I mentioned last post about how Lex Luthor from Smallville might be the best anti-villain in all of science fiction. The keyword is “might.” Today we’re going to look art a character that might just edge him out.
As a reminder, an anti-villain is a character that ultimately serves as the villain of a story, but you’re really not sure if he or she is truly evil. The character’s motivations become hard to discern, and you’re not really sure if he or she truly wants to be the villain. Lex Luthor serves as a prime example of an anti-villain, but so does another character.
Gul Dukat from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is one of the most well-crafted villains in science fiction.
Now I’m willing to concede the following point. I don’t think anybody in my current audience is a DS9 fan. That’s fine. Just read this blog for what it is, a character study of two anti-villains. You won’t get my sales pitch on why you should watch DS9 until Friday.
I summed up the reason’s for Lex’s nature last blog with five points. I will do the same for Dukat.
- Dukat misunderstands himself.
- Dukat’s intentions were good.
- Dukat wielded power on a large scale.
- Dukat was inherently insane.
Dukat is not misunderstood but misunderstands himself.
Where I truly believe Lex was a good person but simply was corrupted in an inevitable fashion, I feel Dukat is the opposite of that. Everyone else understands Dukat, but he misunderstands himself in his mind. He doesn’t realize that Kira really doesn’t have a crush on him and isn’t just playing hard to get. He doesn’t understand that Sisko does not respect his leadership and position. Lex felt unloved, and in reality probably wasn’t loved. Dukat actually wasn’t loved either, but he thought he was.
Dukat’s intentions were good.
I’m going to say this directly. Gul Dukat was an evil person. But in his mind he somehow thought he was doing good. He ruled Bajor during the Occupation with an iron fist, but he thought he was actually helping these people. In every decision he made, he constantly was justifying it with a twisted sense of good. Even while he committed genocide and forced an entire planet into slave labor. Does that sound like some evil governmental figures in the real world? I thought so.
Dukat had a large sphere of influence.
While Lex had plenty of Power, Dukat had power on a planet wide scale. Sometimes all that power is far too much to handle. It goes to a leader’s head.
Dukat was insane.
I think what it really comes down to is that. Dukat was unpredictable in his motives and intentions. I think for a person like Dukat, his evil stemmed from his inherent insanity. He did a good job of hiding it for a while, but by the time he lost his daughter, you could tell he was really tearing apart at the seams. “Waltz” was probably the best case study of this theory, as he began hallucinating all of the people that he wanted respect and adoration from.
Which one of these men were more evil? Were either of them evil at all? In the end, both became monsters. But getting there, you have to question if Lex Luthor or Gul Dukat would have been this way had they made different choices or if circumstances would have been different.
While I consider Deep Space Nine to be a far superior show to Smallville, I can’t help but award both of these characters a tie for best anti-villain in science fiction. I do think it’s obvious that the creators of Smallville took inspiration from Gul Dukat. But both of these characters were so unique. And both of them were an absolute blast to watch and to try to figure out.
[Thanks to Nikki Headley and Alex Williams for the inspiration.]