Scoundrel Round-Up #1–Han Solo (Star Wars)

Yeah, I kinda figured I'd be number one. It's not cockiness if you're the best. (Image courtesy of the Star Wars Wiki)
Yeah, I kinda figured I’d be number one. It’s not cockiness if you’re the best. (Image courtesy of the Star Wars Wiki)

Well, loyal readers, we’re finally closing out this particular Scoundrel Round-Up. Remember, if you think someone is missing from the list, let us know on the message boards and if there’s enough call for it, we’ll add other people. This list is just based on my somewhat limited sci-fi knowledge. I wouldn’t mind expanding my horizons to satisfy your requests. The scoundrel at number one isn’t going to be much of a surprise, but just because he’s the obvious choice doesn’t mean he’s the wrong one. The number one scoundrel is Han Solo because he’s just so perfectly scoundrel-y.

Han Solo first entered the pop culture consciousness in 1977 in Star Wars. Fun side note, while Harrison Ford eventually won the part, he was not George Lucas’s first choice. One of the people on the short list for the part was Nick Nolte, and man, would Star Wars have been different without the charisma Harrison Ford brought to the part. We first met Han Solo in the Mos Eisley cantina, trying to scam a little extra cash out of Luke and Obi-Wan for passage to Alderaan. Right away, we get a bit of scoundrel-y goodness. Han knows he’s a good pilot, but he couldn’t resist trying to get a little extra money out of desperate client just because he could. Sure, Han needed the money since he was still trying to pay off Jabba, but it was a bit skeevy of him to make the play he did on Obi-Wan. Shortly after meeting Luke and Obi-Wan, we got to see more Han Solo scoundrelness when he was confronted by one of Jabba’s thugs trying to collect on the money he owed Jabba. While Greedo was trying to intimidate him, Han surreptitiously unholstered his blaster under the table and, I’m going to put on my angry nerd hat and just say this once, HAN SHOT FIRST! To me, that made Han a way more interesting hero because he wasn’t totally a good guy. He operated in shades of gray. Han figured Greedo was going to try and kill him to collect Jabba’s bounty on his head so rather than give him the opportunity, he shot him first. Han did at least have the decency to wait until Greedo made an actual threat and considering Greedo had his blaster trained on him during their entire chat, I think Han was well within his rights to take the shot. George Lucas’s revisionism aside, Han shooting first really made it clear he was a scoundrel and not supposed to be the pure hero. A good myth needs good people of all types and Han was someone who was a good person, but unlike Luke and Obi-Wan, he didn’t always follow all the rules. Han would sort of get Luke and Obi-Wan to their destination, finding Alderaan destroyed by the Death Star. The Millennium Falcon was boarded by Imperials when it was brought aboard the Death Star, and it was Han’s quick thinking (and modifications to his ship that served his less-than-legal lifestyle) that helped them evade Imperial detection. While Obi-Wan went to shut down the tractor beam so they could escape, Luke learned that Princess Leia was being held there. Luke was all for going to rescue her, but Han took some more convincing. Like any good scoundrel, once the money was good enough, Han was more than willing to try and save her. The plan may not have worked out, but even after they were detected, Han tried to bluff their way out of trouble by calling a shootout with the detention level guards a “slight weapons malfunction.”

You mean I'm the only one to have a real career after this movie? I'm just as surprised as you are... (Image courtesy of the Star Wars Wiki)
You mean I’m the only one to have a real career after this movie? I’m just as surprised as you are… (Image courtesy of the Star Wars Wiki)

Han’s first meeting with Princess Leia was anything but cordial and he actually spent a lot of time antagonizing her, which I find kind of amusing. Eventually, Han, Luke, Leia and Chewie would escape the Death Star, but once Han delivered Leia and the Death Star plans to the Rebels, he was on his way. Like any good scoundrel, he didn’t see a profit to be made in the Rebellion and now that he got his reward money, he wanted to go pay Jabba back and save his skin. Luke gave him a pretty massive guilt trip before leaving, and Han did come back to save Luke at the Death Star, but it was a pretty big surprise. Returning to Yavin IV, Han cemented his ties with the Rebellion, and that led him into some pretty crazy adventures. Han was present on Hoth and was considered an important part of the Rebel military. However, an encounter with a bounty hunter on Ord Mantell spooked him into deciding to try and leave to pay off Jabba again. As he was about to go, though, the Imperials attacked and Han led Leia to the Falcon since she was cut off from the ship she was supposed to escape on. Once again, Han and Leia’s interactions were somewhat strained and Han was the one who understood the tension was mostly sexual, making the moves on her while they were hiding from Imperials in an asteroid cave because the Falcon needed more repairs before it could escape into hyperspace. The Falcon was too badly damaged to escape easily, though, and Han took a page from the scoundrel playbook and came up with a crazy plan that involved him charging the Falcon right at a pair of Star Destroyers and making them think the ship jumped into hyperspace when in actuality he took advantage of a sensor blindspot and hooked himself to the back of the Star Destroyer until it dumped its garbage before jumping to lightspeed itself. After some deliberation, Han realized the only safe port was on Bespin where Lando was administering Cloud City. Unfortunately, their relationship was still somewhat strained after Han won the Falcon from him in a high stakes game of sabacc (think space-poker).

Even frozen I'm more of a badass than some science fiction characters (Image courtesy of the Star Wars Wiki)
Even frozen, I’m more of a badass than some science fiction characters (Image courtesy of the Star Wars Wiki)

For me, Cloud City is where we saw Han Solo at his most scoundrel-y. Han and company were captured by Imperials after Lando sold them out. Vader decided to use Han as his test subject for the modified carbonite freezing process. As he was being lowered into the chamber, possibly to his death, Leia yelled out “I love you.” In a move of badassery that has yet to be beaten, Han responded with “I know.” Behind the scenes stories say that was a Harrison Ford addition. He rightly didn’t think Han would respond with “I love you, too” as scripted and convinced director Irving Kershner into letting him try a take with “I know” and the rest is cinematic history. Han survived the freezing process and Boba Fett hauled him off to Jabba’s palace to collect on the impressive bounty the Hutt had placed on his head. Han spent the next while hanging out on Jabba’s wall until Luke came up with a wild (and really, if you look at it objectively, ridiculously overly complicated) plan to set him free. Back out in the world, Han rejoined with the Rebels and became a general and was placed in charge of leading a Rebel commando team tasked with taking down the shield beamed around the second Death Star. Of course, Han being Han, he didn’t initially tell any of the people who just saved his life that he was leading this mission. Still, they all joined him and the mission to Endor was complicated from the start. Luke and Leia got separated from the team and then, thanks to Chewie always thinking with his stomach, they were captured by Ewoks. Thankfully, Leia had met the Ewoks before them and, with some help from Luke and C-3P0, the Ewoks adopted them as part of their tribe and helped them fight the Imperials. Most military commanders would have ignored the possible contributions the Ewoks could make to the war effort, but Han’s tendency to think outside the box helped him realized they could be useful allies. They may not have much technology, but they knew their way around the area and they were very good at setting traps. Han and the Rebel strike team blew up the Endor bunker and collapsed the Death Star’s shields so the Rebels could destroy it and kill the Emperor.

That’s all we know of Han’s history since the canonical nature of the Expanded Universe is in flux, but again, I loved the Expanded Universe, so it’s canon to me. The Expanded Universe not only continued Han’s story beyond Return of the Jedi, but it also delved into what his life was like before joining up with the Rebels. Han was a smuggler at heart, but even before joining up with the Rebels, he tended to let his decent nature take him down into some unprofitable paths, like the time he ran afoul of the Malkite poisoners and wound up busting up a slaver ring. Any other scoundrel would have just let that slide, but Han hated slavery so much that he couldn’t let it stand. Heck, that’s how his relationship started with Chewbacca and how he wound up on the outside of the law to begin with. Chewie was an Imperial slave and Han couldn’t stand that so he freed him, along with other slaves being held there. Chewie then swore a Wookiee life debt to him for saving his life and the two became partners. In his early days associated with the Rebellion, he didn’t always stay terribly close to the Rebels. He would sometimes slip off for a while to run his own jobs on the side and considering how long Han was targeted by Jabba, it makes sense. Han still needed money. He wouldn’t act against Rebel interests, but being a freedom fighter really doesn’t pay well, so he needed some way of making money to pay off Jabba.

Following the events of Return of the Jedi, Han remained a vital part of the Rebel Alliance, but even though he was a general, his decidedly non-military nature tended to rub the Rebel High Command the wrong way. Han would resign and reaccept military commissions countless times during the intervening years. Of course, the biggest change in the Expanded Universe, which Disney decided to keep, was Han and Leia marrying. However, amusingly Leia got more in touch with her scoundrel side rather than “civilizing” Han a bit. Han did surprisingly well as a husband and father, but the death of Chewbacca did send him on a bit of a downward spiral and while spiraling, he really got back in touch with his scoundrel roots. Eventually, his mourning period would end and he rejoined the New Republic in their fight against the Yuuzhan Vong, but it was still a very rough patch for Han. However, worse things were yet to come. His oldest son, Jacen, became a very powerful Force user, but as time went on, he became corrupted by the dark side. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Jacen Solo had enough political and military backing the he essentially took over the government. His parents tried to stop him and Han and Leia were declared enemies of the state by their own son. Eventually, Jaina Solo was forced to kill her brother, but Jacen’s legacy was not over. During his time as leader of the New Republic, he hooked up with an old Jedi friend named Tenel Ka, who also happened to be the queen of a star system called Hapes, and the two had a child. Tenel Ka kept the pregnancy a secret even from Jacen, but eventually he learned that Allana was his child. Being the daughter of the most-hated man in the galaxy and of a queen whose power was tenuous because of her relationship with him who lived in a society where assassinations were a common method of political ascension, Tenel Ka decided it was necessary to hide Allana’s true parentage from the rest of the galaxy. She convinced Han and Leia to adopt their own granddaughter and raise her as their own under the guise of them adopting a child orphaned in the war their son caused. I didn’t think it was possible, but being an old man turned Han Solo into more of a scoundrel, and I find the current iteration of the character to be delightfully cantankerous.

Well, that didn't go quite as I'd planned... (Image courtesy of the Star Wars Wiki)
Well, that didn’t go quite as I’d planned… (Image courtesy of the Star Wars Wiki)

Han Solo’s character fits the scoundrel archetype perfectly. Honestly, I see a bit of Han Solo in pretty much every other character on the list. Dash’s connections are pretty obvious, but even Starbuck and Riker have some Han Solo in them. Like most scoundrels, he’s incredibly charming. You either have to be charismatic or an absolute brute to survive as a scoundrel and Han went with charisma. I think part of that is a testament to how well Harrison Ford played the character. His look is also very scoundrel-y. He may not be an outright space pirate like Corsair, but he’s still definitely got a scoundrel vibe. His clothes are simple, but that’s all he needs to get through life. Like his ship, I see them being pretty well-worn because it’s just not something that Han needs to keep up with. He’d rather be spending his credits keeping his ship in the sky instead of following the latest fashions. Of course, where it’s clear he’s a scoundrel is his code of honor. Even before joining with the Rebels, he stood up to Imperials over the issue of slavery and that’s what put him out on the fringes of society. He was drummed out the Corellian military for those actions. Considering how well he fits the scoundrel archetype, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Han Solo comes in at number one on the Scoundrel Round-Up here at Sarcastibots.

