, subtext and subspace, hosted by Anika and Liz. Today we’re joined again by Jules to discuss our favorite villains in Star Trek.

And, Jules, which villain made us think of you? 

Jules:  [laughs]

Anika:  That’s not a nice way to put it!

Jules:  Apparently just — well, you know what? I’ve made my peace with it. You just DMd me and were like, “Hey, what does it say that I immediately think of you when I hear the name “Dukat”? I’m like, oh, okay. Well, you know, I’ve made peace with it. It’s all right. 

Liz:  Yeah. Yeah. And your mother may be disappointed in you, but I think it’s great.

Jules:  Deeply. Deeply. I love making fun of him! That, she appreciates. 

Liz:  Yeah, you’re not one of those Dukat fans who’s like, “The Occupation was great, and Dukat did nothing wrong, ever, in his entire life.” 

Jules:  No, he did everything wrong. Always. Forever. Every single thing. 

Liz:  So when I suggested this episode, I kind of wanted to draw a distinction between villains as individuals who are, in some way, opposed to the goals and ethics of the main characters, versus, like, whole alien races, who are just enemies of the Federation, or Bajor, or whatever. So, like, Weyoun could be a villain, but not the Dominion as a whole, because that’s just sort of faceless. 

Anika:  Mm. 

Jules:  Interesting. 

Liz:  And I love Weyoun as a villain, he’s sort of the middle management of villainy. 

Jules:  Yes. 

Liz:  But I would have trouble calling the Borg villains, they’re more of a force of nature. 

Anika:  That makes sense to me. 

Jules:  Yeah. That makes sense.

Liz:  Like, coming off season 1 of Star Trek: Picard, I have trouble thinking of the Romulans, ever, as villains, so much as deeply misguided individuals with a terrible government. 

Anika:  [laughs] Correct. 

Jules:  I mean, you know, I think I emailed you a little after the — what was it, the Qowat Milat were first introduced, and was like, you know, honestly, I’ve never quite been into Romulans because, when it comes to races who are enemies of the Federation, have totalitarian governments and extremely powerful intelligence machines, and a moderately successful dissident movement internally, the Cardassians will always come first in my heart. 

Liz:  Absolutely. 

Anika:  I think that’s fair, but I think that explains why I don’t care about the Cardassians as much? 

Jules:  Yeah. No, exactly!

Anika:  Because my heart already belonged to the Romulans. 

Jules:  Exactly, you know? You’re either a Romulan person or you’re a Cardassian person. There’s two types of people in the world. 

Liz:  But that doesn’t mean that I don’t find Cardassians interesting — they’re almost my favourite part of Deep Space 9. And the whole thing where Garak worked on Romulus as a gardener in the Cardassian embassy — that’s great! I love it when these two forces work together, and it actually turns out to be a real disaster. 

Jules:  Yes! That might have to be what we–

Anika:  And my favourite villain is, of course, a Cardassian. 

Liz:  Yes.

Jules:  Yeah! 

Liz:  So — yeah, I didn’t really want to get into “the Klingons!” I find the Klingons really boring as villains? I love them mainly as foils for Worf, or characters in their own right? 

Jules:  Yeah. 

Liz:  I love Worf, I just don’t think the Klingons deserve him. 

Jules:  Aw. Yeah. 

Anika:  Well, I mean, the TOS Klingons are just painful. Don’t watch those. You have to really be in the right place of, like, okay, this is going to be racist, and stereotypical, and awful. Okay, now I can just enjoy it as a piece of theatre. And that’s okay. 

Liz:  And if you’re in the mood for Shakespearian actors wearing brownface, the Kazon are right there. 

Anika and Jules: [laughs]

Anika:  The Kazon are no one’s favourite. Can we just put that out there? No one sticks up for the Kazon. 

Liz:  No. No. I — honestly, going through my season 2 Voyager rewatch, I realised that they had a lot of potential, and it could have been realised had the writers been less … racist? 

Anika:  Horrible? 

Liz:  Yeah. Yeah. 

Anika:  I mean, there is that whole episode where it turns out that they’re the Bajorans of the Delta Quadrant, and it was like, oh, this is bad, guys. 

Jules:  Oh no. 

Liz:  Oh yeah. 

Anika:  This is really bad!

Liz:  “Wow, these people freed themselves from slavery thirty years ago, and now they’re really dysfunctional and aimless, and desperate to survive?”

Anika:  I forgot it was thirty years!

Liz:  “That definitely makes them bad guys!”

Anika:  Oh my gosh, so bad. 

Jules:  [groans]

Liz:  I think, honestly, in some ways, the biggest villains on Voyager were the writers. 

Jules:  [laughs] See, also, Picard

Liz:  Y-yeah. Yeah. So what makes a character succeed or fail as a villain? 

Jules:  Oh, interesting question.

Anika:  That’s a very interesting question. I think this is where I have to bring up that I did favourite villains in my Star Wars podcast, and it was extremely difficult for me. 

Liz:  Because you don’t believe that half the characters are really villainous? 

Anika:  Yeah. So we were supposed to pick, you know, three to talk about. I could only come up with two. And we also — first, we were, like, okay, how are we going to define this? And I came up with this great definition: a villain is someone who acts in opposition to the heroes. And then I did not use that as my basis at all. I added that they had to also be, like, completely villainous, and have no redeeming qualities as people. And that was the only they could be villains in my book, and that’s why there are only two of them. And Darth Vader wasn’t one of them. 

Liz:  I was gonna say, that’s Palpatine and Count Dooku. 

Jules:  So you distinguish between villain and antagonist. 

Anika:  Um — I guess? Yeah, I think that’s word for word what I eventually said. But I just had to put that out there, that — this was easier for me, because I had my favourite villain, and even though I totally believe that she has redeeming qualities, I also believe that she is a Tarkin-esque type who’s really good at being a villain, and enjoys being a villain. And so–

Jules:  She does. 

Anika:  –it was like — I don’t know. The Star Trek universe, it was easier. Even the villains that you guys put on the list, I could come up with reasons why they were villains, and they were good to talk about, and I was, like, into it. Whereas–

Liz:  I think the difference is that, with Star Wars, we know that most of these villains were abused children, and their behaviour is a reflection of that. And so, without endorsing, say, burning down a village, to pick a random example, it’s possible to put them in context. Whereas, you know, Gul Dukat probably had a really hard childhood, but he’s still a douchebag. 

Jules:  Well, yeah. 

Anika:  Well, the thing is that he goes through a whole redemption arc, and decides not to be redeemed. 

Liz:  Yes! 

Anika:  There you go! 

Jules:  Honestly, that’s — even then, though, is it? Like redemption arc is probably — even I’m like — as someone who loves the character, even I’m like, redemption is … he becomes slightly less–

Anika:  To be fair.

Jules:  For a while, he looks like maybe he might become a little bit less terrible. 

Anika:  I guess it’s more like, he was offered the opportunity. 

Jules:  Yeah. 

Anika:  He’s offered the opportunity to go on a redemption arc, and chooses not to. 

Jules:  To do better. Yeah. And, I mean, I guess, for me, what I find interesting is that he totally does not realise he’s a villain. 

Liz:  No! 

Jules:  I mean, that’s what I — honestly, I mentioned this on my blog, which is — I was looking back and realising, okay, my favourite types of villains are generally, like, what TV Tropes calls “affable evil”, where they don’t, like, go out of their way to twirl their moustache. And generally, they’re not gonna be jerks just because they’re evil. They’re generally often really nice people in a lot of ways, until you get in the way of their goal, at which point, they will do anything.

Liz:  Yeah, yeah. 

