Let’s face it, people…we like our heroes in sci-fi/fantasy that challenge the conventions of courageousness and leadership. However, the thought of being a hero is no way the zany fun than being a ‘zero’…a villainous viper whose cowardice, calculating brilliance and evil-minded ways somehow steals the show. Please do not feel guilty in worshipping these nefarious nuisances as they do make for some fascinating television.
In Unsung Zeroes, we want to take a look at some selective bad boys/girls that have danced in the light of despicable and disgraced exuberance. Maybe these crooked cretins are individual misfits that dare to make their poisonous presence known? How about a gregarious group such as an alien race ready to do some serious harm to civilization as we know it?
So here are some of my samples of sci-fi/fantasy-based reckless rabble-rousers that schemed, destroyed and annoyed in the name of menacing entertainment. Feel free to share some of your favorite male or female malcontents in the world of science fiction and/or fantasy escapism.
Frank’s selected TEN “Unsung Zeroes” in mind are the following:
Dr. Zachary Smith from LOST IN SPACE: The late actor Jonathan Harris was the embodiment of cowardice and conniving as the iconic Dr. Zachary Smith on the Irwin Allen 60’s space-aged campfest ‘Lost In Space’. Originally, Smith was a serious-minded saboteur/foreign agent hired to screw with the Jupiter 2 space ship and mess with the mission of the Robinsons whose space journey to Alpha Centauri was a critical agenda for the USA space program. Later on, Smith softened into a sinister goofball soaked in laziness, opportunistic backstabbing and chicken-hearted tendencies that has endeared him to generations of TV sci-fi enthusiasts worldwide. Clearly, Dr. Zachary Smith was a lovable louse (his targeted alliterative put-downs toward the Robot was his only bullying vice) and uplifted his one-time guest shot into a three-year breakout sensation on the CBS series—much to the dismay of some of his ‘Lost In Space’ co-stars. Never fear…Smith is here!
Q from STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION: Occasional menace Q (played by John de Lancie) was an exacerbating irritant that showed up to ruffle the feathers of Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the rest of the Enterprise crew. Q was not a nasty villain in the classical sense but he had a devilish way of nagging Picard by putting him and his charges through rigorous “testing” procedures both in the present and future. The articulate and sophisticated Q loved butting heads with the straight-laced Picard and got an impish kick out of putting the Enterprise leader through the ringer. The inclusion of the pesky Q was a treat for TNG Trekkers but a tedious process for Picard and his intolerant posse. It is too bad that Q was not more of a steady staple on Generation because he was playfully diabolical and contributed to the chaos that engulfed the Enterprise’s unpredictable encounters with various galaxy intruders.
Dr. Anton Arcane from SWAMP THING: The short-lived early 90’s science fiction/adventure series Swamp Thing (based on the popularized 70’s comic book hero) had a persistent baddie in Dr. Anton Arcane that certainly served as the agitator of our environmental creature hero. Guided by greed and selfishness, Arcane’s disastrous mishap had turned the amiable Dr. Alec Holland into the Swamp Thing, a walking swamp monster resembling a pile of spinach. Holland/Swamp Thing now lived in a Louisiana swamp and wanted to protect his surroundings by inconsiderate and hostile violators. More important, Arcane was the focus of Swamp Thing’s wrath as the demented doctor constantly schemed and compromised the safety of bystanders. Dr. Arcane (along with his assistant Graham) was the epitome of an evil environmentalist.
Khan from STAR TREK: In the Star Trek episode ‘Space Seed’, guest star Ricardo Montalban played the monstrous rival Khan to Captain James T. Kirk on that memorable episode. As the late 70s/early 80s arrived, the success of sci-fi cinema (and the growing following of Star Trek in syndication worldwide) prompted the handlers to exploit the science fiction genre (and avid Star Trek die hard minions) to the point of turning it into a profitable big screen adventure. The late Montalban’s dastardly Khan was so convincing that he became the primary menace to build around the Star Trek universe in its movie series starting with ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan’. Khan, both on the old 60s TV series and the film in 1982, was thoroughly intimidating and ruthless.
The Klingons from STAR TREK: One cannot think of the original Star Trek without understanding its goal that focused on exploring strange new worlds in the 23rd century on the starship USS Enterprise. Naturally, confronting strange new worlds includes coming across various alien races and their hedonistic customs. Alien races such as the Romulans and Vulcans (Mr. Spock’s species race) were constant caustic clashers with Kirk and his crew. However, there was nobody as adversarial and prominent in the eye of Kirk and his Enterprise entourage than the hostile-minded Klingons. Instinctively fierce and armed with warrior-like fury, the Klingons were hideous in appearance and attitude. They took no guff from their human counterparts or any other extraterrestrial factions that stood in the path of their bloody need for dominance and independence. The defiant Klingons is what made for solid cynicism in the continuing pulse of ‘Star Trek ‘folklore.
