In honor of Halloween, join us as we take a look at how the Star Trek franchise has used the idea of evil twins quite often.
They say a story is only as good as its villain, and maybe that is why we have seen so many ‘evil twins’ over the years. What better antagonist for a story than one which is the exact opposite of your lovely protagonist? Evil twins also have many other benefits to both the writers and the audiences. For example, evil twins are easy to characterize. Why are they evil? Because they are. That’s it. Audiences will accept it. An evil twin represents everything we are against. It is easy to hate them. And yet they are so similar to us, we are intrigued. We can’t ignore or write them off. They are interesting and revolting at the same time.
For these reasons, evil twins are used often in fiction and in film. Think Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. Think Superman and Bizarro. There’s The Man in the Iron Mask, or Shakespear’s The Comedy of Errors. In more contemporary film, think about Dr. Evil, the antagonists in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, and Ash’s evil twin in Army of Darkness. Television is very fond of evil twins, with doppelganger versions of main characters showing up at one time or another in famous shows like Friends, Seinfeld, The Simpsons, Gilligan’s Island, Dr. Who, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
But there is one television/movie franchise which tops all others when it comes to evil twins; Star Trek. This franchise made liberal use of the concept. Thanks to the mirror universe, nearly every major character in the franchise has some sort of evil twin. Is this an example of lazy writing? Not exactly. Part of Star Trek’s mission is to seek the unknown. That charge leads the franchise out to the edges of the galaxy, but more often than not it also spends its time looking inward. Knowing ourselves is just as important as knowing the universe we exist in, and necessary to understand our place in it.
Star Trek uses its evil twins as a storytelling tool. They give us a different version of our favorite characters – versions which could easily be real if certain circumstances had occurred differently. Star Trek uses them as a word of caution – to warn us about certain ways of thinking and acting. They are also utilized to justify the actions of the main characters as much as show their vulnerabilities, which furthers their characterizations. Below, we examine some of the most famous evil twins in the Star Trek film and TV universe.
Evil twin of: Lieutenant Commander Data
Seen In: The Next Generation (TNG) – “Datalore”, “Brothers”, “Descendant – Part 1 & 2”
Where they Came From: Lore exists in the prime universe and is “fathered” by the same person as Data, Dr. Noonian Soong. Lore is essentially a prototype for Data, with the same technology and appearance.
Where as most of the other twins are created by some sort of mishap, off situation, or existing in an alternate universe, Lore is one of the purest forms of an “evil twin” in Star Trek. The main difference between Data and Lore is that Lore was designed to be able to experience emotion. Lore’s experience of emotion ultimately leads him to feel superior to humans, which motivates him to kill humans in order to secure his continued survival.
Evil Actions: Attracts a giant space crystal to a colony to kill all of the colonists, pretends to be Data to infiltrate the Enterprise, kills Dr. Soong in jealousy when his emotion chip becomes enhanced, and ultimately he integrates with the Borg in an attempt for revenge against the Federation.
Evil twin of: Captain James T. Kirk
Seen In: The Original Series (TOS) – “The Enemy Within”
Where they came from: Technological glitches are often a source of evil twins in Star Trek. In this episode (yes, its is the one with the space dog), Scotty is having trouble with the transporter. Captain Kirk beams up, but isn’t feeling very well. While Scotty is helping Kirk to sickbay, the transporter activates again and an “evil” Kirk appears.
The first Kirk that comes through the transporter is “good” Kirk, a version with only redeeming qualities. However, this version of Kirk is not able to be an effective Captain because he can’t make decisions which would put people in harm’s way. Scotty ultimately develops a way to fuse the two parts of Kirk’s personality back together into a single being.
Evil Actions: Assaults Yeoman Rand, pretends to be “good” Kirk”, causes various hijinx on the ship before a climactic fight occurs between the two Kirks on the bridge.
Evil twin of: Commander William T. Riker
Seen In: TNG – “Second Chances”, Deep Space Nine (DS9) – “Defiant”
Where they came from: When the Enterprise visits a research base which was supposed to be abandoned eight years ago, they find Thomas. William Riker was part of the team who had helped transport the station’s staff off planet back then, but in doing so a duplicate of Riker was created and trapped on the planet. Until the Enterprise arrived, Thomas had been living alone.
The second twin on this list created by a transporter incident is not “evil” per se. However, Thomas Riker does use his likeness of William Riker for nefarious purposes, and his appearance does cause conflict. While both are the same person, Thomas elects to use Riker’s middle name to prevent confusion.
Evil Actions: The two Rikers don’t seem to get along, and their different ranks is cause for otherwise avoidable conflict, almost resulting in Thomas’ death (by accident). Thomas seems to have resentment towards Will, which leads him to take risks. Years later on Deep Space Nine, Thomas appears pretending to be Will in order to steal the USS Defiant as part of the Marquise rebellion against the Cardassians.
Evil twin of: EMH
Seen In: Star Trek: Voyager (VOY) – “The Darkling”
Where they Came From: The Doctor in Voyager is a holographic program called the EMH, originally intended for use in emergencies when actual medical staff were unavailable. When the Voyager’s medical staff is killed, the EMH is put into service permanently. In this episode, the Doctor tries to enhance his personality by combining it with famous people he admires in the ship’s historical log. However, the negative traits of these personalities form a new, evil version of the Doctor.
Evil Actions: Intentionally paralyzes a patient, causes other various harm to his own crew, pushes a crew member off a cliff.
Evil twin of: B’Elanna Torres
Seen In: VOY – “Faces”
Where they Came From: Chief Engineer Torres is a half human/half Klingon hybrid. She is captured by an alien species who is facing a terrible plague, against which Klingons have some sort of immunity. To study this immunity, the aliens split Torres into two different people – one who is fully Klingon and one who is fully human.