Jules:  So, affable evil. Often, they have no idea they’re the villain. They genuinely believe they’re the hero of the piece, and they’re probably completely obsessed with and possibly horny for the actual hero of the piece. And I was like, you know? The formative age at which I was watching Deep Space 9 may explain this. 

Liz and Anika: [laughs]

Liz:  It’s such a good description of both Dukat and Lorca. And it kind of–

Jules:  Yes!

Liz:  –comes down to my thing, where my favourite type of villain is the one who really, truly believes that they’re the hero. And yes, they’re doing terrible things, but the ultimate goal is worth it. Even if the ultimate goal is, say, the long-term repression and ultimate destruction of the Bajoran culture, or taking the Terran Empire and making it even worse. 

Jules:  Making the Empire great again?

Liz:  Yeah! And it’s really — I think the sort of villain who thinks they’re the chosen one, and is sort of a legend in their own lunchbox, but is also a bit ridiculous? You know, Lorca is almost introduced telling dad jokes, and Dukat has this amazing, ridiculous obsession with Kira and Sisko, and would absolutely bone them both. And — yeah, I find that sort of character really entertaining. I don’t even necessarily want a redemption arc for that sort of villain, I just want to see them doing their thing, and being really shocked and amazed to learn that they’re not succeeding just because of the magical power of their own charisma. 

Jules:  Yes. Yeah. Exactly. I mean, honestly, partly, for me, it’s that I almost always — redemption arcs very rarely, if ever, work for me. Like, the only one I can think of that I’ve really been, like, yes, this works for me, is Prince Zuko from Avatar

Liz:  He is only really a villain for two episodes, and then Jason Isaacs comes in, and we see him put in his place as a scared, victimised teenager. And that’s the point where you realise, oh, there is more to this character than being a stroppy bad guy, and–

Jules:  He lived in a really messed up culture, and was completely — yeah. Yeah. 

Liz:  And — to talk about Avatar for a moment — I am very much on the Azula redemption train, but I would never even consider a redemption arc for, say, Ozai, because he doesn’t want it. He thinks he’s doing the right thing. He thinks he’s entitled to take over the world and literally burn it down, and take his shirt off in the process because he’s just that gorgeous. 

Jules:  You know? 

Anika:  So the character I chose as my favourite villain in Star Wars, after all of this, was Ben Mendelsohn’s character in Rogue One? Orson Krennec?

Liz:  Yeah!

Jules:  Oh!

Anika:  Which I think is exactly the type of person that you’re talking about. And where I never wanted to see him redeemed, because he doesn’t — yeah, he absolutely doesn’t know he’s a villain. He thinks that he’s doing everything correctly, and should get all of the acclaim, and is just angry at the world for not giving it to him. 

Liz:  Yeah!

Anika:  And that’s fun to watch. 

Liz:  Again, like Weyoun, he’s the middle management of evil. And even some Weyouns can sort of — I don’t want to say redeem themselves? But he chooses to follow Odo instead of the rest of the Founders. 

The other reason I don’t really love having the Dominion as “a villain” is because there’s so much genetic manipulation of everyone but the Founders that — you know, how much does free will really tie into it? It’s no fun hissing at a villain who has no choice. 

Jules:  Yeah. Honestly, a lot of the seventh and later sixth seasons of DS9, I’m like — honestly, on my blog, I’m like, you know, you could make a drinking game out of my use of the phrase “missed opportunity” for the show. 

Liz:  Oh yeah!

Jules:  But I’m really — I feel like you could have stretched the Dominion War arc out by at least another season, and really given a lot more characters the opportunity to come into their own. You know, including Ezri, and that’s a whole other story, but — yeah. I’m just, like — I mean, I was thinking about this earlier, as well, about, you know, you have entire races who are villains, versus, like, individual characters. And where do you kind of draw the line there, of sort of generic villains who are — they’re from this race, so they must be evil. Which is the Ferengi, actually, for all of Next Gen

Anika:  Yeah. Right. 

Liz:  And what a great subtext that is!

Jules:  Oof! Yes. As I’ve mentioned. 

Liz:  That’s kind of why I don’t really have many favourite villains from Voyager, because the nature of the series means we don’t really get to dig in deep with any cultures. So we only see a handful of individuals. And they’re usually hostile, and usually they have good reasons for being hostile, but we don’t get to see beyond that. 

Anika:  Right.

Jules:  It’s sort of [like The] Original Series in that regard, really.

Liz:  Yeah, yeah!

Anika:  Yeah.

Liz:  I feel like the closest TOS comes to a returning villain, aside from “the Klingon Empire” is Harry Mudd. And he’s no one’s favourite anything. 

Jules:  He’s Harry Mudd’s favourite!

Liz:  It’s true, it’s true, and my friend Aristofranes wrote that excellent fic where he and Lorca go on a heist. 

Jules and Anika: [laughs]

Jules:  I like mirror!Mudd, in the comics–

Liz:  He’s such a nice man!

Jules:  The mostly forgettable, like, we’ll forget the last few pages of it, tie-in comic in the mirror universe. 

Liz:  You know, as with so much of Discovery, I just stopped paying attention after they killed Cornwell. 

Jules:  Yeah. Fair! That seems reasonable. 

Anika:  Yep. 

Jules:  I mean, the mirror universe, though, speaking of that — I guess we can get to Lorca from that, some more, but mirror — I feel like, again, missed opportunities, but mirror!Kira, who I feel like was introduced as a — basically DS9, the first mirror universe episode was pretty serious. And then the rest of them got — they just went ridiculously campy. And initially, though, I’m like, oh, when she’s first introduced to mirror!Kira, I’m like, the Intendant is Dukat, basically. 

Liz:  Yeah!

Jules:  And I’m like, this is — it adds a whole other layer of creepiness and grossness on top of their relationship, that every time, now, Kira looks at him, she not only has, you know, the leader of the — the mastermind of the Occupation in her lifetime, but also gets to see, “Oh, there but for the grace of the Prophets go I,” basically, of, “How little would it have taken for me to become this person?” And, yeah, I’m just like, they’re — yeah, mirror universe and Lorca got me thinking of that. I’m like, oof, you know, talk about your missed opportunities there with the mirror universe, for villains and — yeah. 

Liz:  And seeing how circumstances shape a person, and that, for all that Michael sort of bucks Federation society in a lot of ways, she is still very much of the Federation, the same way her counterpart appears to have been of the Terran Empire. 

Jules:  Yeah. 

Liz:  I have a lot of feelings about the mirror universe, because I’ve always been a fan of it, and I really disliked what DS9 wound up doing with it after that first episode. 

Jules:  It was a shame. 

Anika:  Yup.

Liz:  Yeah. So I was so glad when Discovery made it scary again. 

Anika:  It’s serious. 

Liz:  Yes! And I find it interesting when people say that there is no possibility of redeeming Philippa Georgiou because she’s basically Dukat, and in certain fanboy circles, this leads to an argument about who is worse, and they’re very keen on defending Dukat. [huge sigh]

Jules:  Noooooooo.

Anika:  Of course they are. 

Jules:  No. 

Liz:  And, I have to say, as someone who enjoys a good redemption arc, I don’t know if that’s really what we’re getting with Georgiou, or if she is just channelling her ruthlessness–

Jules:  I hope not, honestly?

Liz:  –in different directions. 

Jules:  Yeah. And honestly, I feel like that’s more interesting to me. And I can see, actually, the Dukat comparison in some regards, in that she is, you know — even more than he was, actually, because he was just some bureaucrat, really, he was not the head of the government, and she was. But also — and we’ve talked about this a little — it was intentional on the writers’ part that the main difference, they said, between Georgiou and Lorca was that Georgiou listened to Michael when she said — like, Michael told him all throughout that, “I am still Federation at heart.” And he was like, “Yeah, okay, fine, whatever.” 