Scoundrel Round-Up #2–Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly)

They call me...Captain Tightpants. (Image courtesy of the Firefly Wiki)
They call me…Captain Tightpants. (Image courtesy of the Firefly Wiki)

As we close in on the Scoundrel Round-Up, I don’t think anyone will be surprised by the last few entries here. Coming in at Number Two, we have a scoundrel who may not have graced our screens for very long, but he definitely made an impression. He’s the source of more nerd-rage towards the Fox Network than letting Seth MacFarlane have total control of Sunday night (except for the half hour The Simpsons held on to) for a few years. You know who I’m talking about but if you don’t, I’ll spell it out for you. Scoundrel Number Two is Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds from Firefly.

Firefly didn’t last long enough to reveal all of Mal’s backstory, but we know enough to find that even his history fits the scoundrel archetype perfectly. We never quite learned what the war between the Browncoats and the Alliance was about, but we do know a few things. First of all, the Alliance definitely wanted to control the galaxy in a way that brought about order at the price of freedom. Secondly, we know they were willing to go to some extreme lengths to get it. (For those of you that haven’t watched Serenity, I won’t spoil it for you, but those of you that have should know what I’m talking about). Finally, we also know that the Browncoats lost and when they did, Mal was shocked. The Browncoats surrendered in Serenity Valley and it was a defining moment in the life of Malcolm Reynolds. He even named his ship Serenity after that battle. With the Browncoats’ surrender, Mal decided to head out to the frontier planets where a man could make a living without living under the thumb of the Alliance. With his old war buddy, Zoe, at his side, he bought the Serenity and started taking odd jobs for basically anyone but the Alliance in order to live a life free of their interference. We also know that Mal gradually assembled his crew and sought out like-minded individuals like Hoban Washburne (his pilot), Kaylee Frye (his mechanic), and Jayne Cobb (his muscle). Inara Sera initially started as a bit of an outlier compared to the rest of his crew, but even Inara became close with Mal, though their relationship was always somewhat playfully adversarial. Mal’s relationship with his crew is very telling. Part of what makes a good scoundrel is that they inspire loyalty from their crew, even when what they’re doing is dangerous for a wide variety of reasons. Mal’s crew trusts him implicitly and they’ve shown time and again that they’ll follow him through whatever comes their way because they know Mal will find a way to make it through. Wash even rallied the entire crew to go back and rescue Mal from Niska after Zoe bought his freedom and this was after Wash had been pissed at Mal over his close relationship with Zoe.

When we first meet Mal and his crew on the first episode of Firefly, they’re scrambling for another job. The job they had went south and so they need money. However, Mal’s code of ethics limits their options. Mal winds up getting stuck with the Alliance supplies he’s stolen and decides to pick up some passengers in hopes of making some money transporting them while en route to his one last possible buyer for his stolen supplies. That’s where we meet the rest of the people that would join up with Mal. Kaylee was in charge of finding passengers for the ship and brought in a secretive young man, a shepherd (space pastor), and an undercover Alliance agent. Surprisingly, the Alliance agent wasn’t after Mal and his crew, but rather the secretive young man named Simon Tam. Simon’s big secret was that he was smuggling another person, his sister River, along with him to protect her from the Alliance. When Simon’s cargo was revealed, Mal nearly threw him off his ship because smuggling humans so grossly offended his sense of honor. Learning the story behind the smuggled River Tam changed his mind, but it showed that there were certain lines Mal would not cross to make money. As the series progressed, we would see more of Mal’s sense of honor on display. Mal risked the wrath of a gangster named Niska after he learned the medical supplies he was hired to steal from the Alliance were actually bound for a mining town stricken with a terrible disease brought on by the chemicals the mine used. Rather than profit from the suffering of others, Mal snuck the supplies back and gave Niska his money back for the job. Of course, that didn’t satisfy Niska and he would later capture and torture Mal and Wash, but Mal was willing to risk such treatment because of his code of honor.

Mal’s crew was loyal to him, but with him loyalty was definitely a two-way street. We saw this first when Simon Tam, the newest member of his crew, confronted him about his intentions. Simon knew that Mal could make a lot of money if he just betrayed him and turned him over to the Alliance and, to be honest, Mal was pretty pissed that Simon’s actions put his crew in danger. However, Mal assured Simon that if he was ever going to shoot him, he’d have a gun in his hand and a fair chance to fight back. That speaks volumes about Mal’s character. He may not have liked Simon at that point in their relationship, but he wasn’t going to throw him to the wolves without letting him defend himself. We saw similar bonds with much of the rest of the crew. Mal and Inara always had a complicated relationship because Mal didn’t really like that she was a companion (space geisha). However, while Mal attended a party to make a contact for a possible cattle smuggling operation, he saw Inara with her client. It was clear that this client didn’t respect her and Mal confronted him about it. The client challenged Mal to a duel and while things didn’t go well for him in the fight, with Inara’s help, Mal turned the tables on him and beat him but refused to kill him. When Inara later asked Mal about why he fought that client for disrespecting her even though Mal had said far worse things about her career, his response was that he may not respect her job, but the client didn’t respect her as a human being. Even Shepherd Book benefited from Mal’s loyalty. During a hijacking attempt aboard the Serenity, Book was shot and severely wounded. The closest medical facilities were run by the Alliance and under normal circumstances, Mal never would have gone to them, but his desire to save his friend was stronger than his hatred for the Alliance and he willingly risked capture (and had to hide Simon and River in some increasingly clever ways) to save him. Finally, we have to talk about Mal’s relationship with Jayne. Jayne was definitely the most mercenary of the crew, a fact borne out by the fact that he tried to sell out Simon and River when they were in Alliance space and very nearly succeeded, only to be betrayed by the Alliance official he made his deal with. Out of pure self-interest, Jayne helped Simon and River evade capture and they thought he was a hero, but Mal knew different. Mal threatened to vent him into space and told Jayne that if he was going to shoot him in the back, at least have the courage to do it to his face. However, Mal also believed in second chances and took Jayne’s apology at his word and allowed him to stay on the Serenity. It’s hard to believe Mal ever fully trusted Jayne considering Jayne joined his crew when Mal made him a better offer while Jayne and his old crew had him at gunpoint, but Mal also knew Jayne, while a bit scummy, could be a decent man. After all, Mal was the one who saw Jayne’s reaction to the mudder kid that died protecting him and his legend. Jayne knew he was no hero and the only reason he dumped the money over the mudders was because the ship was damaged, but it turned him into a folk hero and it bothered him that some dumb kid believed the legend of Jayne so much that he was willing to die for him.

Of course, no discussion of Mal is complete without getting into his actions in the movie Serenity. If you’re a Firefly fan and haven’t seen this movie, first of all, welcome to Firefly fandom, now seriously, watch it and secondly, spoilers ahead. After the Alliance makes a concerted effort to find her by triggering some deeply-buried hypnotic suggestions, Mal and the rest of the crew learn why the Alliance is after River Tam. Their experiments made her a psychic and she gleaned information about a deep, dark secret the Alliance had: the truth about Miranda. Mal was initially unsure what to do with this information, but after the Alliance operative that was trailing them killed all their known associates (including Shepherd Book), Mal decided that he had nothing left to lose and snuck the ship through Reaver space to the coordinates the River had in her brain. There, they learned just how sinister the Alliance actually was. Miranda was an early colony and the Alliance decided to experiment on the population to make them more docile and stabilize the population’s moods. Of course, such an experiment on its own would be horrifying, considering how the Alliance could use it to pacify rebellious populations. However, the experiment went horribly wrong. Much of the population lost the will to live and just laid down and died. Unfortunately, not all the population reacted this was. The remaining people became savage and violent, giving birth to the dangerous Reavers. This experiment took place shortly before the war, meaning this was probably the Alliance’s last ditch option to prevent a war and it went horribly wrong. Armed with this information, Mal decides it’s time to pay the Alliance back and enlists the help of their ally, Mr. Universe, to broadcast the report with all this information to the universe. Of course, Mr. Universe was already being held by the unnamed Alliance operative and Mal was walking into a trap. Mal realized that it was probably a trap, though, and decided to goad the Reavers into following him and use them to distract the Alliance so they could reach Mr. Universe’s broadcasting equipment. The Reaver distraction still caused problems for Mal and his crew, though, as some ships followed them down to the planet. Mal’s crew stayed behind, risking certain death, to buy Mal enough time to broadcast the Alliance’s dirty little secret. Mal once again fought with the Alliance operative and defeated him thanks to a relatively smart trick, but Mal refused to kill the operative, instead leaving him alive but trapped to watch the information about the Alliance’s actions before the war firsthand as it was being broadcast around the universe. The end of the movie shows that the Alliance operative is still alive, but no longer associated with the Alliance and warns Mal that the Alliance may still come for him one day, but not while they’re too distracted by doing damage control regarding the Miranda incident.

Lastly, we have to examine Mal’s look as a character and again, we see some pretty obvious scoundrel elements. To oversimplify things, Firefly is basically a Western set in outer space. Mal’s look definitely draws inspiration from Westerns and he has a scoundrel/gunslinger vibe to him and that’s a great call. The long duster not only looks cool but allows for some great flourishes in scenes and it’s something that you often seen being worn by the outlaw characters in Westerns. Mal’s a good guy at heart, but his wardrobe is more in line with scoundrels.

That is the smirk of a scoundrel and of a man that knows he's a nerd god. (Image courtesy of the Firefly Wiki)
That is the smirk of a scoundrel and of a man that knows he’s a nerd god. (Image courtesy of the Firefly Wiki)

So, we close out entry number two on the Scoundrel Round-Up. I think it should probably be pretty apparent who Number One is, but you’ll have to wait to see. As it stands, though, Mal is a great representation of a scoundrel and probably more than anyone on this list probably owes his inspiration to our Number One scoundrel on this list…who will be revealed next week!





Scoundrel Round-Up #3–James T. Kirk (Star Trek)

And now you know what William Shatner's o-face looks like. Thanks, Star Trek... (Image courtesy of the Star Trek wiki)
And now you know what William Shatner’s o-face looks like. Thanks, Star Trek… (Image courtesy of the Star Trek wiki)

As we close out the Sci-Fi Scoundrels list here at SarcastiBots, I’m not going to be making any really controversial decisions. However, just because they’re obvious choices for inclusion here doesn’t make them any less valid. I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure about including this particular character on my list, however, after consultation with the rest of the SarcastiBots staff, it was clear I should. So without further ado, let’s check in with Captain James Tiberius Kirk at number three on the Scoundrel Round-Up.

Now, before I jump feet first into Kirk’s history, I figure I should make mention that while I enjoy the modern Star Trek movies, I’m not going to be using them as part of my discussion here. The whole alternate timeline thing they did in the first one just creates too much confusion in my opinion so I’m going to be sticking with Kirk classic rather than new Kirk. Even at Starfleet Academy, Kirk’s scoundrel nature was pretty clearly on display. One of the final tests at the Academy was supposed to be a no-win scenario. There was no way to save both the ship you were captaining and the Kobayashi Maru. It was a test to see how a potential Starfleet officer would deal with such a scenario. However, to young Kirk, there was no such thing as a non-win situation so before taking the test, he cheated and reprogrammed the simulation so he could win it. While he got in trouble for doing it, there were certain parts of Starfleet that admired Kirk’s outside the box tactics and he wasn’t drummed out of the Academy for blatant cheating. After graduating the Academy, Kirk served under Captain Garrovick aboard the USS Farragut. While serving aboard the Farragut, they were attacked by a cloud creature (meaning the episode “Obsession” would have been one of Melllvar’s favorites) and 200 crew members were killed. Kirk felt personally responsible for these deaths and tried to take the blame, but the surviving executive officer disagreed and Kirk’s career was saved. Following his experiences on the Farragut, Kirk returned to the Academy and was an instructor before taking the helm of the USS Enterprise as it began its five year mission.

