Ever since Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek in the 1960s, the show has always tried to be ahead of the times, tackling topical political issues happening in its contemporary era. The Original Series put a highly diverse cast right at the center of the show, something rarely seen on TV even now, let alone nearly 60 years ago.

Especially in later iterations such as The Next Generation and Deep Space 9, the Star Trek franchise became at creating impossible situations, and blurring the boundaries between what is good and evil, forcing people to make hard decisions based on what was right. Sometimes this meant doing things that are hard, or even down right criminal (such as Captain Kathryn Janeway's questionable decisions), but Kirk, Picard, Janeway, Sisko, Archer, and others. However, some villains were trying to do the same. Two in particular stand out in this regard.

Kudos The Executioner

This villain comes from the Original Series episode “The Conscience of the King.” The story followed Governor Kudos, a human politician who governed the Earth colony Tarsis IV. His villainous actions might sound familiar, reminiscent of a certain purple skinned, infinity snapping antagonist. With the MCU's Thanos, there was a well written, and fully fleshed out story arc that backed him up, to the point where many people actually believe in what he was trying to do. He was genuinely distressed about the current state of existence, with the audience seeing the horrific reasoning behind why wanted to do what he did. It’s believable that his methods were pure and well intended, despite condemning his actions — something even he does.

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Dear old Kudos The Executioner faced a very similar situation. In order to save his entire colony from starvation, after their food reserves were almost completely destroyed by an exotic fungus, Governor Kudos implemented his own form of eugenics. He selected around about four thousand of his people to be put to death, in order for the rest to survive on the limited resources. The difference was that Kudos’s methods were not as pure as the Thanos snap, as he had carefully selected the best among the colony to survive. While in the episode he was, rightfully, damned for his actions, if a resupply vessel had not arrived soon after the executions, Kudos may have been seen as a necessary evil. His ultimate goal was salvation for thousands, albeit at a high cost. He tried to do what he believed was right, summarized in his own words:

“Your continued existence represents a threat to the well-being of society. Your lives mean slow death [for] the colony”

Kruge

Kruge, played by the outstanding Christopher Lloyd (soon to appear in The Mandalorian Season 3), is the antagonist from Star Trek III: The Search For Spock. He is a Klingon on an espionage mission to try and steal the blueprints for a highly powerful terraforming device that Federation scientists have been working on. While his actions are violent and villainous, his motivations could really be seen as self-preservation. This was at a time when the Klingons are Federation were still at war. For the Klingon Empire to hear that the Federation had developed a so-called ‘terraforming’ device, which just so happened to also be able to be used as a powerful weapon, would have made even the bravest Klingon sweat. In fact, the device was literally used as a weapon at the end of the movie, so their fears were justified. The Federation tried to cover this up, but of course the Klingons still find out about it.

When faced with such destructive force from an enemy, it isn't much of a surprise that the Klingons wanted to steal it. It can easily be argued that they wanted it to be used specifically as a weapon against the Federation, but they equally might have wanted it for protection. It’s the same reasoning behind countries in the real world wanting nuclear bombs — the warped mentality having them not for use, but just in case. It is Kruge's methods that push him into the bracket of villain, but if not for this his story might be comparable to that of Star Wars, and the rebels trying to steal the Death Star plans as a desperate act of self-preservation.

Kudos and Kruge are two almost rhythmically partnered antagonists who teeter on the edge of being villains and heroes, all depending on audience perspective. It’s not specifically their intent that is evil or villainous, but rather the way in which they go about it. Starfleet and the Federation are often in a place of privilege to do not only what is right, but what is good. However, these villains aren’t always so lucky. Both are trying to do good, with relatively little self gain, in order to help their people survive a perceived threat. Just because their actions are brash, and they lack the foresight the show's protagonists possess doesn’t necessarily mean they were wrong to do what they did.

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