Liz:  “Sure you are, honey.” 

Jules:  And Georgiou listened to her, and was like, “Okay, fine.” And that was the main difference between them, that Georgiou actually listened to her where Lorca did not. And I’m like, that’s not really — that doesn’t feel like an accident, that it’s a woman of colour who’s saying that, and listened to the other woman of colour, and the white man kind of says, “Yeah, sure.”

Anika:  Talks over them. 

Jules:  Yeah, exactly. And I’m like, you know? Yeah. 

Anika:  He’s shown not to listen to either of them. 

Jules:  Yeah, exactly. 

Liz:  One of the consistent things about Lorca is that all of his relationships with women are ultimately manipulative and dismissive, and it starts with Michael, and Landry, and Cornwell, and then more Michael, and Philippa. He is not Respect Women Guy. 

So, yeah, I don’t know that Philippa would even want to be quote-unquote “redeemed”. But I think she is open to having more flexibility in her priorities? And I think part of her does enjoy being the bad advice bear of the Federation. 

Jules:  Yeah. 

Liz:  But also being safe. 

Jules:  Yeah!

Anika:  I was gonna say, I see her story as more of a survival story than a redemption arc. Like, she has had to be on guard her entire life. And the higher up in rank she got, the worse it became, and the more people were after her. And then the two people closest to her betrayed her. And now this is sort of, like, this — it’s a second chance to live the life she wanted to live.

Liz:  Yeah. 

Jules:  You know, as you’re saying this, you know what the best DS9 comparison would be to Georgiou? It’s Garak, I feel like. 

Liz:  I was — yeah! 

Anika:  Yes! And I don’t think that he is a “hero”, quote-unquote.

Jules:  No. 

Anika:  He’s much more — he’s maybe not a villain, but he’s much more anti-hero, dark side, than he is–

Jules:  I mean, honestly, there’s this wonderful essay — but basically it characterises — and in retrospect, that’s exactly what it is — the dynamic as everyone else kind of dragging Garak toward decency. In terms of his quite-unquote “redemption arc”. It’s everyone else being, like, “Okay, well, we’re gonna treat you like one of us, even though you’re not,” and he’s just constantly, like, “No. No.” And kind of testing the boundaries. And they’re like, “Okay, well, you can do that all you want, but we’re still gonna treat you like one of us.” And eventually, sort of, in spite of himself, he ends up having a redemption arc, or something close to one, something approaching one, maybe?

Anika:  He starts making better choices. 

Jules:  Mm hmm. 

Liz:  Yeah, no, that’s perfect. And, like Georgiou, he’s a chaos agent. He pokes and pulls to see what happens some of the time, and sometimes what happens is, he winds up torturing Odo! But no hard feelings, they’re gonna have lunch next week. 

Jules:  Well, you know what, honestly, Odo — because Odo’s a collaborator. I mean, that’s a whole other story. But, yeah. 

Liz:  Odo Is The Worst Dot Tumblr dot com. But also, I like that they wind up friends because Odo was tortured by Garak — because it’s so alien, and they are aliens. I wouldn’t buy it if they were both human characters, if even one of them was a human character, but they’re not! And so it tells us something about them, and who and what they are, and that’s cool. 

Jules:  Yeah. Honestly, yeah. And I really like — and it sets them up, like, that episode explicitly sets them up as parallels of each other. I mean, the end of the episode is Garak talking to Odo, and you never actually see Odo as they’re saying, “We should have breakfast together more often.” It’s Garak in the ruins of his shop, and you only see Odo in the mirror, as a reflection in the mirror. I’m like, wow. That’s one of those things where I’m like, oh, bless you, Star Trek, that’s so on the nose, and I love it. 

Liz:  Right! It’s like, in Picard, when the camera shows him with the Locutus face superimposed. That is not subtle, but I love it. 

Anika:  [laughs]

Jules:  I love it! It was — yeah. No. We could do a whole episode just on that, the non-subtle moments that we love. 

Anika and Liz: [laugh]

Liz:  I think that character-dragged-kicking-and-screaming-into-becoming-a-better-person is the arc that I really, really wanted for Seska, and I just blogged “Basics” part 2, and so I’m freshly angry all over again, after twenty-four years, about how she was killed off, and how her whole arc went. Because it made no sense whatsoever. And she was such a great character! And unlike most of the female villains in Star Trek, she wasn’t sexualised, even when she’s doing ridiculous MRA-fantasy things–

Anika:  Sexy stuff.

Liz:  –like stealing Chakotay’s DNA and impregnating herself with it. 

Anika:  Ugh. 

Liz:  Like, she was such a great foil for both Chakotay and Janeway, the same way Dukat matches both Kira and Sisko. Just — missed opportunities. 

Anika:  So I watched “Worst Case Scenario”, because I wanted to end on a high note going into this. Not on “Basics” part 2. But in “Worst Case Scenario”, it’s proven that Seska, you know, had Tuvok’s game before Tuvok was afraid of her. And it’s just so good! And a year after she’s died, she’s still causing problems on the ship and could blow it up. 

Jules:  God, yes. 

Anika:  And almost does, you know, almost succeeds. And that’s just, you know, it was like, that was a better send-off for the character I wanted her to be.

Jules:  Absolutely. 

Anika:  I think that–

Liz:  But I’m–

Anika:  Go ahead.

Liz:  Oh, I’m just — when I think about Seska staying on board, and, you know, messing with Janeway’s head, and Chakotay’s — and then Seven of Nine’s! Like, there were so many potential good stories here. 

Jules:  Lord. 

Anika:  Like, you know “The Voyager Conspiracy”, when Seven of Nine starts doing all of these algorithms in her head, and realises everybody–

Liz:  Yeah?

Anika:  So, imagine the version of that story where, halfway through, she goes and lets Seska out of her quarters that she’s been, like, imprisoned in the entire time. It would be so good! 

Jules:  Good Lord, yes. 

Liz:  I’m just thinking about that episode, and realising what a perfect match Seven and Raffi are. Just give me a minute here. 

Anika:  Awwww!

Jules:  Yes! 

Liz:  Oh! They can set up a conspiracy wall in their quarters, it’ll be so nice. 

Jules:  With Elnor just kind of hanging around outside, like, “What do you need, Mom? Moms?” 

Liz and Anika: [laugh and sigh happily]

Liz:  Anyway. 

Anika:  I’ve considered Seska for too many hours of my life, and so I can explain all of her terrible choices that she makes, and how she traps herself in her own horrible ending because of all the terrible choices that she makes. And how it all comes down to — even though we’re not calling the Cardassian race a villain — being raised within the Cardassian race, and the Cardassian culture, is definitely responsible for everything that Seska does. 

She is both — like, she can’t respect Janeway because she’s pure Federation, but also because she’s a woman, and she also is afraid of Janeway for those reasons. 

Liz:  That’s interesting. 

Anika:  And so she runs away to the Kazon, somewhere where she understands the rules of the game, because they’re very patriarchal, and they’re very — you know, and she knows how to manipulate people within that place. And she doesn’t know how to do it on Voyager. 

Jules:  You know, it’s interesting that you bring that up, because what I’ve noticed, and what’s really interesting to me, on DS9, is that, yes, Cardassian society seems to have these very strict gender roles. Men are good at military, and honestly, emotional stuff, it seems like. There’s famous Cardassian architects, and artists, and stuff, and their military readers. And women are good at science, and engineering, and in some ways it’s just like, okay, got it, it’s an inverse of western human stereotypes. 

Liz:  But still a patriarchy!

