You don’t have to search the moons of Nibia, round the Antares Maelstrom or Perdition's flames to find a villain in Star Trek. Episode to episode and film to film you can’t crash a shuttle or break the holodeck without running into a couple of bad guys who want to rule the galaxy, turn something into a doomsday device or do something to declare themselves a god. They’re not all classics, but the ones that are stand up as some of the most memorable in all of fiction.
It’s impossible to remember all of Trek’s villains—there are five series with a sixth on the way and thirteen movies out there—across decades and continuities. And that’s not even counting the alternate dimensions! That said, we’ve scoured all four quadrants to task you and question if you can name these 25 Star Trek villains.
One of the first Klingons we ever met
This Klingon warrior was so legendary that he was given the esteemed status as Dahar Master—the Klingon equivalent of “unbeatable badass.” He ran up against Captain Kirk on several occasions, using his brilliant yet brutal strategies to keep Kirk unbalanced, and though they were on different sides, the two had a begrudging respect for the other. He was one of the few Klinks to life into the TNG era. By then, most of his friends were dead, and he was looking for an honorable way to die. He succeeded: courageously dying taking on the Dominion.
Despite one appearance, this Klingon achieved something few villains have
There are certain things you just shouldn’t do in Trek. You don’t betray Ben Sisko. You don’t get in the way of Captain Picard and his Shakespeare. You don’t ask Wesley his opinion on something. And you certainly don’t kill someone Captain Kirk loves. This character did this twice. He made Kirk destroy the Enterprise and then he murdered Kirk’s son David. Needless to say, he’s not only an important villain in Star Trek, but he also didn’t live long enough to enjoy his victory.
The best villain from the rebooted continuity
This villain is surprisingly deep for a portion of the franchise that has more in common with Michael Bay’s Transformers than Star Trek itself. He was a soldier who fought wars as a MACO for Starfleet. Then when it was over, they thanked him for his service and told him to get lost. When he and his crew vanished, no one sent a rescue party. For decades, he had to meditate on that. There were no more wars for him to fight, so the Federation no longer needed him. So, naturally, with everyone he loved dead and the oath he took apparently worth nothing, he wanted revenge.
Who is this evil Android?
Created before his brother Data, this android was built with full functional emotions and a better understanding of humanity—knowledge he used to strike a deal with the Crystalline Entity to wipe out the entire colony he lived on. Can’t help but feel a little insulted by that one. While only making a few appearances, this character managed to create an army of renegade Borg drones and almost killed Wesley Crusher. Had he succeeded, we would be putting this character on a Star Trek heroes list.
The Simpsons named an alien character after this Klingon general
Making an appearance in the beloved “Day of the Dove” episode of The Original Series, this Klingon warrior eventually became a diplomat and peacekeeper of the Federation/Klingon alliance. That said, the part of him that was a warrior didn’t die. Along with Kor, Koloth and forty legions fought T’nag’s overwhelming army. The underdogs won, covering an entire mountainside with corpses and eventually feasting on the heart of the fallen T’nag. Besides suffering from minor indigestion, he still considered it was a massive victory.
Who is this shady security officer?
This character was presented as a stiff, by the book bore of a Starfleet officer. He followed the rules to the point of treating them as religious text. Well, turns out Pinocchio cut his strings off. The entire time, he was involved with the Maquis, a terrorist organization bent on killing Cardassians and their allies. He, of course, made one major mistake in the end: betraying Captain Ben Sisko. This character went out the way Sisko’s enemies tend to do: in a hail of gunfire shortly after Sisko backhanded him.
Who is this “Reman” villain?
While technically human, this character was a clone of a famous Starfleet captain and appeared in a movie that is divisive in the fandom. He was raised as a slave in the dilithium mines of Remus before becoming a soldier. He used his growing power as a way to overthrow the Romulan government and take power for himself. The only problem was his own blood was killing him. He attempted to extend his life (or at least take as many people down with him as possible) only to be stopped by Picard and Data.
Who is this “Speaker” for the Borg?
While only making two appearances in the entirety of Trek, this villain created the biggest cliffhanger in franchise history by revealing himself to the crew of the Enterprise. By assimilating this person, the Borg were able to break through all of Starfleet’s available defenses—destroying 40 starships and killing 11,000 people including military and civilian personnel. Contemporarily, the Battle of Wolf 359 is considered the 9/11 of Star Trek. This incident made Starfleet focus more on military development than exploration, and for the first time in its history, developed warships.