In the year 2265, James Kirk took over command of the USS Enterprise from Captain Pike and was tasked to “boldly go where no man has gone before.” To do this, first Kirk attempted to breach the galactic barrier, however, this ended very badly—crippling the Enterprise and gifting one of Kirk’s friends, Gary Mitchell, with uncontrollable psychic powers. Kirk was forced to kill his friend, but he did so only reluctantly. The Enterprise’s adventures continued for the next five years, with Kirk being the first captain to actually see Romulans. In 2667, Kirk became the first Starfleet captain to face court martial. Kirk was on trial of the death of Lt. Commander Ben Finney, but he was later acquitted because it was revealed that Finney faked his death. That same year, Kirk made first contact with the Gorn. However, like most of Kirk’s first contacts, things did not go smoothly and he was forced to fight the Gorn to the death. Kirk beat the Gorn but refused to kill him, earning both the respect of the Gorn and the Metrons. The year 2267 also marked Kirk’s first encounter with Khan Noonien Singh. Kirk foiled Khan’s plot to revive his comrades and steal a starship and exiled him to Ceti Alpha V. Throughout the Enterprise’s five year mission, Kirk and his crew also ventured back in time on many occasions. The Federation Department of Temporal Investigations recorded seventeen temporal violations during his career, breaking a record that stood since 2373. Like other Starfleet regulations, the Department of Temporal Investigations noted that Kirk often broke the rules about time travel when he thought doing so was for the greater good.

Returning to Earth in 2270, Kirk was promoted to rear admiral and became Chief of Starfleet Operations, a position that took him out of the Enterprise’s captain’s chair. The Enterprise was dry docked for a refit and during that time, Starfleet learned of an energy cloud called V’ger that was assimilating information from and destroying everything in its wake. The Enterprise was the only ship close enough to intercept it and Kirk convinced Admiral Nogura to let him take command because of his experience dealing with threats like this. Kirk and his first officer, former Enterprise captain William Decker, discovered that V’ger was actually the Voyager 6 space probe which had somehow developed sentience during its travels throughout the galaxy. Decker came up with the unusual solution of allowing V’ger to assimilate a simulated human to reunite V’ger with its human origins. The plan worked and Decker created the first of a new benign species. Kirk remained captain of the Enterprise after the V’ger incident but would have to step away again when his position as an admiral required him to return to Earth to get back to his real job of supervising cadets on the command track at Starfleet Academy.

Rear admiral isn't as awesome as I thought it would be... (Image courtesy of the Star Trek wiki)
Rear admiral isn’t as awesome as I thought it would be… (Image courtesy of the Star Trek wiki)

Of course, Kirk being a restless soul, working a desk job at Starfleet Academy began gnawing at him again. Kirk jumped at the chance to be part of a training cruise aboard the Enterprise, now captained by Spock. However, even that would not go as planned. At the same time, Khan escaped from Ceti Alpha V and stole the Genesis Device from the Regula I space station. Dr. Carol Marcus called the Enterprise about the theft and Kirk came to the aid of his former lover, with Captain Spock stepping aside to let Admiral Kirk take command of the Enterprise to hunt down Khan. Kirk’s battle with Khan was ugly, nearly destroying the Enterprise and eventually leading to the death of Spock. However, like in any good franchise, there was a twist and Spock wasn’t actually dead. When Spock’s body was jettisoned into space, it landed on the Genesis Planet and was reanimated by those energies. Kirk was unaware of that, but did want to find Spock’s body to save Dr. McCoy’s life since his body was reacting badly to Spock’s special Vulcan mind meld. The Enterprise crew would follow Kirk into violation of Starfleet orders and steal the Enterprise and return to the Genesis Planet only to find Spock alive. Kirk and the crew returned to Earth to face charges for breaking nine separate Starfleet general orders and regulations, but they were waylaid on the way home when Earth was besieged by an alien probe that spoke only in whale song. The aliens erroneously believed that whales were the dominant species of Earth and when the then-extinct whales were unable to respond to the probe, its continued broadcasting created havoc on Earth. The Enterprise crew, currently manning a renamed Bird-of-Prey called the HMS Bounty used the slingshot effect to travel back in time to steal some humpback whales to redeem Earth in the eyes of the aliens who were expecting to converse with whales. Because of their actions that saved Earth, Starfleet dismissed all charges against the Enterprise crew, though Kirk was permanently demoted to captain, a punishment I’m sure he had absolutely no problem with. Kirk remained on board the Enterprise and would captain her until his retirement.

Though the refitted Enterprise wasn’t quite ready, it was called into service once again, this time sent to Nimbus III to stop Spock’s half-brother, Sybok, after he captured the members of a peace delegation that were to negotiate a treaty between the Federation, Klingons, and Romulans. Sybok’s plan was actually to take control of a starship and leave the galaxy and Sybok commandeered the Enterprise. The Enterprise passed through the great barrier and Sybok met “God” only to learn it was a malevolent force that needed a spaceship to escape. Kirk’s final mission took place in the year 2293 when he was tasked with escorting Klingon Chancellor Gorkon to Earth for a peace conference. Kirk wasn’t terribly pleased with the assignment because he didn’t trust the Klingons and this mistrust led to him being blamed for Gorkon’s assassination aboard the Enterprise. Kirk and McCoy were tried by the Klingons and sentenced to serve out their time on the Rura Penthe penal asteroid. Taking a page from Kirk’s book, Spock broke with Federation rules and rescued Kirk and McCoy once his own investigation revealed Kirk had been set up by a secret cabal of Federation and Klingon officials that didn’t want peace between the two groups. Kirk defeated General Chang at Khitomer and saved the Federation president from assassination and the Khitomer Conference concluded with a peace treaty between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. Kirk retired from active duty shortly thereafter, realizing that the universe had changed and an old warhorse like him wasn’t really needed anymore.

However, just because he was retired didn’t mean Kirk wasn’t still an honored member of Starfleet. Starfleet couldn’t just let a good starship name lie fallow and commissioned the new Enterprise-B and Kirk was invited along on its shakedown cruise. During the cruise, the Enterprise-B received a distress call from a pair of ships transporting El Aurian refugees that became trapped in a massive energy distortion called the Nexus. Kirk’s advice allowed the Enterprise-B to rescue most of the refugees but the Enterprise-B was then caught in the Nexus. Kirk sacrificed himself to save the Enterprise-B and the galaxy presumed that was the end of James Tiberius Kirk. However, fate had other plans and Kirk remained happily trapped inside the Nexus for 78 years, until the Nexus started causing problems again in 2371. Jean-Luc Picard and the Enterprise-D were tasked with preventing the Nexus from destroying the Veridian system and Picard wound up inside the Nexus. Kirk did not want to leave his life in the Nexus but Picard eventually convinced him to and the two Enterprise captains saved the Veridian system from Tolian Soran and the Nexus. Kirk died preventing Soran from launching a missile that would direct the Nexus’s energies to the planet of Veridian IV. Picard was there when Kirk died and buried him under a simple stone burial mound on Veridian IV.

Once again, the biography shows a lot of scoundrel-y moments in Kirk’s life. From his Academy days to his final actions aboard the Enterprise-B, Kirk was someone who never let himself be bound by rules in the service of what was right. That character served him well throughout his career and his morality engendered a degree of loyalty within his crew that even meant the oft-times coldly logical Spock would follow Kirk even when he was breaking the rules. Kirk was someone who did try to obey the rules but felt that if the rules keep you from doing what’s right, it’s perfectly okay to break those rules. Like many scoundrels, Kirk also had an impressive poker face. He was not above bluffing his opponent into surrender and used that ability expertly and without qualms.

Of course, you can’t talk about James T. Kirk without mentioning his pimpingness. Riker from TNG may have been a bit of a horndog, but James T. Kirk pretty much banged his way across the galaxy. Honestly, he’s a bit of a man-whore and I’m surprised Kirk never picked up some sort of intergalactic STD. Even more shockingly, he apparently only fathered one child when he was with Dr. Carol Marcus. Kirk may have been a playa, but he was apparently not the most virile Starfleet captain out there. Ironically, with his only son, it was Dr. Marcus who decided that Kirk should have nothing to do with is kid. Kirk kind of seemed like the guy that would be a deadbeat dad, but actually it was Dr. Marcus not wanting her son exposed to Kirk’s nature that led him to be an non-existent entity in his son’s life.

Seriously, I could only find still images of Kirk doing two things: screaming or looking disinterested. (Image courtesy of the Star Trek wiki)
Seriously, I could only find still images of Kirk doing two things: screaming or looking disinterested. (Image courtesy of the Star Trek wiki)

Like Riker, Kirk may have been part of Starfleet, but considering how often he flouted the rules in the pursuit of what he felt was right, it’s clear James T. Kirk had a little bit of scoundrel in him. He was charming, confident, and he wasn’t afraid to let you know he was the best guy around. Sure, in large doses, those traits can all be pretty annoying, but Kirk was just so charming in his arrogance, you kind of forgive him for it. Like any good scoundrel, he inspired loyalty, since very few times did his crew oppose his rule-breaking. Also, like your white hat scoundrels, he never took advantage of the fact that people trusted him and would follow him to the ends of the galaxy.

Scoundrel Round-Up #4– Star-Lord (Marvel Universe)

Yeah, I'm Star-Lord and yeah, my original costume couldn't have been more 70s if it tried. (Image courtesy of the Marvel Comics Wiki)
Yeah, I’m Star-Lord and yeah, my original costume couldn’t have been more 70s if it tried. (Image courtesy of the Marvel Comics Wiki)

If you had told me a year ago that I’d be writing about Star-Lord in a blog about space scoundrels, I would have laughed. I’m a diehard Marvel fan, and even I’ve never been that into Star-Lord. I was also expecting the film version of The Guardians of the Galaxy to be Marvel Studios’ first misstep. By all rights, that movie shouldn’t have worked. The Guardians are a pretty obscure team. Marvel has trouble making a Hulk solo movie work and he’s a pretty well known character. A group of five, B-listers (at best) helming a movie smelled like a disaster to me. However, I was never happier to be wrong. The movie was great, and it really catapulted some good Marvel characters into the public consciousness that had never really had their day in the sun. Being the human face of the Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s no surprise that Peter “Star-Lord” Quill has become a bit more visible than the rest of the Guardians. At its core, the modern Guardians of the Galaxy is a team of scoundrels out in the galaxy trying to do the right thing, and it makes perfect sense that Star-Lord would be leading them.