Jules:  But the Obsidian Order is largely both. We see a lot of men–

Anika:  Yes, it’s true. 

Jules:  –We see a lot of women. Like, a lot of — fairly mixed gender, actually. Like, it’s not — there’s some women, there’s some men. I find that interesting, especially watching, like, Picard, where it’s like, you’ve got the — the Tal Shiar were introduced to it in a Troi episode. 

Liz:  Right, they were very feminist. 

Anika:  Yes, they definitely are. 

Jules:  Yeah, the Tal Shiar, let alone the Zhat Vash, we learn about later, and the Qowat Milat, who seem to be largely, if not entirely, female. I find it very interesting that the Obsidian Order, then, seems to be fairly mixed gender, and oddballs of all genders, maybe. 

Liz:  It’s sort of the place where, in a repressive society, your weirdos and outliers have an outlet, but are also watched very closely.

Jules:  Which is very much the early history of the CIA, honestly. 

Liz:  Yeah!

Jules:  Like, if you look at the OSS, the predecessor to the CIA, it was very much, like, weirdos, circus acrobats, and people who could do weird puzzles, and it was just — it was all sorts of weirdos. Yeah, to some extent, it’s like, well, you know what? They can come up with crazy stuff, let’s have them working for us, and this way we can keep an eye on them as well. 

Liz:  Right! Yes. 

Anika:  Yes. 

Liz:  I find that really interesting, and contrasting the Tal Shiar against the Obsidian Order is sort of my new hobby. 

Jules:  Yes. Oh, there’s plenty of that. Honestly, I’m like — I’m going off track a little here, but I get a little annoyed by everyone, Chabon included, saying, like, “Well, we couldn’t really fit DS9 into Picard.”

Liz:  I know!

Jules:  I’m like, uh, you know, if nothing else, I’d like to know about how the Founders — or how the Tal Shiar survived the battle of the Omarian Nebula, which is said to be the equivalent of Wolf 359 for them. I would love to know about Subcommander T’Rul. DS9 did a lot with the Romulans, and excuse me, you know who the one person, at least one person in the Federation wasn’t totally lauding Picard as a hero after “Best of Both Worlds” was, it was Sisko! I’m like, uh, you know, I feel like there’s stuff there! 

Anika:  I think that it would have been less disingenuous for them to just say, “We chose not to, maybe next season,” or something. Rather than, “We couldn’t fit it in.” It just seems like, “Oh, we really, really wanted to, we tried.” I mean, that sounds just like the cat and Elnor. You didn’t try hard enough if it didn’t get into the show! 

Jules:  Yes!

Anika:  So stop whinging and–

Jules:  Bring in DS9–

Anika:  –just admit that you didn’t do it. 

Jules:  Oh, come on, Siddig and Robinson would totally be into some kind of arc where you finally have Garak and Bashir get together.

Anika:  Absolutely!

Liz:  Right!

Jules:  And, you know, Laris and Zhaban totally know Garak. Come on. 

Anika:  Exactly! There’s so many little ways that you could have had this sort of domestic idea of seeing Deep Space 9 people, and yet, totally with the plot of spies and disenfranchised people. It’s like, hello! That’s what Deep Space 9 is about! 

Jules:  Come on. Yeah. 

Liz:  We could have literally visited the station, and seen how it looks, you know, twenty, thirty years later, and — are there more Federation elements in its design? Are there more Bajoran elements in its design? How is Bajor changed by being part of the Federation? 

Jules:  They literally were like, “Let’s take Agnes to DS … 12.” I’m like, there was just enough of a pause. And I’m like, screw you. Screw you! Especially after they had a couple — they had, like, two different lines connecting Rios to Deep Space 9. And then a third, that I was like — no, they had one — yeah, they had a bunch of different lines connecting Rios to DS9. And I was like, you’re just teasing me at this point. I’m mad. I’m mad about it. And I’m like, oh! Like, I get it, on the one hand, okay, DS9 is very self-contained compared to some other Treks. But also–

Liz:  It is, but if you’re going to bring back a Voyager character as obscure as Icheb, then you can do more than just shout out “Mr Quark of Ferenginar”. 

Jules:  Yeah. Exactly. And I love Quark. Honestly, [he’s] like [an] anti-villain, in some regards. 

Liz:  That reminds me! When I was in grade nine, we had a thing in English class, where it was like, “Name a villain in television or books!” And one of the three Nicoles in my class mentioned Quark. And I was like, (a) that is OUTRAGEOUS, Quark is NOT a villain, he is … Quark! These days I’d call him an antagonist, I don’t think I knew that word then. Maybe I learned it in that lesson. 

But the other thing was that this particular Nicole was very, very cool, and I was like, “How does someone that cool know about Star Trek? I wish I had the courage to talk to her. I really like her purple hair, and we go to the same church, maybe we share some stuff in common.” Never actually spoke to her. 

Jules:  If you’re out there somewhere, listening, Nicole, come on, get in touch and explain the mystery of how you know that!

Liz:  And also, I really liked how your purple hair faded into silver, it was very cool.

Yeah, Quark is not a villain, but at the same time, he does truly egregious things, and kind of gets away with them. 

Jules:  Yeah. 

Liz:  I’m thinking, not just of that time he sold weapons to a terrorist organisation, but stuff like, uh, making a pornographic holosuite program based on Kira. 

Jules:  Yeah! Which is–

Anika:  He’s definitely involved in more than one murder plot. 

Jules:  Yeah. And it’s — I mean, I’ve gone into this rant so many times personally, and on my blog, and everywhere. I’m just, like, if Quark is a collaborator, which Kira says at one point, she’s like, “I don’t trust you because you’re a collaborator.” I’m like, if Quark is a collaborator–

Liz:  So is Odo. 

Jules:  –why isn’t Odo? And why aren’t we treating Odo with the same amount of suspicion that we’re treating Quark? 

Liz:  Right. 

Jules:  And I’m just, like, you know? And Quark, honestly, a lot of this is down to Armin Shimmerman’s performance. Because he really just elevates this character–

Anika:  Oh, absolutely.

Jules:  –who could have been just — yeah, just such a caricature, and so one-note and ridiculous, and manages to kind of — yeah, give him a lot of depth. 

Anika:  All three of the Ferengi are kind of amazing, in that you go into Deep Space 9 thinking the Ferengi are a one-note joke at best–

Liz:  And a pretty offensive joke, at that.

Anika:  –and offensive, and racist, and antisemitic, and horrible at worst. But all three of them raise those characters to something amazing. You can start rooting for them, even if you acknowledge that they — especially Quark is on the wrong side on more than one occasion. 

Jules:  Yeah. And yet–

Anika:  He’s someone that you root for, and that you care about, and you become invested in. 

Liz:  And through them, you know, all of the other Ferengi that they deal with become more interesting. Ishka, the Nagus, Brunt. 

Anika:  Yeah, absolutely.

Jules:  Yeah. I’m like, honestly, we could do a sequel to your Mother’s Day episode just talking about Ishka, I feel like. 

Liz:  Ohhhhhhhh. The thing with Quark’s villainy is that I just kind of wish there had been, like, a jail set, and occasionally Quark is in prison, and there’s a subplot about him … I don’t know, trying to turn a profit smuggling contraband, or sneaking access to the guards’ replicator which produces better rations. Something like that. And it’s one of those things where I think Babylon 5 looked at what Deep Space 9 was doing and went, “Yeah, nah.” Because that one had a whole arc about a character — a regular — doing something terrible and then spending half a season in prison for it. 

Jules:  I mean, that is kind of what they did with Garak? They just skipped over the prison part, and suddenly he shows up. He attempts to commit genocide and gets, you know, six months in prison. 

Liz:  Oh, that zany Garak!

