EDIT: Apparently this is my 100th post! This blog has gotten a totally implausible 1.9 million views in its first year. Thanks so much for reading. Today, I pay tribute to my 6-year-old self by showing his bad drawings to the world as well.
I found these drawings in the basement of my childhood home. Apparently by age 6, I had already achieved 95% of my current drawing abilities, as well as developed into a pretty serious Trekkie.
I’m traveling right now, so rather than rap about math education, I’ll take this post to reflect on Star Trek villains. Don’t worry: my thoughts are as clever and provocative as my drawings are beautiful.
The Borg were cyber-zombies, half-robot and half-humanoid. At age 6, they terrified me. They kind of still do.
They’d abduct you, attach their hardware, and absorb you into their creepy, staggering, ruthless hive mind. Their memorable warning: We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.
The Borg were the perfect villains for Star Trek: The Next Generation. The whole show is a wonderfully sincere, painfully earnest, you-could-only-do-it-in-the-’90s celebration of diversity. It envisions humanity as benevolent explorers, friends to the galaxy, affirming and embracing the unique beauty of every alien race we encounter.
The Borg were the opposite. They annihilated diversity. They homogenized. They assimilated. Perhaps most frightening of all, they lay beyond humanity’s capacity for empathy. You couldn’t understand them, reason with them, find common ground. You could only hope to resist.
Lately, I’ve been watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It’s a study in postcolonial politics. Its star is Benjamin Sisko: widower, Picard-hater, and cunning pragmatist. He navigates a complex diplomatic landscape full of religious extremists, sympathetic terrorists, dubious allies, shades of gray. Humanity’s hope in DS9 isn’t to explore and empathize. It’s to aid and protect the victims of oppression (the Bajorans), without accidentally becoming an oppressive colonial power themselves.
Suitably, DS9‘s villain is a far cry from the Borg. Instead, it’s the Dominion, a complex and unabashedly hierarchical empire. The Dominion conquers and subjugates without apology. They won’t strip you of your individuality, like the Borg. They’ll just strip you of your power, your resources, and your freedom. Blunt wielders of power, they’re everything the humans fear becoming.
(By the way, folks, no spoilers in the comments! I’m only on Season 6.)
The Ferengi are a bizarre member of the Star Trek animal kingdom. Originally envisioned as the big villains for The Next Generation, they were quickly sidelined when they turned out to be totally ridiculous and stupid-looking.
Seriously. My drawing flatters them.
They’re money-grubbing capitalists. They oppress their females. And they’ve got giant ears, which–I kid you not–give them orgasms when you rub them. Essentially, these are sexist, second-rate con-men with two wrinkly phalluses wrapped around their heads.
In DS9, they’re used mostly for comic relief, in episodes with tiles like “My Splendid Ferengi” and “A Ferengi to Remember” and “Ferengi Goes to the Dentist.” These episodes are so spectacularly (and perhaps deliberately) unfunny that I suspect no one has ever, ever watched them all the way through.
I think the Ferengi also failed as villains because above all else, they’re capitalists, and in Star Trek, capitalism isn’t the enemy. It’s an antique. A sideshow.
Then again, they’re fun for six-year-olds to draw, and that ain’t nothing.