I’ll admit, Star-Lord’s backstory is a bit complicated. With his newfound popularity, some of his history has been retconned a bit and that always makes following the story of this guy’s life a little more complicated. The character Peter Quill first appeared in Marvel Preview #4 in January of 1976 and he really didn’t have much of a background. Peter Quill was a NASA trainee and was honestly kind of a dick. Even his creator, Steve Englehart, said that he intentionally made Peter Quill kind of unlikeable because every sci-fi protagonist was a nice guy who you instantly like, so he wanted to try and make a sci-fi character that was a hero in spite of himself. To make him a little more likeable after his profile has risen since 2010 or so, we learned his father died trying to kill him when he was a baby because his father realized that Peter wasn’t his son. He didn’t know his son was an alien and just assumed his wife was sneaking around with someone else, but he was still pissed that Peter wasn’t his kid so he tried to kill him. His mother was killed when he was eleven-years-old by aliens. No one believed that aliens killed his mother, but he still swore vengeance against the alien lifeforms that killed his mother. Without parents, Peter was sent to live in an orphanage. I’m not saying that with the life he led Peter Quill didn’t have the right to have a chip on his shoulder, but even into adulthood (we don’t ever see what Peter’s life at the orphanage is like in his original miniseries), he was infamous around the NASA training center for being aloof and kind of a jerk. However, while no one may have really liked Peter Quill all that much, it was hard to admit that he wasn’t a great astronaut candidate. He excelled at every test he was given at the training center but he was passed over for being too difficult to work with. That only angered Peter Quill but he realized that if he wanted to get ahead he’d have to at least pretend to be a decent human being, and pretending is exactly what he did. Peter was eventually posted on a space station with several other astronauts. That space station was visited by an alien entity called Master of the Sun. The Master of the Sun wanted a candidate from the space station to become a Starlord (think Green Lantern, only without the rings and weakness to a random color). Peter volunteered, but everyone else on the station felt another astronaut would be a better choice. Before that astronaut could go to meet Master of the Sun, though, Peter took a gun, wounded several astronauts, including the one that was going to become the Starlord (and while we’re here—seriously, what is it with sci-fi having guns on space stations? That just seems like a really bad idea to me…) and stole the sentient spacecraft (creatively called “Ship”) that would take him to meet Master of the Sun. The Master of the Sun knew that Peter Quill was not the chosen candidate, but he decided to make him Starlord anyway. Sure, he may not have been trustworthy and hurt literally everyone on the station that got in the way of his vengeance, but he’ll make a great space cop. Master of the Sun gave Peter his first Starlord uniform and his trademark element guns and sent him on his first mission, find the aliens that killed his mother so he could kill them and get off this vengeance kick so he could be a good space cop. While it’s literally unclear the way the story was written whether Starlord actually killed these aliens or not, Master of the Sun told him that even if the aliens weren’t dead, the vengeance was real and Peter Quill could have a real life as Starlord if he took it. With his need for blood met, Starlord joined Master of the Sun and became a hero.

Sure, my new look wasn't at all influenced by my popular movie... (Image courtesy of the Marvel Comics wiki)
Sure, my new look wasn’t at all influenced by my popular movie… (Image courtesy of the Marvel Comics wiki)

While in space, Peter Quill learned quite a bit about his past. It was eventually revealed to him that his real father was Jason (now usually spelled “J-Son”) of Spartax, leader of the Spartax Empire and the previous holder of the title Star-Lord. (Yeah, somehow Starlord went from being the name used by a group of space cops to the title for a military leader in the Spartax empire. Don’t blame me folks, retcons can make things really confusing.) Such information only whetted Peter’s curiosity about his lineage, but learning any more would have to wait. While patrolling deep space, Star-Lord ran across the Fallen One, a former herald of Galactus who was trying to kill his former master by destroying any planet he could eat before he could reach it. Star-Lord was understandably badly beaten by such a powerful cosmic entity, but Ship’s analysis revealed the Fallen One’s only weakness—the energy released when a planet is destroyed. Star-Lord and Ship made the difficult decision of sacrificing a small Kree colony to generate and harness enough destructive energy to stop the Fallen One. It was either destroy the small colony or let the Fallen One destroy the larger Kree planet. Ship was destroyed in this act, but Star-Lord was able to stop the Fallen One. In an act of contrition, Star-Lord turned both the Fallen One and himself over to the Nova Corps for his role in Fallen One’s killing spree. The Nova Corps was conflicted over whether Star-Lord deserved to be imprisoned for destroying a Kree colony to stop the Fallen One’s rampage, but it was eventually decided that both Star-Lord and the Fallen One would be sent to the Kyln, an intergalactic prison home to many dangerous entities. To give you an idea of how serious this place was, for a brief time (while Star-Lord was there), it also held Thanos. While in prison, Star-Lord found allies in the form of a large prisoner named Ch’ak and the Shi’ar Praetor Gladiator. Star-Lord even briefly worked with Thanos because of the danger posed to the universe by the sentient cosmic cube currently calling itself Maker. Thanos fought the Maker to a standstill, leaving it catatonic and at the mercy of a mysterious wave of devastation that was wiping out significant portions of the universe at the time. However, Thanos’ fight with the Maker left some unfinished business for Star-Lord as the Fallen One escaped in the chaos that followed. Star-Lord planned to bring the Fallen One back in to justice, but Gladiator drafted him into the Shi’ar Imperial Guard (much to his dismay) to deal with a larger threat.

Star-Lord learned of the war that was raging throughout the galaxy. Dubbed the Annihilation War, Annihilus, ruler of the Negative Zone, broke free from that subspace dimension, intent on conquering the universe. The vanguard of his forces was the mysterious wave of devastation that was creating problems in the galaxy at this time. Fighting alongside the Nova Corps on the planet Daedalus 5, Star-Lord learned that Thanos had his hands in this as well, having disappeared after leaving Kyln. Thanos and Annihilus had secretly worked together to defeat Galactus and the Silver Surfer, two of the most powerful forces in the universe. Thanos had assembled his own team of super-powered beings and sent them to do battle with Star-Lord and the forced allied against Annihilus. Thanos’ team badly beat the so-called United Front and much of their forces were killed by Annihilus’ secret weapon, the weaponized corpse of Galactus. The United Front disbanded, though Star-Lord and Nova Prime (with some help from a few other cosmic heroes, and a few villains as well) attack Annihilus himself. Nova Prime killed Annihilus and the Annihilation Wave was more easily dealt with following the death of their leader.

Star-Lord going commando (Image courtesy of the Marvel Comics wiki)
Star-Lord going commando (Image courtesy of the Marvel Comics wiki)

The galaxy was in chaos following the Annihilation War and Star-Lord remained in deep space to help put the pieces of Hala (the Kree homeworld) back together. However, the opportunistic race of technoparasites called the Phalanx capitalized on the problems. The heroic Spaceknights were revealed to actually be Trojan horses that the Phalanx used to take over Hala. Star-Lord was badly injured in the Phalanx attack but was saved by a Kree admiral with the idea that Star-Lord could lead a team of commandos to retake Hala and destroy the Phalanx, whatever the cost. This would be the first time Star-Lord would ally himself with future Guardians of the Galaxy teammates Rocket Raccoon and Groot. The commando team would meet serious resistance on Hala but would find allies in the form of uninfected Kree soldiers who were willing to fight alongside Star-Lord because of the ideal that the Starlord represented. This was the first time Peter Quill realized that his title meant something to more to others than it did to him. Though he was reluctant to take up the task, Star-Lord became the de facto leader of the anti-Phalanx resistance movement on Hala following their successful commando raids that allowed Kree scientists to develop a cure for the Phalanx infection. The resistance continued to fight the Phalanx, though there were heavy losses. Blastaar was sacrificed to gain a tactical advantage against the Phalanx only to have the Phalanx resurrect him and use him to obliterate resistance forces, including Captain Universe. Star-Lord would have been killed as well had the Phalanx’s leader not decided he wanted him alive. Surprising everyone (including comic readers at the time), the Phalanx was revealed to be a pawn of Ultron. Things looked bleak for Star-Lord and the resistance until the timely arrival of Nova Prime and the Phalanx’s only known predator, the Technarchy. Following the defeat of a gigantic Ultron, the Kree were freed and Star-Lord realized what he had to do—form a team to keep the peace in the galaxy while it recovered from the damage caused by both the Annihilation War and the Phalanx war. That team would be known as the Guardians of the Galaxy. Of course, Star-Lord couldn’t even do something like forming a team the honest way and enlisted the help of the psychic Celestial Madonna, Mantis, to nudge the members of his team together. However, when they found out how Star-Lord manipulated them, the team broke up again. Though this version of the Guardians of the Galaxy fell apart before it could really get started, Star-Lord continued to wander the galaxy trying to keep the peace. However, doing so often led him into more conflict. At his first stop, Hala, Star-Lord learned the Kree were using Phalanx technology to protect their planet and he argued with Ronan about the dangers of such a plan. Ronan responded by sentencing Star-Lord to the Negative Zone for his betrayal of the Kree empire. While in the Negative Zone, he learned of the resurrected Blastaar’s plan to take over Stark’s abandoned Superprison 42 so he could have access to a portal that would take him to Earth. Star-Lord called in a favor with his former allies, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and managed to keep Blastaar from getting access to the portal.

Yeah, this look would have been super family friendly and not scared the crap out of kids at all... (Image courtesy of the Marvel Comics wiki)
Yeah, this look would have been super family friendly and not scared the crap out of kids at all… (Image courtesy of the Marvel Comics wiki)

Returning to the fold, Star-Lord finds Rocket Raccoon in charge of a new version of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Though they still don’t really trust him, they invite Star-Lord to join their team. Their first task: preventing the so-called War of Kings from destroying the universe. During Star-Lord’s time trapped in the Negative Zone, the Inhumans returned to Hala to seek revenge for what the Kree did to them. The Kree homeworld fell to the Inhumans and created more disorder in the universe. At the same time, the Shi’ar were being led by their warlike emperor, Vulcan, and the two new empires were on a collision course that could have dire effects for the entire galaxy. Star-Lord learned just how devastating the War of Kings was when he and the Guardians were pulled into the future by Starhawk. In this future, the War of Kings led to a massive cosmic rift that was destroying everything in its wake. The Badoon controlled much of what was left of the galaxy and all the problems could be traced back to the War of Kings, specifically when Black Bolt cut loose with his powers to destroy the Shi’ar fleet once and for all. Though they would remain trapped in this desolate future, the Guardians sent a message back into the past to keep the War of Kings from getting out of hand. They all assumed that doing so would mean their deaths because the future they occupied would no longer exist, but they were destined for a fate far worse than non-existence, being lost in the timestream.

After getting lost in the time stream, Star-Lord and his team wound up trapped in the realm of living undeath known as the Cancerverse. There, he found Thanos in charge and loving every second of it. The rules of death did not apply in the Cancerverse and he had all the power he could ever want thanks to a cosmic cube. Nova Prime sacrificed himself to free Star-Lord and Drax from the Cancerverse, but Thanos fled as well. With the power of the cosmic cube, Thanos decided it was time to rule the universe himself. This would be yet another time that Star-Lord faced off with Thanos only to fail in the end to contain him. Star-Lord blamed himself for the devastation Thanos unleashed on the galaxy before being stopped by the Avengers.

Star-Lord went into hiding for a while after Thanos’ return, but he couldn’t stay hidden forever. Star-Lord was captured by his father, J-Son. J-Son wanted Peter to take his place by his side and rule the empire together but also to pay for the crimes he committed against the Spartoi Empire while he was preserving the galaxy. Peter turned on his father and during his escape, he revealed the extent of his father’s corruption to the entire Spartoi Empire and he was removed from the throne. Once again, Star-Lord was on the run because he stood up to his father and did the right thing.

More recently, Star-Lord’s goals have been focused around settling his score with Thanos. While pulling off heists throughout the galaxy, Star-Lord learned of a powerful artifact that would give him the power to fight Thanos. It turns out, he’d already stolen it and stashed it in one of his hiding places. Star-Lord retrieved the gem while avoiding bounty hunters sent after him by his own father, now going by the name Mr. Knife. After confronting Thanos, he once again let him escape because he was unwilling to go that extra step and kill a defeated enemy. Thanos warned him that while he would not target Star-Lord’s loved ones again, the next time they crossed paths would be their last.