Jules:  Whoops! 

Liz:  They did it with Kasidy, too–

Anika:  I was going to say, Kasidy–

Liz:  –with her involvement in the Maquis. 

Anika:  Kasidy had to go to prison.

Jules:  Kasidy — I don’t know. See, Kasidy, I’m kind of like, ugh, she wasn’t smuggling weapons, she was smuggling, like, medical supplies. And she kind of knew it was the Maquis, but she was like — it was sort of like an “I’m not asking a lot of questions” situation, and it was medical supplies, I dunno. Honestly, I’m like, I get why, and I don’t object to the arc of having Sisko’s girlfriend — but also, I’m like, ehhhh, I don’t consider that really villainous. 

Liz:  You feel like she needs a better lawyer, and also it’s kind of weird how black women get much heavier sentences when white men do much worse things? 

Jules:  Yeah, isn’t it weird. 

Liz:  Yeah, it’s so strange.

Anika:  So weird. 

Jules:  Garak gets six months for attempted genocide, and Kasidy gets at least that for smuggling medical supplies to ex-Federation colonies that might be associated with the Maquis. 

Anika:  And also, the Maquis are not exactly unsympathetic.

Jules:  I mean, that’s sort of the point of those episodes. 

Liz:  Yeah! This is why I don’t really buy the argument that Star Trek — that Deep Space 9 is the only non-racist Star Trek

Jules:  Yyyyyyyyyyeah. 

Liz:  Like, it had its issues as much as anyone else, if not more so, purely because of the opportunity of having more people of colour. 

Jules:  And it did pretty well in a lot of regards. 

Liz:  Oh yeah!

Jules:  Especially compared to other Star Treks. But that’s not the same as being free of all issues. 

Liz:  It’s still an all-male and nearly all-white writing room. And I’m pretty sure the only man of colour in there was Naren Shankar, who is Indian-American, not African-American, and so has different experiences. No shade on Shankar, I like him, but–

Jules:  Oh no. God, yeah. The Expanse is, like, the only sci-fi series my dad admits to liking. 

Anika:  Awww!

Liz:  It’s just so good!

Jules:  I’m like, Mom! And my mom has watched Star Trek from the beginning. I’m like, Mom, you married a man who doesn’t like science fiction. She’s like–

Liz:  I love The Expanse, but I could never do a podcast about it, because it’s so good. 

Jules:  Yeah. No, absolutely.

Liz:  We couldn’t have this conversation about The Expanse

Jules:  No, yeah, absolutely. 

Anika:  Sorry, now I’m just trying to come up with topic ideas for The Expanse

Liz:  [laughs]

Anika:  Sorry!

Jules:  Yes!

Liz:  Okay, I do think that its treatment of Naomi is not as good as the books, and particularly in that season where she disagrees with everyone, and they treat her like sit for most of the season? 

Jules:  Agreed.

Liz:  That was terrible, and also subtextually bad. And I don’t like the decision to combine the characters of Drummer and — oh shoot. Michio Pa. Because I love Michio and I love Drummer, but Michio’s role in the books is going to diverge pretty heavily from Drummer’s. Anyway. That’s The Expanse

Anika:  Julie Mao deserved better. 

Liz:  Yeah. Julie Mao always deserves better. 

Jules:  Oh yeah. Yeah. I mean, in fairness, I feel like that’s one of the points of the books. 

Liz: Yeah, particularly the later books, but the first one is such a straight-up fridging that it’s just depressing. 

Jules:  Yeah. No, that’s what I enjoy about them, though, that later they’re like, yeah…

Liz:  Oh yeah, I love seeing the writers grow and improve, and their characters becoming more diverse and more complicated. And I think — I have never seen men write an abusive relationship from the woman’s point of view as well as they wrote Naomi and what’s his face. The guy who needs a punch. Like, that — seeing these guys level up is absolutely remarkable. 

Jules:  Yes. 

Liz:  Back to Star Trek

Jules:  I mean, Shankar got his start on Star Trek

Liz:  Right, it’s totally on topic. 

Jules:  It’s a reasonable transition. 

Liz:  I was going to say that, until Narissa came along, I would have said that Star Trek was mostly past sexualising its female villains? Like, there’s Georgiou, but I wouldn’t say she’s objectified.

Jules:  Yeah, no. She’s gorgeous and sexy, but it’s sort of incidental. 

Liz:  Yeah, even the scene where she sleeps with the two sex workers, and we see her in her uncomfortable-looking leather corset, like, it didn’t feel exploitative. Whereas Narissa — I feel like–

Jules:  Yeah. 

Liz:  –the writing for Narissa and Narek really dropped the ball. We could have seen them as people sooner, and we didn’t. 

Jules:  And what frustrates me, especially with Narissa — and honestly, there’s an episode of DS9 where I feel the same way about this, where I’m like, this is a great episode that explores the complexity of this, and it should have happened sooner. But, like, when we find out with Narissa that her aunt, the woman who raised them–

Anika:  Ramdha. 

Jules:  –was — that Ramdha, that her Auntie Ramdha, was assimilated, and was also initially going to be part of the Zhat Vash, and didn’t, or maybe did survive the Admonition, it’s not totally clear that she totally made it through unscathed — I’m like, you know, this is really interesting, what you’re doing with her here, with Narissa, and it should have happened a lot earlier. 

Anika:  Yeah. So I recently — I didn’t rewatch the series, but I was watching all of the episodes in order to get clips for my vids. And it’s the episode after — so I guess it’s like the fourth episode, the episode after the cell scene with Ramdha and Soji happens, where Ramdha tries to kill herself and Soji saves her, and then she’s in a coma for the rest of the series. 

So the next episode, Soji is with Ramdha in a scene that very much parallels the later scene with Narissa. And Narek surprises her there, and she’s like, “Are you following me?” And he says, “No.” 

And I was like, oh my God, I believe him! He’s just checking on his aunt! 

Jules:  Awwww!

Anika:  And I wish I had known that! I wish that their stuff was introduced before that, so that it wasn’t like this afterthought. You know, going back, I have this realisation, because now I’m just like, oh! So, yeah. 

Jules:  You know, it comes back, I think, to Chabon not being a television writer, first and foremost. Because I could see that being the kind of thing you sort of hint at over a hundred pages or so. 

Liz:  Yeah.

Jules:  And then rereading, and being like, oh, yeah, I see what you’re doing there. 

Anika:  Right.

Jules:  But on a TV show, you don’t have the room to kind of hint at that here and there, and then come back to it later, when you actually get a scene with these characters — one of these characters, even — and Ramdha, and be, like, oh, I see. Yes. 

Liz:  It’s the same with Narek’s throwaway line in the very final episode, that he’s a Zhat Vash washout. It would have been really nice to know that, like, episodes and episodes ago. 

Jules:  Yeah. 

Anika:  I was saying that, like, Narek and Narissa both finally get actual characterisation in the very end of the plot, and I feel like — I still feel like it’s partially some kind of — they were trying to trick us into hating them, and then were like, “Oh, don’t hate them!” And it’s like, no, you’re just — this is not good storycraft. 

Liz:  Right. 

Anika:  This is not working.

Liz:  And I think setting out to trick your audience is bad writing. You can set out to surprise your audience, but tricking them is not playing fair.

Jules:  I should be able to go back and rewatch, and be, like, oh, okay, I see X, Y and Z clues now. 

Anika:  Like in The Good Place. The Good Place does it well. 

Liz:  I was going to say, like season 1 of Discovery, when everything Lorca is doing makes sense, and suddenly you see him doing so many things at once, and they’re all creepy. 

Anika:  That’s true. 