Another evil twin which is not technically evil, but rather the opposite of the other. The traits of both races are often in contrast, which leads to internal struggle – here manifested in a physical way. Ultimately, the two halves have to figure out a way to work together in order to escape the aliens who imprisoned/created them.
Evil Actions: Mostly just psychological damage on each other. The two halves of Torres’ personality resent each other which leads to fighting, name calling, and arguments. The human half is seen as weak while the Klingon half is seen as being reckless – the reason Torres dropped out of Starfleet Academy.
Evil twin of: Major Kira Nerys
Seen In: DS9 – “Second Skin”
Where they Came From: Major Kira is a former freedom fighter for the Bajoran resistance against the Cardassian occupation of their species’ homeworld. It comes as some surprise, therefore, that she has a doppelganger named Lliana who happens to be a Cardassian.
In this episode, the Cardassians appear to kidnap Nerys under the assumption that she is Lliana who had been surgically altered to appear human for use as a spy against the Federation. In reality, the Cardassians are using Major Kira as part of an elaborate ploy to reveal dissidents within their government.
Evil Actions: Another one where the twin is not necessarily evil, but represents the opposite of the character she is derived from. Even though Kira is not actually Lliana, the ploy does reveal Lliana to have been real. Furthermore, the events of this episode essentially accuse Major Kira of being a spy against the very people she fought so hard to protect.
Evil twin of: Captain Jean Luc Picard
Seen In: Star Trek: Nemesis
Where They Came From: The only evil twin seen in a Star Trek feature film, Shinzon is the result of a Romulan plot to clone Jean Luc Picard and eventually replace him with the clone to try and take over the Federation from the inside. However, the government loses interest in the plan and Shinzon was sent to Remus to die. The Remans are basically slaves to the Romulans, and when Shizon survives his banishment, he oversees a military coup of the Romulan government on behalf of the Remans.
Shinzon is seen as a younger version of Picard. They share many similarities in personality, interest, and demeanor. However, Shinzon has spent his life in the dark mines of Remus. He is genetically engineered to grow quickly, which has caused him significant pain and resulted in much psychological damage. Shinzon only wants revenge for what had been done to him and the Remans – he seeks glory by destroying the Federation, a task no Romulan had yet accomplished. Through much of Picard’s career, it has been the Romulans which have been his main enemy, and so he is fitting to the principles of an ‘evil twin’.
Evil Actions: Kills the Romulan leadership to stage a coup, develops a deadly technology to destroy all life on a planet, kidnaps Picard, violates Counselor Troy, causes an unknown number of deaths and destruction on the Enterprise
Evil twin of: Natasha Yar
Seen In: TNG – “The Mind’s Eye”, “Redemption Part I & II”, “Unification II”
Where They Came From: Sela’s origins are a bit complicated. Sela exists when Yar decides to travel to the past aboard the Enterprise C rather than remain in the future on board the Enterprise D because she learns of her impending death. In the past she is captured by the Romulans and forced to become a concubine in order to spare the life of her remaining fellow crew. She has a child, Sela, who is raised by the Romulan military and becomes a powerful general who eventually leads missions against the Federation, and in doing so encounters the Enterprise D in present times.
Technically she is not an evil twin, but instead the daughter of an alternate version of Natasha. More importantly, unlike most of the other characters on this list, Yar never meets her doppelganger. Still, Sela should be considered as an evil twin because she is clearly an antagonist trying to kill the main characters and she happens to look exactly like Yar.
Evil Actions: Kidnaps and brainwashes Giordi La Forge in an attempt at political assassination, provides support to a Klingon insurgency, plotted to invade the Vulcan home world.
Mirror Universe Characters
Evil twin of: Many characters, the most notable ones being Spock from TOS (bearded Spock), Kira from DS9 (The Intendant), Captain Archer in Star Trek: Enterprise (ENT), and Captain Lorca in Star Trek: Discovery (DIS).
Seen In: TOS – “Mirror Mirror”
DS9 – “Crossover”, “Through the Looking Glass”, “Shattered Mirror”, “Resurrection”, and “The Emperor’s New Cloak”
ENT – “The Mirror Darkly – Part I and II”
DIS – “Into the Forest I Go”, “Despite Yourself”, “The Wolf Inside”, “Vaulting Ambition”, “What’s Past is Prologue”, “The War Without, The War Within”, and “Will You Take My Hand?”
Where They Came From: The mirror universe, which can be reached from our own universe if certain conditions are right. Most of the time, our protagonists arrive in the mirror universe by mistake. For example, in “Mirror Mirror” Kirk, McCoy, Scotty, and Uhura travel to the mirror universe after trying to beam back to the Enterprise during an Ion Storm. In Star Trek Discovery, the experimental Spore drive is able to transport an entire ship to the mirror universe when it malfunctions.
In the mirror universe, the Federation is replaced by a Terran Empire. The Terran Empire is basically a warmonger which seeks territorial conquests, rather than peace and general prosperity. The mirror universe versions of all of the characters are twisted in some way, usually more aggressive and greedy than their counterparts from the “normal” universe. The mirror universe version of Spock, for example, relies on violence when his orders are not followed. On Deep Space Nine, Kira’s mirror universe equivalent, known as the Intendant, is in charge of a slave mining operation. In Discovery, Captain Lorca is actually from the mirror universe and tricks his crew to go back to the mirror universe in an attempt to take over the Terran Empire.
Evil Actions: Numerous. Highlights include those mentioned above, and various plots to sabotage fellow crew members in order to achieve an advantage. In the mirror universe Deep Space 9, those imprisoned are Terrans, who have no rights. In the mirror universe seen in Enterprise, the first Vulcans who arrive at earth are killed and their ship is stolen.