Once again, we see the hallmarks of a scoundrel throughout Star-Lord’s career. Right when we first meet him, he’s honestly a pretty terrible guy. However, as he gets exposed to more of the galaxy he realized that there’s more to the universe than just his quest for vengeance and tries, more often than not, to do the right thing. His strong code of ethics is present when he turns himself over to the authorities after defeating the Fallen Son. He destroyed a colony and felt he deserved to be punished for such actions. Yes, it was a needs-of-the-many-outweigh-the-needs-of-the-few scenario, but at the same time, he couldn’t use that as a justification and believed he deserved punishment for his actions. However, his reputation around the galaxy never really recovered. He slowly took to the fringes of society and became a thief and mercenary. Yes, he would fight for the good guys, but it was usually when forced (like when he was drafted into the Imperial Guard) or reluctantly (such as when he led the team of commandos that would later become the Guardians of the Galaxy). Even as a leader, he wasn’t above bending the rules a little. He didn’t think that the rest of the commandos would join his team, so he had a psychic friend assist him in doing so. Considering how the team came back together in his absence anyway, he probably didn’t need to handle things that way, but he couldn’t even do something like form a team without some degree of deception.

It may have taken me 30+ years, but I finally found a decent look. Thanks, Disney! (Image courtesy of the Marvel Comics wiki)
It may have taken me 30+ years, but I finally found a decent look. Thanks, Disney! (Image courtesy of the Marvel Comics wiki)

Of course, Star-Lord doesn’t just have the characteristics of a scoundrel, but he has the look as well. It may have taken almost 40 years, but Star-Lord finally just got a good costume. In his original appearances, he looked more like your stereotypical sci-fi hero and it just wasn’t a good look for him. It was far too straight-laced for a character like Peter Quill. He used this rather dated look for quite some time. Once he became a Kree commando, he adopted a more militant costume. While the costume remained too straightlaced for Star-Lord, he did pick up the gunslinger affectation of wielding two weapons at the same time. His pair of Kree submachine guns were dangerous in his hands and when I think of scoundrels, I think the overall archetype is the Wild West gunslinger. However, the gunslinger look didn’t come together until very recently. Marvel Studios wisely redesigned Star-Lord to make him look a little more human even when he’s got his face mask on. That Kree face mask was honestly pretty sinister for a hero. The modern mask is neutral and it looks like a high-tech sci-fi breath mask. Of course, the rest of the gunslinger vibe comes from his garb. Gone is the pseudo-military uniform and it’s replaced with a basic shirt, some basic pants, jet boots and a long coat. Nothing says gunslinger like a long coat to conceal your weapons in. Honestly, the look reminds me of another space scoundrel, Malcolm Reynolds. Had Firefly gone high-tech instead of Wild West, I think Star-Lord would look right at home on the Serenity. I’ll admit, the thief and intergalactic scoundrel is something that it took a while for Star-Lord to fully embrace, but even back in 1976, the scoundrel side of Star-Lord was waiting just under the surface and he’s a better character for fully embracing it.

Scoundrel Round-Up #5–Captain Jack Harkness (Doctor Who)

I figured I'd start this article with a shirtless John know, for journalistic integrity (Image courtesy of the Doctor Who Wiki)
I figured I’d start this article with a shirtless John Barrowman…you know, for journalistic integrity (Image courtesy of the Doctor Who Wiki)

I’ll admit, some of the members of this list of sci-fi scoundrels aren’t characters I’m super familiar with. However, for number five, I get back into some familiar territory. I may be a comparatively late-comer to the wonderful world of Doctor Who, but ever since a friend of mine introduced me to it six years ago, I’ve been a big fan. Now, one could probably make a pretty strong case for the Doctor himself being a scoundrel, but for my money, if you want a fun scoundrel in the Doctor Who-niverse, there’s only one man you need to look at—spoiler alert—the Face of Boe himself, Captain Jack Harkness.

From the moment we first meet Jack in the first modern season, he’s all scoundrel. He’s hanging out in London during the Blitz in his cloaked spaceship, enjoying a drink and waiting for some temporal salvage to crash so he can make some money off it. While the Doctor is off wandering the streets of London searching for Rose, she’s hanging out with Jack Harkness, and even in the middle of a war zone, the omnisexual ladies man couldn’t help but spend time flirting with a pretty lady. Of course, Jack’s salvage scam was far from simple—nothing ever is when the Doctor gets involved. The piece of space junk he was going to collect was actually a Chula ambulance filled with restorative nanogenes. Having never encountered humans before, the nanogenes believed a deceased child’s gas mask was his face and imprinted that, and the child’s desire to find his mother, on all the people they healed. Jack was initially reluctant to try and fix the problem he caused, but in the end, like any good scoundrel, he manned up and used his ship’s stasis field system to keep a bomb from hitting the site until the Doctor could fix everything and was going to sacrifice himself in the process. Never one to leave a good man behind, the Doctor transported the TARDIS inside Jack’s ship and saved him before the bomb could go off, preserving history and saving Jack at the same time. Jack traveled space with the Doctor and Rose, flirting with both of them quite a bit, until the trio were abducted and sent to the Game Station. There, they were separated and Jack awoke on the set of a makeover show hosted by two dangers robots. When they revealed their plans to kill him, Jack improvised and created a pretty impressive gun out of their defabricator (a device that literally removed fabric from its target). The Doctor managed to escape a futuristic version of Big Brother and found himself on the Game Station with Jack and the two headed off to save Rose from The Weakest Link, hosted by a slightly warmer and kinder robot version of the real world host Anne Robinson. Rose was voted the weakest link before Jack and the Doctor could save her, and she was seemingly killed, though in reality the games transported the losing contestants someplace far worse, the Dalek fleet. Seeing his friend seemingly killed, Jack planned to get revenge but the Doctor calmed him down long enough to enact a real plan, taking over the Game Station to find the TARDIS. On board the TARDIS, the Doctor learned that the losers weren’t dead and locks on to the transmit signal and learned of the existence of the massive Dalek fleet. The Doctor and Jack rescue Rose from the Dalek fleet and decide to make a stand on Satellite 5, home of the Game Station. Jack led the group of satellite technicians in a valiant fight against the Daleks, but even he knew that there was no chance of him surviving this, and he went down fighting the Daleks. However, even Captain Jack Harkness can be wrong sometimes, and he was surprised to learn he was resurrected by Rose when she became Bad Wolf after looking into the TARDIS’s time vortex. Rose wanted to just set everything right after the Dalek attack, but instead she accidentally made Jack functionally immortal. He may still age, but he does so very slowly and can heal from just about anything after only a few minutes. Jack’s immortality also turned him into a fixed point in time, which the Doctor did not like dealing with because it messes up the TARDIS’s navigation, and the Doctor left him on Satellite 5 rather than take him back to Earth with Rose.

Shit, dying hurts a lot more than I thought it would (Image courtesy of the Doctor Who Wiki)
Shit, dying hurts a lot more than I thought it would (Image courtesy of the Doctor Who Wiki)

However, Jack is nothing if not resourceful and used his vortex manipulator (the device that he used as a Time Agent to go back in time to preserve the time line) to jump back to Cardiff knowing that the Doctor tended to refuel that TARDIS using the active time rift there. Unfortunately for Jack, time travel with a vortex manipulator isn’t quite as reliable as time travel with a TARDIS and he overshot the 20th Century by a couple hundred years, landing back on Earth in 1869. Of course, missing the mark that badly doesn’t matter much for a man who’s functionally immortal so Jack decided to bide his time and live in Cardiff until the Doctor showed up again. That didn’t mean Jack’s adventuring was on hold, though. In 1899, Jack drew the attention of Torchwood, who wanted to know why he couldn’t die and how he was related to the Doctor. At this point, Torchwood still considered the Doctor an enemy, but Jack convinced the Torchwood agents that the Doctor was a hero and would save the Earth many times in the future. Torchwood accepted his statements about the Doctor but only let him go if he promised to bring in an alien criminal. Jack was under the impression that the alien was only to be incarcerated but when he brought it back to Torchwood’s base of operations, the alien was killed right in front of him. Jack despised Torchwood’s methods and left, only to return to work for them after he learned of a prophecy that said the Doctor would return to Cardiff 100 years later. Jack knew when and where the Doctor would return but figured he may as well do something useful with his time and started working with Torchwood with the idea of making it a better place over the next 100 years. Jack worked off and on with Torchwood throughout the 20th Century, though he did take some time away from Torchwood to fight in World War I. During his years with Torchwood, he would have many flings and relationships with a wide variety of Torchwood agents and other people brought into the Torchwood fold in some manner. Working for Torchwood was not without its tragedies. Jack spent most of his years working for Torchwood Three and one of his co-workers, Alex Hopkins, suffered a nervous breakdown shortly before the end of 1999 and killed all the members of Torchwood Three except Jack. Alex killed himself in front of Jack, and left Jack largely alone in the world once again.

I may be charming, but I'm not afraid to kick some ass. (Image courtesy of the Doctor Who Wiki)
I may be charming, but I’m not afraid to kick some ass. (Image courtesy of the Doctor Who Wiki)

Jack rebuilt Torchwood Three and was on scene during the Canary Wharf incident, when the Daleks returned to Earth and fought Cybermen from an alternate reality that had begun merging with Earth because of Torchwood One’s meddling. Exploiting dimensional barriers to create unlimited power weakened those barriers and allowed the alternate world controlled by Cybermen to merge with our reality. Jack had hoped to find the Doctor and reconnect with him following Canary Wharf in 2007, but he never found the Doctor and continued working with Torchwood, without the management of the destroyed Torchwood One to force him into morally questionable situations. Jack hoped working with Torchwood would lead to crossing paths with the Doctor again. Jack would finally reunite with the Doctor in 2008, though it wasn’t a version of the Doctor he recognized. Jack jumped aboard the TARDIS while it refueled in Cardiff only to rematerialize with it in the year 100,000,000,000,000 at the end of the universe. Though his reunion with the Doctor was awkward due to the fact that the Doctor he knew was gone and that the Doctor had left him on Satellite 5, the reunion was a happy one since Jack also learned that Rose hadn’t died during the Canary Wharf incident, though she was trapped in an alternate dimension. At the end of the universe, Jack, along with the Doctor and Martha Jones, aided Professor Yana in repairing the spaceship he built to send the last humans in the universe to Utopia. However, the kindly old professor was not at all what he seemed. Professor Yana gave into his compulsion to open his fob watch and doing so reawakened his Time Lord side and the Master had returned. The Master stole the TARDIS and returned to Earth, leaving Martha, Jack and the Doctor stranded at the end of the universe. Mercifully, Jack still had his old Time Agency vortex manipulator with him, and with some modifications, the Doctor used it to transport all three back to Earth in 2008 where they learned the Master had become the Prime Minister. The three were arrested by British forces and taken to the Valiant, but Jack slipped Martha his vortex manipulator, so she could escape. Jack remained aboard the Valiant for a year, being tortured by the British authorities. With Martha’s help, the Doctor and Jack took control of the Valiant and Jack destroyed the Master’s paradox machine. Time reverted one year, and with the Master dead, the year 2008 turned back to normal. The Doctor offered to end Jack’s exile on Earth, but Jack remained loyal to his Torchwood compatriots and stayed on Earth to keep fighting the good fight. Jack was still part of Torchwood when the Daleks transported Earth to the Medusa Cascade and was one of the allies that Harriet Jones contacted via the sub-wave network to assist the Doctor in his fight against the Daleks. Jack arrived at the Doctor’s side just as he was shot by a Dalek and then surrendered himself to the Daleks as part of the Doctor’s plan. The Supreme Dalek believed he destroyed the TARDIS and in his rage, Jack tried to kill him only to be killed by the Daleks. Of course, Jack didn’t die and snuck into the Crucible to meet with other allies of the Doctor. Jack tried to use the warp star to bluff the Daleks into backing down but instead, he was transported to Davros’ chamber to witness the end of everything. There, however, Donna Noble was able to disable the Daleks and Jack successfully destroyed the Supreme Dalek. Crisis successfully averted, Jack once again returned to Earth and soon faced his biggest challenge since joining Torchwood.