Jules:  And I remember, initially, I think, Liz, you may have been the one who linked me to, initially, the theory that Lorca was from the mirror universe. 

Liz:  Oh, was I?

Jules:  Maybe! I don’t know. I heard it somewhere, and I think you were the main person I was talking to about it.

Liz:  Huh!

Jules:  There was this theory that Lorca was from the mirror universe. And I was, like, that’s weird. And I guess I kind of see where they’re getting it, but I don’t know. And this was during the hiatus between the first half and second half of the seasons, and I was like, that is weird, that is reaching, I dunno. And then the first episode of the second half of the first season happened, and I was like, I’m onboard. You know what? Suddenly I see it. And I was totally wrong about his motivations, but even then, at that point, I was like, yep, I see it and I buy it.

Liz:  I remember seeing that theory around, like, from about the mid-point of the first half of the first season. And I didn’t really care for it, because I felt like, obviously Ash is a Klingon, and we can’t have two imposters, that’s ridiculous! 

Anika:  [laughs]

Liz:  But also, I felt like Lorca was just a straight-up Starfleet captain who is broken by trauma, and this is like the crew’s perspective on that old TOS story of the captain who goes crazy and declares himself a god, or whatever.

Jules:  Which is also — I mean, you say TOS, but also TNG. I mean, that’s basically the plot of — dammit, what’s that episode? The first one with the Cardassians. 

Liz:  Yeah! 

Jules:  I mean, it’s that one. And I’ve said, that’s “Battle at the Binary Stars”. “The Wounded”! Like, if someone had intervened. 

Liz:  And part of why Lorca works so well as a villain is that all the clues are things that we, as a society, are trained and programmed to overlook and forgive. “Oh, he’s manipulative? Oh, he treats women badly? Oh well, he’s just, you know, he has a lot of pain.”

Jules:  “He’s damaged.” 

Liz:  “He’ll get better.” Yeah. And I was totally wrong, and I own that. 

Jules:  Even us, misandrist as we are! 

Liz:  Right!

Jules:  Reasonably misandrist.

Anika:  I think that I really appreciate Lorca’s story as a story, and as plot, and as — I appreciate it. And I love it, I love the fact that Lorca ends up the villain in the end. But I end up not liking Lorca, either as a villain or as not-a-villain? Just end up being like, oh, so he’s–

Jules:  I get exactly what you mean. 

Anika:  It’s this weird thing, where, because I was sort of on his side up unto a point, and then he become a monster — and completely a monster. He has — “Oh, if you were hoping for me to now move into my — I’ve become better by being in the Federation for six months,” that’s not gonna happen. 

Jules:  Yeah, they basically swap him for Georgiou. 

Anika:  Right. Which is great for the story. But for him as a character, I no longer care about him. 

Liz:  I just transferred all of my feelings about Lorca to the version of prime!Lorca that exists only in my head. And the good news is that he sort of seems to match up with other people’s versions, so I feel like I’m on the right track. And it doesn’t look like Discovery‘s doing anything with that character anymore, so he’s mine, now. 

Jules:  I mean, this sounds like — I think you prompted me, and I have so many scenes written, of the fic where prime!Lorca gets dumped on DS9, and he and Kira prime end up kind of together. And I’m like, yes. And, well, the way I’m writing it is that he ends up — well, at this point in the mirror universe’s timeline, Bajor has been conquered by the Terran Empire. And so, presumably, it would not be difficult, out at the edge of Empire space, if they were trying to go into hiding for mirror!Michael, who is associated with the rebellion, and prime!Lorca, who she has realised is not her Lorca, and needs to get to protection because he’s relatively innocent, to end up hitting the wormhole. 

Liz:  And, whoops, time travel. 

Jules:  Exactly!

Anika:  [laughs]

Jules:  And, you know, the Prophets are like, yeah, sure, whatever. Let’s dump ’em out anywhere. Anywhere, any time.

Liz:  I feel like the Prophets do a lot of things for the lols. And, actually, coming back to our regular topic, I can’t remember who it is, but one of my friends has my theory that the ultimate villains of the Star Trek universe are the Prophets. 

Jules:  Oh yeah! I mean, this comes back to — honestly, I think when we were discussing this episode, Anika, you sent a list of, like, villains in Star Trek

Anika:  Yeah, a hilarious list.

Jules:  And one of them was God!

Anika:  One of them was God.

Liz:  [laughs]

Anika:  It was great.

Jules:  As a Jew, during Passover, I’m like, yeah. God’s a villain. 

Liz:  It’s Good Friday, I can get behind that. But yeah, the reason that I would argue that the Prophets are the villains — well, villainous, if not the ultimate villain, is the whole thing with Sarah Sisko, where they just straight up possess and have impregnated this human woman. And, again, the all-male writing room doesn’t seem to realise what they’ve done? 

Anika:  No, no, yeah. They absolutely do not. 

Jules:  Yes! Although what’s interesting — my roommate, Mindy, who I introduced to Star Trek, and got into it via Discovery, and I was like, if you like Discovery, maybe try DS9 next. And is now super into Star Trek. She was like, “Hey, so,” as we were going through DS9 together, she was like, “Hey, so what if — bear with me here — what if Sisko’s mother was a Prophet?”

Liz and Anika: [laugh]

Jules:  And I was like, “Mindy! Are you Catholic, by any chance?”

Liz: [laughing in Catholic]

Jules:  Yeah, I’m like, of course, the lapsed Catholic in the apartment is like, “Hey, so is Sisko’s mom a Prophet?” I was like, yep. Yep. Because God’s a jerk!

Liz:  The difference is that the angel asked. Like, the Prophets–

Jules:  That’s true!

Liz:  Prophets are not very much into consent. 

Jules:  Prophets don’t. 

Liz:  The irony is that, in Star Trek V, God is a pretty disappointing villain. 

Anika:  [laughs] I know. 

Jules:  Yeah!

Anika:  He really is. 

Jules:  Honestly, he makes a better character in the Futurama episode where Bender is like, “Unless you’re NOT God, but the remains of a computerised probe that collided with God!”

Liz:  I’ve seen that movie, too. 

Jules:  Honestly, that’s a great episode. It’s one of my favourites of Futurama. It’s brilliant. 

Liz:  Man, it has been so long since I watched Futurama.

Jules:  It’s so good.

Liz:  Can I ask — Anika, I think it was you who added General Chang to our list, and I’m a bit miffed, because you both had your own villain, Seska and Lorca. And then I was going to choose General Chang, and you STOLE him from me!

Anika:  You SAID that Lorca was your villain! 

Liz:  I know. 

Anika:  You said, “Jules has Dukat, and you have Seska, and I so I get one too,” and then, in parentheses, you put, “Lorca.” So I took that to mean–

Liz:  I know, I know–

Jules:  I feel like I haven’t talked that much about Dukat, honestly. 

Liz:  Lorca is basically Dukat, but prettier. 

Jules:  Yeah! I think I remember us saying, at one point, in email, early in the first season of Discovery, I was like, I feel like they’re the AU I’ve written in drafts, that I have in Google Docs, the “female Sisko/Dukat” AU. And you were like, “I got a very Sisko/Dukat vibe off of them, and I wasn’t sure whether to say it or not.” And I’m like, yes. Yes, that is–

Liz:  I was obviously seeing red flags, and choosing to ignore them!

Jules:  Yep!

Anika:  [laughs]

Jules:  Love it.

Liz:  Whereas General Chang is just red flags all the way down, and completely unignorable. 

Anika:  He embraces it!

Liz:  Right! And I know I was saying that I don’t really love the Klingons as bad guys, but he thinks he’s the hero! And he’s the charismatic troll who is twirling in his chair, quoting Shakespeare as he fires on the Enterprise! 