Callisto from XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS: In the high-octane fantasy actioner Xena: Warrior Princess, we were introduced to a conflicted Xena in redemption mode. Sure, she was brazen, boisterous and a badass babe that had her hellish encounters with Hercules as she caused death and destruction in her wake of doomsday deliverance. But Xena was considered a girl scout in comparison to the blondish vicious vixen Callisto (played to deadly perfection by Hudson Leick). As with Xena, Callisto was an exotically sexy and toxic tart with a distinctive taste for bloody vengeance. After Xena had defeated the cutthroat cutie and banished her to Hades, the demonic Callisto plotted to send Xena to Hades out of heated revenge. Whether trying to best the resilience of a combative and conscious-minded Xena individually or with a partner-in-crime (such as an antagonistic Caesar) Callisto was cunning and corrosive. Later on, Callisto would mellow out and become redemptive (ironically like Xena) while serving as a spiritual guide. But no one can deny the mouth-watering villainous antics of the curvaceous Callisto in the prime of her robust devastation.
The societal community as a whole in THE LAND OF THE GIANTS: While Irwin Allen’s ‘Lost In Space’ pretty much occupied the giddy imagination of sci-fi TV viewers with his hokey high camp shenanigans, his other creations such as ‘Voyage to the Bottom Of The Sea’ and ‘Time Tunnel’ were overlooked—or at least they did not have the same popularity as Lost in Space although they had a core audience to a certain extent. Allen’s other 60s showcase ‘Land Of The Giants’ had some appeal as well but limited. Interestingly, the villains in ‘Giants’ were not necessarily evil scientists or ominous aliens and monsters per se. In fact, they were the gigantic and intrusive everyday ordinary people and animals that threatened to capture the diminutive USA-to-England air flight crew in the future era of the 1980s. Courtesy of a mystery space warp that sucked them into an Earth of mammoth humans and wildlife approximately 12-13 times their size, pilots Steve Burton and Dan Erickson and their passengers were always ducking and dodging captors that wanted them for personalized purposes. Innocent kids wanted to play with the mini-sized visitors as if they were live action toys. House pets and insects thought these periled small fries were an appetizer before their mealtime. And opportunistic adults wanted our miniature heroes as novelty pawns for financial gain. The lesson at hand: trying to survive as small sacrificial lambs in a big cold-hearted world.
The Kromaggs from SLIDERS: Brainiac college genius Quinn Mallory accidentally invents a device that transports him and his colleagues through wormholes that take them through parallel universes that subtly (or drastically) differ from their current world in modern-day San Francisco. Despite the different kinds of ‘sliding’, they experience through alternative universes, the constant worry of the Sliders involve trying to curtail the dangerous activities of a warrior-like alien race known as the Kromaggs. The Kromaggs were determined to travel and take over the human race on the Earth from which the humanistic Sliders came from originally. Regrettably, the Kromaggs had sliding abilities much like their human counterparts and were always a threat to create uncertain doom in whichever world they traveled to as they tracked down Quinn and his fellow sliding companions.
Count Baltar and his Cylons from BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: In what perhaps was considered an opportunistic and outlandishly expensive Star Wars rip-off for the small screen, 1978s ‘Battlestar Galactica’ told the intergalactic tale of Commander Adama (‘Bonanza’ veteran Lorne Greene) and his pilot son Apollo battling the evil forces of the Cylons. The Cylons were commanded by the maniacal Count Baltar. It was Baltar’s Cyons that killed Adama’s other pilot son and thus the power struggle between the good forces of Adama’s Galactica good guys engaged in a power struggle for mankind’s survival against the warped agenda of Count Baltar and his sinister Cylons army toiled onward to a dwindling and disinterested television audience for a season before returning for another feeble try in 1980s ‘Galactica 80′.
Apophis and the Goa’ ulds from STARGATE SG-1: 1997’s ‘Stargate SG-1′ managed a five-year run on Showtime and the Sci-Fi Channel after its birth from the 1995 film ‘Stargate’. For decorated Col. Jack O’Neill he and his Stargate crew were in continuous confrontations with the devious leader Apophis who oversaw the aggressive deeds of the Goa’ ulds alien race. Unfortunately for Apophis, he did not stay long as another replacement named Anubis took over the reign of the Goa’ ulds to ensure that humanity was threatened by their precarious presence.
Sometimes assuming the unkind role of an unsung ‘zero’ can be rewarding giving the persnickety polish of these bad apples lurking in the utopia of sci-fi/fantasy’s cockeyed kingdom.