An alien race known as the 456, whom Jack had previous encounters with in his Torchwood days, returned to Earth searching for more human subjects to create drugs from. Jack was part of the Torchwood group that negotiated the original deal with 456 and was marked for death by the British government. Jack tried to force the 456’s hand, but they resisted and released a virus that killed many people, including one of Jack’s longtime Torchwood allies. Blaming himself for his friend’s death, Jack turned himself over to the British government and the 456 began rounding up millions of Earth children from their medical experiments. One of the children captured by the 456 was Jack’s own grandson and to defeat the 456, Jack had to channel a reconstitution wave through one child and the only child that could channel the energy was his own grandson. Making a terrible choice, Jack sacrificed his grandson to save the children of Earth but at the cost of his relationship with his daughter. Jack was declared dead by the British government following the 456’s invasion and Jack spent his days trying to rid himself of his guilt related to his involvement in all the death and destruction the 456 caused. Shortly after his failure at Torchwood, Jack also bid farewell to the Doctor.

Jack eventually returned to Earth and helped defend it and Torchwood during the Miracle Day event. Torchwood’s existence was released to the world and people were now somewhat immortal, just like Jack. However, Jack found out that his functional immortality was gone and he was just like the rest of the humans. He could survive fatal injuries, but he was unable to heal quickly. This led Jack and Torchwood into conflict with a shadowy cabal of ex-CIA officials and PhiCorp. Jack began piecing together the events surrounding Miracle Day and started tracking down a phenomenon called the Blessing that was tied to Miracle Day. Eventually, the Blessing was discovered to be a part of the Earth’s morphic field which had been changed when it was fed Jack’s immortal blood. However, now that Jack was mortal, feeding it his blood would change everything on Earth back to the way it was before Miracle Day. Jack Harkness seemingly sacrificed himself to end the Miracle and return the Earth back to normal, but only time will tell if Captain Jack remains dead.

Man, even Jack looks like a tool wearing a Bluetooth. (Image courtesy of the Doctor Who Wiki)
Man, even Jack looks like a tool wearing a Bluetooth. (Image courtesy of the Doctor Who Wiki)

Jack’s attitude is classic scoundrel. He’s a charming con man who, when we first meet him, really has no interest in anything but himself. However, like most characters that spend time with the Doctor, he grew to become a good man who still didn’t always follow the rules, but when he broke the rules, it was usually to do the right thing. Even more amazingly, Jack was willing to sacrifice a lot, including his own grandson, to do the right thing and atone for his mistakes. That action cut him to the core, but he did it because it was right and it was the only way to save the rest of Earth’s children. Like a few other scoundrels, Jack is also a ladies’ man, except that doesn’t really cover it since he’s omnisexual. Jack doesn’t let labels like gender or species define who he’s attracted to and that’s pretty impressive. Like Captain Kirk, Jack banged a pretty impressive swath across the galaxy but his flirty nature only added to his charm. I’ll admit, I haven’t touched on the actors that play the scoundrels a lot, but with Jack, I think I have to. John Barrowman just brought so much joy to the character that Jack was just plain fun to watch. I don’t know if any other actor could have played Jack Harkness as well as John Barrowman did. There’s definitely a bit of real-life Barrowman in Jack, and that’s fine with me. I think that’s what makes him so authentic. He just makes you want to like him and that’s what you want him to be a good person, even if he is a bit of a scoundrel.

Scoundrel Round-Up #6–Kara Thrace (Battlestar Galactica)


That is the face of a scoundrel, pure and simple. Plus, she could kick your ass without breaking a sweat. (Image courtesy of the Battlestar Galactica Wiki)
That is the face of a scoundrel, pure and simple. Plus, she could kick your ass without breaking a sweat. (Image courtesy of the Battlestar Galactica Wiki)

Being a scoundrel is something that knows no gender, though at least in my cursory examination of science fiction, there are very few true scoundrels that are women. Usually, at some point in their character’s evolution, they become part of something larger and abandon their scoundrel-y ways. I was very close to putting Mara Jade (Skywalker) from Star Wars on this list, but that shift to the Jedi Order made me rethink how much of a scoundrel she was at the end. However, there is still one female scoundrel out there that never really lost her edge at some point during her character arc, Kara “Starbuck” Thrace from the modern Battlestar Galactica. She started out as a scoundrel in the military and while she grew as a human being during the four seasons of the show, she was just as much of a scoundrel when the series ended as she was when it began and I appreciate that.

Like many other scoundrels, the seeds of Starbuck’s scoundrel nature were set pretty early on in her life. While they didn’t do any extensive flashbacks showing it, we learned that Starbuck had a pretty troubled childhood. Her mother was an abusive military woman and her father, who she was much closer to, was an artist but he walked out on them when Starbuck was young. Starbuck’s upbringing left her with a serious chip on her shoulder and her military career evidenced that considering how often the word “insubordination” showed up in her file. However, despite her problems dealing with people, it was hard to argue that Starbuck wasn’t an excellent pilot. Starbuck’s first assignment was to the battlestar Triton, but her insubordinate ways got her in trouble with the commander and she was nearly court-martialed. Following her near court-martial, for whatever reason the Colonial military decided to turn an insubordinate pilot into a flight instructor. There, she passed on her skills to future Colonial pilots, including Zak Adama. Starbuck fell in love with Zak and passed him on his final flight exam even though he wasn’t ready. Zak died in a routine mission shortly thereafter and Starbuck blamed herself, though Zak’s brother, Lee, blamed their father, Admiral William Adama, for allowing Zak to skate in the military so long even though he wasn’t reason Zak was allowed to be a pilot. Starbuck kept her role on Zak’s death a secret for many years, carrying the guilt with her in private. Starbuck soon left the academy and joined Admiral Adama on the battlestar Galactica and served there for two years before the massive Cylon attack that wiped out most of humanity.

Aboard the Galactica, Starbuck’s insubordinate nature caused her to butt heads with Colonel Tigh. They butted heads so often, the first time we met Starbuck in the miniseries, she was in the brig because she physically assaulted Colonel Tigh. Of course, the Cylon attack changed everything, but Starbuck’s attitude remained the same. Starbuck wound up bringing the Colonial fleet its biggest intelligence boon when she managed to return with a damaged Cylon raider after both she and the raider crashed into a planet. It may not have been pretty, but Starbuck managed to jury-rig a flight system out of the Cylon’s organic technology and limp it back to the fleet. Her injuries left her sidelined for a while, something that Starbuck hated, though she did have a strong tactical mind and put it to use even though she wasn’t able to be behind the control stick. While injured, Starbuck was also tasked with interrogating a captured Leoben and she was not afraid to cross lines to get information she thought could save her people, though doing so took a toll on her. Starbuck returned to flight status shortly after this interrogation and was ordered by Admiral Adama to plant a nuclear device on a Cylon basestar orbiting Kobol. However, at the same time, President Roslin convinced Starbuck that she needed to return to Caprica to retrieve the Arrow of Apollo because Admiral Adama didn’t actually know where Earth was. Being a secretly very religious person, Starbuck believed President Roslin and disobeyed orders and returned to Caprica to retrieve the artifact. Starbuck wound up stranded on Caprica after Caprica Boomer stole her raider, leaving her and Helo behind. Thankfully, Helo and Starbuck soon found a group of Caprican resistance fighters led by Samuel Anders. Starbuck and Anders bond over their love of the sport Pyramid since much of the resistance group consisted of former pro-Pyramid players trapped on Caprica. Starbuck was captured by Cylons on Caprica and taken to a facility where the Cylons worked on creating more human/Cylon hybrids, but Starbuck escaped as the resistance fighters find the facility. Caprica Boomer rescued the group but Anders decided to stay behind with his resistance group, though Starbuck promises to return with a rescue group to get them off Caprica after she finishes her mission for President Roslin. With the Arrow of Apollo in possession of the fleet, the fleet discovers enough information to determine the actual location of Earth and Galactica sets out to find Earth.

Even in the BSG universe, sports is foreplay for badasses. (Image courtesy of the Battlestar Galactica Wiki)
Even in the BSG universe, sports is foreplay for badasses. (Image courtesy of the Battlestar Galactica Wiki)

However, such plans were short-lived as Galactica was found by Admiral Cain and the battlestar Pegasus. Admiral Cain outranked Admiral Adama and was the rightful commander of the fleet, something Adama acquiesced to. Starbuck’s performance on missions and boldness impressed Admiral Cain and made the surprising move of promoting Starbuck to captain and making her CAG for Pegasus. Considering the actions that led to this promotion were a direct violation of Admiral Cain’s orders, it was unexpected to say the least. Admiral Adama hoped to use Starbuck as a mole in Cain’s camp, distrusting the admiral’s draconian policies. Starbuck’s loyalty to Adama was tested but she nearly assassinated Cain, only holding off when Adama cryptically ordered her to stand down. Once again, Starbuck’s insubordinate nature reared its head and she winds up in the Pegasus brig after problems with the previous commander of the Pegasus while she was acting as a flight trainer. Starbuck continued to try and hold up her promise to Anders, but it’s only after Lee Adama became commander of the Pegasus that the mission is approved. The fleet arrives at Caprica just in time to save Anders and what’s left of the resistance. Anders’ arrival in the fleet created further tensions between Starbuck and Lee Adama because of Starbuck’s relationship with Lee. Starbuck quietly married Anders just days after telling Lee she loved him and that created a rift between the two former wingmates that lasted many years. Life on New Caprica began with their wedding, but any joy on New Caprica was comparatively shortlived as the Cylons arrived and took over the planet. Starbuck was the first one to call for resistance against the Cylons saying “Fight ‘em until we can’t.”

Starbuck was captured by Cylons at some point during the occupation and in an echo of earlier events, Starbuck was held by another version of Leoben who attempted to turn her to the Cylon’s side. Starbuck resisted, but Leoben’s psychological manipulation definitely left some pretty serious scars on her. Starbuck would lose her flight status for a while and during her down time, she and Colonel Tigh found something to agree on—disgust with the crew of Galactica for retreating from New Caprica at the start of the Cylon occupation and taking so long to rescue them. Their dissent created problems on Galactica and they were both confronted by Admiral Adama, telling them to get back in line and move on with their lives. Adama’s dressing down was just the kick in the pants Starbuck needed, prompting her to return to duty. While back on duty, Starbuck is harassed by a phantom Cylon contact. She chases after it, to near death, several times before going in one last time. On her final attempt to find it, Starbuck has further revelations about Leoben’s prophecy and she decides to go deeper into the storm that the contact is guiding her into, to her apparent death.

You would think that would be the end of Starbuck’s story, but alas, it was not. Starbuck reappears in a pristine Mark II Viper while the Colonial fleet prepared to engage the Cylons near the Ionian nebula and Lee Adama is the first to actually find her. Starbuck says she’s been to Earth and has returned to take the fleet there. Starbuck’s mysterious resurrection after two months, which to her seemed like minutes, leads many, including Starbuck herself, to question if she’s a Cylon. Though much of the fleet doesn’t trust the returned Starbuck, Admiral Adama believes Starbuck knows the way home and gives her command of Demetrius to figure out the course to Earth. Once again, a Leoben unit crosses Starbuck’s path and throws things into chaos. This time, Leoben offers an alliance with the Cylons. Most of the crew doesn’t trust Leoben, but Starbuck jumps Demetrius to the basestar and takes a small team aboard to assist in unboxing Cylon Three, which will reveal the Final Five Cylons and the way to Earth. Starbuck is shocked to learn that not only is she not a Cylon, but her husband, Anders is. The unboxing also reveals that Starbuck’s Viper has been sending out a signal that will lead them all to Earth. The Colonial fleet follows the signal to Earth, only to find a devastated planet. On Earth, Starbuck discovers the source of the homing signal, the wreckage of her crashed Viper…with her still inside it. I’ll freely admit, this is where the show started to go off the rails for me. I finished out the series for completeness’ sake, but honestly, the last bit of Starbuck’s story is just so bizarre, I still really can’t process it.