Anika:  I only have three notes, and I’m kind of proud of them, so I’m just gonna read them to you guys. 

Liz:  Yes?

Jules:  Please!

Anika:  Number one, played by Captain Von Trapp. Number two, close personal relationship with Shakespeare. And number three, extra AF. 

Liz:  [laughs] It’s true! And I think Star Trek VI is a great movie, and very nearly flawless, but I just cannot imagine it being a fraction as much fun without Christopher Plummer.

Anika:  Oh no! He’s the — everything. The parts of Star Trek VI that I love, I really love. And the parts of Star Trek VI that I don’t like, I really don’t like. So it’s not my favourite. But everything about General Chang, and really, his entire conspiracy — and all of the Klingons — is great. 

Jules:  That’s such a racist name, though. 

Liz:  Oh yeah. 

Anika:  Yes. 

Jules:  I mean, speaking of Star Trek, and its racist villains, I’m like, oh no. 

Liz:  It’s also the one where the Romulans are just straight-up wearing qipao. So. Yeah. 

Jules:  I’m sorry, I interrupted there. But I’m also, like, oh, Star Trek

Anika:  Oh, no, it’s very–

Jules:  Sometimes — oh, Star Trek. Sometimes you get it right–

Liz:  Truthfully, and this is embarrassing, General Chang has been part of my landscape for so many decades that it has only just now occurred to me that that is super racist. 

Jules:  I mean–

Anika:  I think it’s just — it plays off of the Kang and Kor and whatever the other one was. 

Jules:  Absolutely.

Anika:  They were going for that, and they didn’t notice it was racist, I think is the truth. But there was no one to say, “Hey, guys, bad idea.” I mean, it’s the same as in Picard, when they kill off all of the black men, and it’s like, guys? Why are you doing this? They just don’t notice.

Jules:  Exactly. 

Anika:  No one is watching with that point of view.

Jules:  That’s why you need diversity behind the camera as well as in front of it. Yeah. 

Liz:  Exactly. I don’t even know who is writing on season 2 of Picard, but I feel like it’s mostly the same people, but just less Chabon. So. Oh God. 

Jules:  I mean, that could be okay. I guess. I mean, Chabon — he just — he needs to learn how to write for TV. He’s writing like a novelist, where — yeah. 

Anika:  He’s leaving to do his adaptation of his own work, which I think he’ll be much better at. Because he won’t have to do any of the worldbuilding, it’ll just be, you know, “I already know where this story is going, I just have to do it for TV.” And he’s learned. And so now he can (inaudible) that. 

Jules:  Yes. 

Anika:  And grow. 

Jules:  And so much of Picard, I’m like — as we said, like with Narissa, my moment where I’m like, wow, you actually brought some humanisation to this character. I mean, for want of a better word than humanisation. Like, you made me believe this character as a person–

Anika:  Nuance. 

Jules:  It was way too late. It was good–

Anika:  I mean, not for me. [laughs]

Jules:  –but you should have at least been hinting at it earlier. And I’m like, that’s the kind of thing that a novelist could do. You could drop hints earlier and earlier that I wouldn’t pick up — that I might pick up on, but wouldn’t pick up on and see spelled out until later. I’m like, mm, yeah. 

Liz:  I will say, regarding the villains in Picard, Oh was very one-note, but because she survived, I feel like there’s room for her to come back and level up to be a more interesting character, and a better foil for Picard.

Jules:  Oh, absolutely. 

Anika:  Yes. 

Liz:  They could even, like … meet. 

Jules:  Absolutely. That would rule. 

Anika:  They could meet. [laughs]

Liz:  Well, it’s just — one of the problems [with Picard is] that we have all these antagonists who — like, Picard doesn’t interact with Oh once. 

Jules:  Yeah. Okay, so here’s my question: difference between a villain and antagonist. We touched on this a little at the beginning, but villain versus antagonist. What’s sort of the difference, at least in the context of Star Trek? Or specifically in the context of Star Trek

Liz:  Partially, I think it’s just body count? Like, normally I would say that an antagonist is someone who genuinely believes, or at least hopes, that they’re doing the right thing — or, at least, that they’re doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. Like, I think of Kylo Ren pre-redemption as an antagonist, not a villain. Whereas I would say Snoke is a villain. 

But with Star Trek, like, I would say that Oh is more of an antagonist than a villain, but at the same time, she was pretty keen to commit genocide. So, like, where do you draw the line? 

Jules:  Yeah. Although, by her standards–

Anika:  She’s–

Jules:  I mean, that’s sort of where antagonist versus villain comes in, for me, is that by her standards, it wasn’t really genocide. 

Anika:  She was saving all those people. 

Jules:  Yeah.

Liz:  By her standards, that was less of a genocide than what Kat Cornwell attempted to do on Qo’noS. 

Anika:  Right. Because she just didn’t even see them as people. 

Liz:  Right. 

Anika:  And not even in the way that you can say that about anyone who’s a bad guy, even on Earth, you know, that they don’t see [their victims] as people. But, like, they are literally machines. And so–

Liz:  It’s like the equivalent of throwing iPhones in the recycling. 

Anika:  So we believe they’re people, but — right. 

Liz:  I guess, on the whole, I would say she is more of an antagonist than a villain? And also because she is very powerful but very remote, and she has some one-liners, and some sharp shoulders that basically scream, “Hello, I am evil.” But she’s not literally twirling her moustache, because she’s half-Vulcan, and they have more dignity than that. And I would say Kai Winn is an antagonist, rather than a villain. Because, although she does some fairly terrible things, she also is capable of a certain amount of heroism, and there are times when she has put Bajor above her own ambition. 

Jules:  Like when she kills my favourite villain ever? Yes? 

Liz:  Right! 

Jules:  God bless her, that’s why I love her! I’m like, yes! 

Anika:  [laughing] “God bless her”. 

Jules:  She kills Dukat. God bless her. You know why–

Liz:  She’s a very complicated antagonist!

Jules:  She is, and I love her. 

Liz:  I think that, like Seska, she deserved a better end. 

Jules:  Yeah. 

Anika:  She definitely deserved a better end. But, I mean, I think that Deep Space 9 deserved a better end is really what the truth is. 

Jules:  Yeah. Well. Yeah. 

Anika:  Sorry. That’s where I land. 

Jules:  That’s — yeah. 

Anika:  [laughs]

Liz:  My last rewatch, we stopped the episode before Jadzia died, and we have no regrets. 

Jules:  That’s a good choice. 

Liz:  Actually, no, I have one regret, and that’s that you can’t have Ezri and Jadzia at the same time. 

Jules:  Yeah!

Liz:  See, Ezri could have been leading that fleet at the end of Picard

Jules:  We should had a whole–

Anika:  Yes!

Jules:  Ezri and Worf!

Liz:  Right! I really like the idea of Ezri becoming Worf’s first officer!

Jules:  I assumed Worf would lead the fleet!

Liz:  Yeah, same! 

Jules:  That the Enterprise would lead the fleet to rescue them, and I was like, that would be amazing, give me Worf. Oh, I love that, now that you mention it, Ezri as Worf’s first officer.

Anika:  That would be so good!

Jules:  I’m like, yes!

Liz:  I feel like she’d be an older first officer? But, at the same time, if she’s switched at a later stage from counselling to command–

Anika:  And I don’t think she would care. She wouldn’t care about–

Liz:  Right! She’s three hundred and fifty years old!

Anika:  Right! So she doesn’t — like, titles and ranks, that doesn’t matter. 

Jules:  Who cares, yeah. 

Anika:  She’s going where she’s needed. And Worf definitely needs her as his first officer!