Two hundred years ago, he was a prince with power over millions
This is one of Star Trek’s greatest villains, and easily its most iconic. He was a dictator who control most of the east during Earth’s Eugenics Wars in the 1990s (don’t you remember?). He and his army of genetically enhanced soldiers were put into stasis and launched into space, where, hundreds of years later, met Captain Kirk and the crew of the original Enterprise where he tried to return to his dictatorial roots. It didn’t go well for anyone, except the audience. This character returned in the greatest Star Trek movie of all time.
This character debuted in Star Trek: First Contact
The existence of this character undermines the scary coolness of the Borg and undermines the crux of the Borg itself. Their whole gimmick is that one leader with one mind can make mistakes; the collective is many voices with many minds, and together, they can be unstoppable. The addition of this central leader just makes them like any other alien race in Trek; there are the soldiers and a leader. She wasn’t even a good leader—her big plans involved having sex with an android and threatening people with freedom.
This villain was a central facet of a vast conspiracy
Klingons have a bad reputation. Some fans just think they’re crazy drunken savages looking for a fight. Admittedly, yes, that’s a major part of their culture, but then you have characters like this one. He is a soft-spoken and brilliant tactician. A celebrated and legendary general, he feels just as comfortable reciting Shakespeare as he is on the battlefield. At his greatest moment, he was a central individual in a vast conspiracy involving the Klingon and Romulan Empires and the Federation. He also is responsible for Captain Kirk’s imprisonment in Rura Penthe: the alien’s graveyard.
He might be the greatest villain in franchise history
This character is one of Star Trek’s best villains, and arguably the most richly developed. He was a man of many contradictions. He was a mass murderer; he treated the Bajorans well; he was a family man, he had children out of wedlock. He was loyal to his people; he sold them to the Dominion. For every good side of the character, we found another shadow turned up. There were stretches where we rooted for him only to feel guilty as another terrible thing he did came to light.
You’ll never look at the alphabet the same way again
The god-like being often would show up just to annoy, and only in his later TNG appearances did he appear to have become something like humanity’s benefactor, which was a sly and smart twist. Afterward, he showed up on sequel series Deep Space Nine and Voyager for ratings boosts that would often find him either tacked on to a plot just to pad out the script, be central to plots that might have him looking for a mate, or show us that the Continuum is not nearly as interesting as we thought it was.
A controversial agency in Star Trek lore
In Gene Roddenberry’s view of Star Trek, this agency wouldn’t exist. However, for Gene’s utopian view to be realized, an agency like this would have to exist (well, that and money, but that’s neither here nor there). This agency combines dark operations with espionage all in service of making sure that the Federation stays safe no matter the cost—even if they have to kill foreign or domestic heads of state or attempt genocide against an alien species. This organization is so prolific and capable that they existed for two hundred years before their existence was revealed by Doctor Julian Bashir.
This obsequious Zealot was one of the classiest clones in Star Trek
Like many of the Dominion’s inner circle of species, the Vorta are genetically engineered. This character, specifically, is more of a diplomat. Given his rabid support of the Dominion and his smugness, it’s no surprise that he was designed with significant resistance to poisons. During Deep Space Nine’s seven-year run, this character was killed several times like a proto-Kenny McCormick as a joke for fans. Despite his unpleasant demeanor, he was embraced by the fanbase and were somewhat sad when the Dominion ran out of clones. (Naturally, the DS9 relaunch book series quickly brought in a new batch of clones.)
Koval belongs to the preeminent Star Trek spy agency run by the Romulans
Like Section 31, this agency does some very bad things. Unlike Section 31, this agency is quite public; you know that they exist, and they do bad things, but you can never be sure what. You can never prove anything. That’s how scary they are. And just as easily, they recede into the shadows. Before TNG, the Romulans withdrew entirely from Alpha Quadrant affairs for a hundred years. When they reemerged, they were one of the most influential powers in the quadrant, rivaling that of the older Klingon, Cardassian, and Federation factions.