The discovery of Earth thanks to Cylon help doesn’t soften humanity’s feelings towards the Cylons.  Felix Gaeta leads a mutiny aboard Galactica and imprisons Admiral Adama and Colonel Tigh for collaborating with the enemy. While the mutiny would be put down, it wasn’t without costs. Anders took a bullet to the back of the head, and while it was not fatal, it triggered Anders’ previous Cylon memories. Starbuck pressed him for information about what she was, but even Anders didn’t know. The bullet was removed from his skull and left him with no brain activity and becomes the Galactica’s Hybrid. Starbuck attempts to figure out the mystery of the music that activated the Final Five (Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower”) and in a desperate hail Mary play when the Galactica is about to be destroyed, uses the notes as coordinates and jumps the fleet to Earth. Her destiny, leading the humans to Earth, complete, Starbuck literally disappears.

Okay, wonky, confusing as all hell ending of the character’s arc aside, Starbuck is still a great character and I respect the series’ writers for not trying to make Starbuck into something she’s not. Yeah, she’s a jerk and a scoundrel, but who cares. She’s still a great character. I’ll admit, I found Starbuck a bit abrasive at first, but like most scoundrels, I developed a respect for her once I realized she had the skills to back up her abrasive arrogance. After all, it’s kind of hard to be pissed at someone who thinks they’re the best pilot out there when they, time and again, prove that they are. Add in her problems with authority, though, and she moves from hotshot pilot to scoundrel. Her relationship with Colonel Tigh was adversarial at best, but as much as I love Colonel Tigh, it’s hard not to admit that Starbuck was right. The man was a drunk who spent a good portion of the series living in a bottle. It’s hard for anyone to trust a commander like that. Like many scoundrels, she’s also pretty damaged. Her mother messed her up and then her time as both Leoben’s captor and later captive both took a toll on her. However, the part that I find most interesting about her is that like many fictional scoundrels, there was an element of bluster to her actions. One of the most gut-wrenching moments in the series for me was Starbuck’s reaction after she vented the Leoben that was her prisoner. After she killed him, she still prayed for her enemy’s soul. It was a powerful moment and considering what we had seen of Starbuck up to that point, part of what made it so powerful was that it was so unexpected. This was someone who came across as not giving much of a damn about anything and winding up so jaded after seeing so much death, yet killing a defenseless prisoner under orders from the president still took her aback. Like many scoundrels, there’s far more than meets the eye to Starbuck, hence her inclusion on Sarcastibots’ Scoundrel Round-Up.

Yeah, Starbuck is one bad motherfrakker. (Image courtesy of the Battlestar Galactica Wiki)
Yeah, Starbuck is one bad motherfrakker. (Image courtesy of the Battlestar Galactica Wiki)

Scoundrel Round-Up #7–Lieutenant Commander William Thomas Riker (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

Hey, just because I'm wearing red doesn't mean I'm going to die! I'm not an ensign! (Image courtesy of the Star Trek Wiki)
Hey, just because I’m wearing red doesn’t mean I’m going to die! I’m not an ensign! (Image courtesy of the Star Trek Wiki)

Not every scoundrel has to live his life outside the law. In fact, when the scoundrel in question is part of the establishment itself, that makes it even more interesting. Starfleet has a history of scoundrels, but for number seven, I decided to look in on my favorite scoundrel-y Starfleet officer. You may know him as Number Two, but Lieutenant Commander William Thomas Riker definitely has a scoundrel side to him and I think that’s part of why I like him so much.

Will Riker was born in the year 2335 in Alaska (nice to see that state still exists some three hundred years from now). Like many scoundrels, one of his parents died when he was quite young. Will’s mother, Betty, died when he was only two years old, leaving him in the care of his father, Kyle. Will’s relationship with Kyle was never that great and his father abandoned him when he was 15 years old. Like many scoundrels, Riker’s poor relationship with his father helped turn him into a very independent young man. Riker entered Starfleet Academy at 18 and excelled in this new environment, revealing a keen tactical mind that helped him graduate eighth in his class.

Riker’s first post in Starfleet was aboard the USS Pegasus. This would also be the first time Riker’s actions were against what others would consider right due to his code of honor. Captain Pressman of the USS Pegasus was using the ship to test an illegal Starfleet-designed cloaking device. This cloaking device was extremely dangerous and the crew mutinied against Captain Pressman. However, because he was fresh out of the Academy, Riker’s sense of duty and loyalty to his captain put him at odds with the rest of the crew and was one of the only crew members to defend Captain Pressman. The mutinying crew was killed when the USS Pegasus’ cloaking device overloaded and destroyed the ship. Riker and Captain Pressman survived and Pressman commended Riker for his loyalty. As Riker grew older, he questioned whether that decision was right. Starfleet later investigated the Pegasus incident, but Starfleet Intelligence classified the incident and any further investigation was halted. While Riker benefited from this decision, it still bothered him that neither he nor Pressman faced justice for their actions.

Following his stint on the USS Pegasus, Riker then transferred to the USS Potemkin where he developed a new starship combat technique that used a planet’s own magnetism to confuse enemy sensors. It’s something that only someone who was willing to think outside the box could come up with. While serving aboard the USS Potemkin, Riker wound up accidentally getting cloned by a transporter beam. Riker was on a rescue mission to a research station and like any good hero, he refused to be transported back to the ship until all the researchers were saved. However, while Riker was beaming out, the atmospheric conditions that created problems for the researchers nearly dissipated Riker’s transporter beam. To compensate, the transporter chief used a second confinement beam on Riker’s pattern. Riker was successfully beamed back to the USS Potemkin and the transporter chief shut the other containment beam down. In a move that could only happen in Star Trek, though, the second transporter beam was reflected back into the research station and another Will Riker materialized there. This Will Riker remained stranded in the research station for eight years until the USS Enterprise arrived at the research station and the Rikers met up. Will Riker remained on the USS Enterprise while his accidental clone took the name Thomas and became part of Starfleet as well. Will Riker would serve on the USS Hood before joining the USS Enterprise crew in the year 2364.

While aboard the USS Enterprise, Riker had a wide variety of adventures. He led quite a few away teams and was killed and brought back to life by several different alien entities. Right away, he drew the attention of Q. Q thought Riker was so interesting he gave him the powers of the Q Continuum. Of course, Riker with Q Continuum abilities did not end well as every time he used the powers, something bad would happen. Picard eventually convinced him to give up the abilities. Shortly after dabbling in Q powers, Riker wound up seducing a computer program designed to distract him so the Bynars could steal the USS Enterprise to save their planet. This would mark the first, but definitely not the last, time Riker thinking with his dick would get either himself or the Enterprise in trouble. Mercifully, Riker would grow a beard after his first year on the Enterprise and apparently his beard made him less of an idiot, though more of a scoundrel.

There we go. Now that I have a beard, I'm not a horny idiot anymore...well, not as horny. (Image courtesy of the Star Trek Wiki)
There we go. Now that I have a beard, I’m not a horny idiot anymore…well, not as horny. (Image courtesy of the Star Trek Wiki)

Riker was tasked with assisting Starfleet prepare for the Borg invasion and developed several new combat techniques that relied on cunning and deception. Captain Picard was assimilated by the Borg and it was up to his number two, now promoted to captain, to stop him from assimilating Earth. Riker launched a daring rescue mission after the Battle of Wolf 359 to free Picard from the Borg, hoping that if they could free Picard (now going by the name Locutus), the Borg would stop their attack on Earth. While this plan didn’t work as planned, Picard was able to briefly break free from the Borg’s control and tell Data how to stop the Borg fleet. Riker’s multiple commands of the Enterprise (including during the Borg War) usually ended with the ship nearly being destroyed. It happened during the Borg War, but the ship was also overwhelmed and boarded by the Ferengi when Riker was in command because Captain Picard was turned into a child, and it happened a third time when Riker was left in command and had to use the Enterprise to fight the Klingon Duras sisters. Riker managed to take down the Duras sisters using some quick thinking that exploited a flaw in their outdated ship’s plasma coil, but the Duras sisters’ Bird-of-Prey damaged the Enterprise’s warp core during the fight. Riker had to abandon the engineering section of the ship but the shockwave of engineering blowing up from a massive warp core breach caused the saucer section to crash into the planet Veridian III. Everyone survived, but Riker had yet another destroyed starship under his belt.

Riker was an excellent tactician (though an incredibly unlucky captain) but he was also an essential part of Starfleet diplomatic missions. However, when it came to Riker making “first contact” with a species, it was usually more of a sexual variety. While he may not have banged as many aliens as classic space-pimp James Tiberius Kirk, Riker was no slouch—hooking up with at least 15 different alien ladies. Heck, even when he wasn’t himself he had some pretty good luck with women. As part of a diplomatic mission, Riker had to play host to a Trill symbiont. The alien developed an infatuation with Dr. Crusher and because Riker was such a good looking man, she hooked up with Riker because, thanks to the symbiont, there was no way Riker would ever remember they did it. Of course, Riker’s longest lasting relationship was his on again, off again relationship with Deanna Troi. Even that relationship was complicated, though, thanks to Troi’s mother (played by Gene Roddenberry’s real-life wife…that had to have been an awkward day for Jonathan Frakes, having to play grabass with his series’ creator) who decided he was an ideal candidate for her to mate with. That’s just how pimp Will Riker was—even his then-girlfriend’s mother wanted to jump his bones.

A year after the Enterprise-D was destroyed under Riker’s command, he and the rest of the crew reunited on the newly-commissioned Enterprise-E and in the year 2373, the Enterprise-E helped Starfleet fight off another Borg invasion and followed a Borg sphere back in time to the year 2063 to stop a Borg plot to alter history. The Borg planned to keep Zefram Cochrane from breaking the warp barrier in the Phoenix. If the Earth didn’t get warp technology, the Earth wouldn’t be part of the Federation and the Borg wouldn’t have to deal with pesky Earth-men screwing up their plans to assimilate the universe. The Borg attacked the Phoenix, severely damaging it and Cochrane’s confidence. Riker talked Cochrane into taking the flight and both he and Geordi LaForge joined Cochrane on the Phoenix’s initial flight, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Riker, sans beard (which explains why Star Trek: Insurrection wasn’t a great movie), joined the Enterprise crew in defying the Federation regarding the Ba’ku people. The Federation was working alongside the Son’a people to harvest the metaphasic radiation from the Ba’ku’s homeworld.  Riker took the Enterprise out of the system to tell the Federation that the forced relocation was part of a Son’an plan to eliminate the Ba’ku but the Enterprise was attacked by Son’a vessels en route. Because Riker was in command, the Enterprise was severely damaged. The ship had to eject its warp core to seal off a subspace tear so the Enterprise couldn’t even run. Riker, thinking on the fly, found a way to use the Son’a’s own weapons against them using a tactic later dubbed the “Riker maneuver” which involved collecting metreon gas and redirecting it towards the enemy ships. Son’a weapons reacted badly to this gas and the Son’a weapons wound up destroying their own ships.