Jules:  Yes! [laughs]

Anika:  It’s perfect! 

Jules:  I love it!

Liz:  And also, like, I realise it’s technically reassociation, but Worf isn’t a Trill, so…

Jules:  And also, Worf’s not into it at this point. 

Liz:  Right! He’s moved on. We hope. 

Jules:  He’s like, okay, we tried that, and it didn’t work. So, no. 

Anika:  Yeah, like, they just have a great relationship, now. A great–

Jules:  It would be amazing. Now I want that so much. Oh! 

Anika:  I know! I’m angry all over again!

Jules:  I’m so mad. Ezri and Julian and Garak have some weird polyamorous relationship going on, and–

Liz:  One hundred percent.

Jules:  Yeah, that’s what I want. 

Liz:  Yeah. [sigh]

Jules:  Good Lord, yes.

Liz:  I think, as with so much of Star Trek, the version of Picard that exists in our heads is a bit better than the one on the screen. 

Jules:  Yeah. 

Anika:  Yeah. Well.

Liz:  And that’s frustrating, but it’s also okay. 

Anika:  It’s also okay. 

Liz:  I guess. 

Jules:  I mean, that’s where the best fanfic comes from. And these days–

Anika:  I was sort of, you know, when we were talking about Narissa and Narek earlier, and how they don’t get any, you know, actual character and everything, and yet they were my favourite from basically episode two? And it’s sort of, like, so you can tell the least developed and most chaotic character on the show is going to be my favourite. And that’s just the way it is. 

Liz:  You have a type.

Anika:  I have a type. 

Liz:  Yeah. 

Jules:  You have a type! I mean, I–

Liz:  Admiral Clancy walked in, and I fell in love! 

Jules and Anika: [laugh]

Jules:  I just — yeah. 

Anika:  I’m okay with it. I know who I am. I know what I like. 

Jules:  And, let’s be real, today’s fanfic writers are tomorrow’s bestselling writers, and head staff writers, and — yeah. I mean — you know. 

Anika:  Absolutely. 

Jules:  I was delighted — yeah, well, I’ll leave that for another time, but the golem–

Liz:  No, no! I did want to ask if you had any particular Jewish perspective on that. 

Jules:  I was delighted that the golem was introduced as sort of a value-neutral thing? Because I see it as sort of a — that’s a step forward, basically. I often see it in video games, and in other stuff, the golem as a bad thing. It’s scary, and it’s Frankenstein, and it’s a robot. I’m like, no, golem protects us. A golem was introduced to protect the ghetto from the hordes of angry Christians were going to kill us. I’m like, not the golem is–

Liz:  Much like Picard is protecting the synths from the hordes of angry Romulans! 

Jules:  I’m like, yeah! 

Liz:  I didn’t know that!

Jules:  Golem is — at worst, it’s a neutral thing. At best, it’s kind of, like, you know, it’s our thing to protect us. Which is interesting — Michael Chabon’s breakthrough novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, includes a character — I mean, it’s an alternate version of the origin of Superman. 

Liz:  Oh!

Jules:  And basically it makes it explicit that Superman is a golem. And, also, he’s a child who was put in a basket, in a little probe, and sent out into space, into the river, and Superman is Moses, and also the golem. And, yeah. I mean, I could yell for a long time about — but, yeah, I appreciated that Picard, at least, presents the golem as a very neutral thing, rather than a negative thing.

Liz:  See, it was negative to me because that kind of transference is a bit squicky to me. It was, you know, introduced as, “This is what Soong has built for himself!” And I hated Soong, so I didn’t like it. But I also sensed that I was missing something, and now you’ve provided that missing piece. So I’m very grateful to have that extra context. 

Jules:  There you go! And I’m also, like — my mom was like, “Oh, they’ve solved all the problems with Picard, where else is there to go?” I’m like, that’s really interesting, though! You still have places to go, like, because this is kind of an artificial body. 

Liz:  Yeah!

Jules:  And you still have places to go, especially the Borg. I’m like, uh, from some regards, if you look at it the wrong way, the Borg are the golem gone wrong. 

Liz:  That makes me think of “Descent”, which I’ve been doing far too much, lately, for a terrible two-parter, but the whole thing with that two-parter was that Lore was offering the Borg the chance to become fully artificial, and to shed their organic parts. 

Anika:  Right. 

Liz:  That’s really interesting. And I do think that there is more story to tell, not just in terms of Picard having a few extra decades in which to age naturally, but in terms of — all his friends just watched him die, and now he’s here, and he’s fine. 

Anika:  It’s a little weird!

Liz:  Yeah! And I feel like Elnor is going to voice that weirdness very loudly. And if Deanna sees him, will she be able to sense his emotions, and if she can’t, will that freak her out? Because I can see that freaking her the fuck out. 

Anika:  [laughs]

Liz:  Most importantly, how is Beverly going to react, and where was their relationship before, and where is it going to go now? (I have priorities, and I don’t apologise for them.)

Anika:  You’ve have priorities!

Jules:  You do. Yes. I feel like we’ve strayed from villains, but I don’t care. 

Liz:  Well, I just wanted to ask you about the golem thing, because I knew that you would have something to say about it–

Jules:  Oh yes. 

Liz:  –and that it would be very intelligent. 

Jules:  Oh, thank you! I’m flattered. That is very kind. Given the fights I’ve gotten into on the internet, and — thank you! I’m flattered. 

Liz:  You’re very welcome, but it was only a statement of fact. 

Anika:  And don’t take fights on the internet too seriously. 

Jules:  Thank you!

Anika:  Or too much to heart. 

Jules:  Thank you! Villains, though. Yes. 

Liz:  I do think that a story suffers without a good antagonist. And they don’t necessarily need to be a bad person? 

Jules:  Absolutely.

Anika:  Definitely true.

Liz:  Even a force of nature can be an antagonist. But in the western storytelling tradition, it is something that’s beneficial to have. 

Jules:  I mean, Jurassic Park is my favourite villain — my favourite — one of my favourite movies. And it’s explicitly stated that nature is the villain there. 

Anika:  Right.

Jules:  I sort of hinted at it there with my Freudian slip, but nature–

Liz:  The park is the villain!

Jules:  You can make me believe pretty much anything is a villain if you do it right. 

Liz:  Let me introduce you to my cat. 

Anika:  Aw! I was just looking at my little cat and saying, “You’re not a villain, sweetie! I know everyone thinks you are!”

Jules:  Oh, my cats–

Anika:  My daughter tells me every day that my cat, Sushi (specifically), is a villain. And the only reason I disagree is that she likes me. And so she’s never a villain to me, but she is to everyone else. 

Liz and Jules: Awwwww!

Liz:  Anyway. Anika, would you like to give us an outro? 

Anika:  Is it time? Yes, yes. 

Liz:  Yes. 

Anika:  Okay. Wait, I need to know, what episode are we watching? 

Jules:  Oh God. I don’t know. Let’s do — I feel like we might have things to say about “Things Past” in season four. Or season five, I’m sorry, “Things Past”.

Liz:  I can’t remember which episode that is, so that’s exciting. I’m just writing it down. 

Jules:  It should have happened earlier. But. Yes. 

[outro music]

Anika:  Thank you for listening to Antimatter Pod. 

You can find our show notes at antimatterpod.tumblr.com, including links to our social media and credits for our theme music.

You can also follow us on Twitter at @antimatterpod. Sometimes we post cat pictures, and questions for our audience.

If you like us, leave a review on apple podcasts or wherever you consume your podcasts — the more reviews, the easier it is for new listeners to find us. 

And join us in two weeks when we’ll be discussing the Deep Space 9 episode “Things Past”

Liz and Jules: Yay! 

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