The Sneakiest Klingon family in the Empire
The Klingons hold things like honor and loyalty in the highest regard. This family, well, they get compared to Romulans for the way they connive behind the scenes. In the Klingon Empire, the worst thing you can be called is a Romulan. Jar’od, the patriarch, sold the Empire out to the Romulans. However, his family was so wealthy and had so many friends within the Empire, if his family was prosecuted it could cause a civil war. The Duras children were even worse. They slowly took over the High Council, and when their coup failed, they started the civil war that the Council tried to avert.
The smug face of the Founders and the Dominion
The Changeling species was once hated, shamed and hunted throughout the Gamma Quadrant. Over time, the survivors worked together and focused their sense of dictatorial order to create for them an empire. This character is the face of the Dominion—the leader that controlled giant portions of the galaxy during the Dominion War. During the waning days of the war, following the Cardassian rebellion, she ordered the mass murder of the entire Cardassian race. While she did not succeed, billions of Cardassians died and its government was destroyed. This character does not lose gracefully.
The character with the most complex backstory in the franchise
A time-traveling alternate dimension version of Tasha Yar ended up on Romulus and eventually gave birth to this character and she’s not very nice. She hates the human side of her and hates Vulcans (for some reason) particularly. In the span of two years she managed to spark the Klingon civil war, arm the Duras’ side to escalate it, and came within a hair of successfully invading Vulcan had it not been for a team-up between Picard and Spock. It took two legends to stop her. What’s going to happen next time when they aren’t around for an improbably crossover?
The Klingon at the center of the famous “Trouble with Tribbles” episode
Klingons love singing songs about their victories. Brutal and total victories, underdog wins. Either in space against hordes of enemy ships or on the battlefield with melee weapons and their hands. And then you have this character, who nearly succeeded in undermining the Federation by using Tribbles—tiny, adorable balls of fur. Not sure how that song would go, but a win is a win. He was, regardless, an incredible warrior, who died well into his hundreds, in a final battle with the Albino: the man who killed his son.
The most dangerous soldiers in Trek and the closed fist of the Dominion
The Founders set up the Vorta to oversee the expanse of their empire. When species wouldn’t listen, they sent in their shock troops. Vicious, unfeeling monsters bred to kill. The only problem was that their creation was too perfect. Their frenzy was too great—it could even potentially override their worship of the Founders, so they had to addict these soldiers to Ketracel White; a severe narcotic that could kill them if they didn’t get their next fix within a short period of time. When at their peak, they can easily outfight Klingons and humans.
This ultimate weapon was a prop witch’s hat
Seriously, it was a witch’s hat. The Original Series had a famously small budget so they did what they could. Regardless of its origin, this living weapon went around the universe consuming and destroying entire planets. No one knows how or by whom it was constructed, but the most likely answers are either the weapon’s creators abandoned it, or their perfect weapon killed them. Wiping out Federation outposts and ships, this weapon was going to continue to destroy everything in its path. The only reason it failed? James T. Kirk, of course.
What happens when middle management gets a promotion?
Sometimes your career doesn’t go the way you wanted. Captain Kirk and this character went to the academy together, but twenty years later, he’s still much further down the food chain than Kirk. He isn’t nearly as important. Then an accident turns him into a god (this happens in space with shocking regularity). Well, it was too much too soon for him, and he became vicious and cruel with his powers, killing fellow crew members, decorating planets and spelling Kirk’s name wrong. In the end, not even a phaser rifle shot at point blank could kill him…but blunt force trauma sure did the trick!
They’re like bugs…but in space!
The Federation has nearly been destroyed by some of the most prominent forces in the Alpha Quadrant—the Borg, the Cardassians, the Dominion—they’ve all smelled the stench of death on the Federation. But none of them succeeded. But who came the closest? Tiny bugs. Look, they’re probably ashamed about it too. All things considered, the little pests were surprisingly effective. They inhabited the bodies of major Starfleet officials (try getting that image out of your mind) including Commander Remmick and started a witch hunt to bring the Federation down from within. The only solution? Picard and Riker with phasers.
What does a Star Trek movie need with a decent plot?
He’s a giant head that can’t go anywhere and shoots lightning from his eyes. Khan, he isn’t. However, this villain, with his echoing groans that more than just hint as gastric distress and nonsensical motivations, is a treasure for anyone who wants to be befuddled at how not only Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was green-lit, but how it had a multi-million dollar budget. Not quite good enough to be bad and not quite bad enough to be watchable, the question that haunts all Star Trek fans is what this guy needed with a starship, anyway.