Captain, I saved your chair for you...and that's it. The rest of the ship is trashed, but here, have your chair back. (Image courtesy of the Star Trek Wiki)
Captain, I saved your chair for you…and that’s it. The rest of the ship is trashed, but here, have your chair back. (Image courtesy of the Star Trek Wiki)

In 2379, Riker finally moved on from the Enterprise and took command of the USS Titan with his wife, Deanan Troi by his side. However, fate (and Hollywood) decided to get the Enterprise crew back together for one last mission as the Reman overthrew the Romulans. While the Romulans may not have been the friendliest people in the galaxy, the Remans were more warlike and genocidal. Having spent centuries as the Romulans slave labor caste and as cannon fodder for the Romulan war machine, it was not exactly a surprise that these people wanted to cause pain. The Remans planned to destroy Earth by using a weapon that unleashed thalaron radiation on the planet. The Reman’s brutal attacks crippled the Enterprise (for once not while Riker was in command) and Riker and Worf headed up the security details to repel the Reman boarders. In a battle of Number Twos, Riker squared off with Viceroy, Praetor Shinzon’s second in command, on board the Enterprise. Riker eventually defeated the Reman by knocking him down a maintenance shaft.

Again, with Will Riker we see a lot of evidence for a scoundrel-y nature, even though he’s part of the establishment. He was an exceedingly gregarious and outgoing character. He liked to hold an against-regulation poker game in his quarters. It may not have been Starfleet approved, but all the Enterprise command staff was in on it. Then we look at Riker’s track record with the ladies and you definitely start cementing the scoundrel vibe. Riker was such a smooth talker, he didn’t even need to be the same species to get ladies’ attention. Plus, Riker wasn’t afraid to make crazy decisions on the fly. Yeah, it usually resulted in the destruction of whatever ship he was commanding, but doing so usually meant that he kept something even worse from happening. You don’t get that kind of outside-the-box thinking from someone who’s at least not a little bit scoundrel.

*Insert your own joke involving the word "tromboner" here* (Image courtesy of the Star Trek Wiki)
*Insert your own joke involving the word “tromboner” here* (Image courtesy of the Star Trek Wiki)








Scoundrel Round-Up #8–Talon Karrde (Star Wars)

All the best scoundrels wear powder blue capes. (Images courtesy of the Star Wars Wiki)
All the best scoundrels wear powder blue capes. (Images courtesy of the Star Wars Wiki)

Much like the last entry on the list of scoundrels, thanks to the Disney buy-out, this particular Star Wars character doesn’t exist anymore, but I don’t care. Heir to the Empire was the first Star Wars novel I read, and Talon Karrde played a big role in the Thrawn trilogy and he definitely made an impression on me when I first met him there. Timothy Zahn created some great characters during the time he wrote in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, and in my opinion, Talon Karrde was probably his best.

Though he first appeared in a book set after the fall of the Empire, Talon Karrde’s backstory stretches back to the pre-Rebellion days. Talon Karrde was basically a scoundrel since birth. He first started working for a crime boss named Jorj Car’das and became one of his go-to smugglers and information brokers. Early in his career, while fleeing from Imperial pursuit, Karrde blindly jumped into hyperspace and when his ship reverted back to real space, he found himself staring down a fleet of old Dreadnaught­-class cruisers. Thinking he was toast, Karrde immediately jumped away again. Analyzing the data after he reached safety, Karrde realized he had actually found the legendary Katana fleet, a fleet of Dreadnaughts that were designed modified to be run with a fraction of the necessary crew that disappeared after the lead ship’s computer malfunctioned and had the entire fleet jump into hyperspace while unmanned. Karrde kept this information a secret for many years because he knew it was worth money, but he didn’t have the resources to exploit it at that time in his career. It would be the first of many times Talon Karrde realized that sometimes the right information can be more useful than the biggest blaster. Karrde worked for Car’das for many years until Car’das mysteriously disappeared with his entire cache of information. This lead to a power struggle within Car’das’s organization that could have turned bloody had Karrde, as one of Car’das’s most trusted lieutenants, made the offer of splitting Car’das’s organization only to take it all over himself in a bloodless coup. Though the organization was not as large as the Hutts’ cartel or Black Sun, Karrde’s reputation as an honest and trustworthy scoundrel meant that doors were open to him that weren’t open to these more ruthless organizations. During the Galactic Civil War, Karrde’s organization remained neutral, aiding whichever side could pay him. Jabba’s death opened up the galactic underworld and Karrde recruited quite a few members of Jabba’s inner circle and expanded his organization. It was at this time he moved his base of operations to Myrkr, which is where we first met him in Heir to the Empire. Karrde remained very hands-on in the underworld despite being a major player. His hands-on approach led him to cross paths with Mara Jade while investigating a rival crime lord’s operation. Karrde had hoped to take it over, but once he realized that the crime lord’s safari business was engaged in hunting sentient beings and was being used as a cover to illegally extract resources from the planet, Karrde decided to act to take the operation down. It was at this point Karrde first met the woman who would become his most trusted lieutenant, Mara Jade.

A few months after meeting Mara Jade, Karrde decided to make her his second in command, but at around the same time, Karrde’s organization drew the attention of Grand Admiral Thrawn. Thrawn went to Myrkr to harvest a creature native to the planet called ysalamiri. These creatures could naturally suppress the Force within a few meters of it. Karrde aided Thrawn in safely removing the delicate creatures from the planet and felt that something was up and began carrying the creatures in his ship as well. Despite assisting Thrawn in this instance, though, he was still very reluctant to get involved with either the Empire or the New Republic and continually acted in a way that kept him neutral in the conflict. However, when Luke Skywalker came into Thrawn’s hands, his neutrality soon came to an end. Karrde didn’t want to turn Skywalker over to Thrawn for fear the New Republic finding out but he also couldn’t let Skywalker go because that would surely get back to Thrawn and that would be the end of any peaceful relationship he had with the remnants of the Empire. While Skywalker was in Karrde’s possession, Han Solo and Lando Calrissian gained an audience with him to try and bring Karrde’s organization into the New Republic, but once again, he refused. Unfortunately, while Solo and Calrissian were on their mission, Thrawn returned again with another job for Karrde. The chaos caused by trying to hide Solo and Calrissian from Thrawn and Skywalker from both parties afforded Skywalker a chance to escape. Skywalker’s escape and subsequent rescue by Han made it clear to Thrawn that Karrde had been working with the New Republic and Karrde knew he needed to go on the run now that he’d made an enemy of the Empire.

Karrde was forced to go on the run, though he did have the perfect bargaining chip to buy himself out of trouble with Thrawn—the location of the Katana fleet. Thrawn came to Myrkr to get Karrde’s assistance in finding large warships and no one but Karrde knew the location of this fleet of over 100 Dreadnaughts. Despite Mara Jade’s counsel to sell Thrawn the information, though, Karrde refused because he knew that selling that information would only buy him out of problems in the short term. He believed the New Republic would outlast Thrawn’s attacks even if the Empire got the Katana fleet and he did not want to make an enemy of what would likely be the next galactic government. Mara Jade, acting on her own, sold Thrawn the location of the Katana fleet but was captured after doing so. Thrawn attempted to use Jade as a bargaining chip with Karrde and captured him when he came to retrieve her. This ambush was enough to turn Karrde against the Empire. Karrde was subsequently rescued by Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade and then attempted to sell the location of the Katana fleet to the New Republic. Several high-ranking politicians, most notably a Bothan named Borsk Fey’lya, distrusted Karrde and used bureaucratic red tape to slow down the deal. Karrde convinced Leia Organa Solo to trust him and the two launched a secret mission ahead of Fey’lya’s own group to prevent Fey’lya from getting control of the Katana fleet by crewing them with New Republic officers loyal to him. Karrde also used his resources to exonerate Admiral Ackbar, who was currently being held on charges of treason partly orchestrated by Fey’lya. The New Republic and Empire arrived at the Katana fleet’s location at almost the same time. Fey’lya ordered the New Republic to abandon the fleet and leave the soldiers already on the ships to die. However, Karrde, along with Leia Organa Solo, managed to turn Fey’lya’s soldiers against him when they broadcast out his statement that he didn’t care about the soldiers who supported him and that they were pawns he could sacrifice for his own political ambitions. Not only did this turn the tide of the battle, but it severely weakened Fey’lya’s political strength for many years, protecting Karrde from the Bothan’s retribution. Karrde being Karrde, he continued to remain neutral after this battle, though he would continue to assist the New Republic in bringing down Thrawn by using his resources to follow the money trail and find Thrawn’s secret cloning facility.

Though not officially working with the New Republic in any capacity, Karrde helped create Smugglers’ Alliance. Smugglers are a notoriously shifty bunch, but Karrde managed to bring a large group of smugglers together for a time to work for the New Republic. However, even when working for the New Republic, not everything was on the up and up. To pay his smugglers, he had his tech hack into New Republic files to pay them. The Smugglers’ Alliance was a boon to the New Republic and though Karrde never acted directly for them, his involvement gave it the legitimacy in the underworld community for it to work.

Several years after the fall of Thrawn, Karrde’s notoriety as an information broker would benefit the New Republic once again. Grand Admiral Thrawn apparently returned from the dead and released damning information about the Bothans. According to a document in his possession, Bothans assisted Emperor Palpatine in committing genocide against the Caamasi people. The Caamasi were proponents of non-violent resistance to the Empire and the people of Caamas were all but wiped out when the planet’s shields mysteriously failed as the Empire arrived to bring them in line. With the shields down, Star Destroyers bombarded the planet and killed nearly everyone on the planet. The document revealed that it was a group of Bothan spies that assisted the Empire in bringing the shields down. This information threw the New Republic into chaos as Bothans, while a key part of the Rebel Alliance, always had a reputation of being cunning and duplicitous. Considering Bothan politician Borsk Fey’lya was now a high-ranking member of the New Republic government, such conflict could be bad for the entire government. Leia Organa Solo tasked Karrde with finding an original copy of the document Thrawn released to see if there were alterations made to it. To do so, Karrde would have to find his old boss and mentor, Jorj Car’das. Karrde was reluctant to track down Car’das, considering he took over his organization, but Car’das was surprisingly welcoming. Though Car’das did not have an original copy of the Caamas Document in his cache of information, he did give Karrde a datacard with information the New Republic would find useful. The datacard revealed that Thrawn was not alive and in fact was being impersonated by a con man. With “Thrawn” exposed as a fake, Supreme Commander Pellaeon (Thrawn’s former second-in-command) reasserted control over Imperial forces and called a truce with the New Republic. Karrde assisted in negotiating the treaty between the New Republic and the Imperial Remnant, which was his first step down the road of legitimacy. Karrde began working more closely with the New Republic and provided vital intelligence during the Yuuzhan Vong War and the Second Galactic Civil War.

Karrde’s biography reads as your classic scoundrel. He was content at playing both sides for as long as he could, but he still had a clear code of ethics and morality. Like many scoundrels, he wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, at one point even killing a bounty hunter that was coming after him on his own, but like many genteel scoundrel types, he tried to avoid violence whenever possible. He would use his knowledge and information to get him out of trouble, but when pressed, he wasn’t exactly afraid to throw down. However, this nature often tended to rub people the wrong way. Since Karrde was always looking out for his bottom line, many outside the fringe community saw him as a mercenary who would sell his services to the highest bidder. However, that interpretation ignored the fact that Karrde was loyal to his people, even beyond their worth to him as assets. Inside the fringe community, though, Karrde’s hatred of kidnapping and slavery showed that he was as trustworthy as someone in their line of work could be. Karrde also extended protection to any who were under his roof as guests and would not sell them out, even if the money was good. Once again, all the elements of a classic scoundrel are there. Add in that he was a sharp dresser and had some pretty impressive facial hair and you have another clear scoundrel. Karrde was such a popular character, he even made an appearance in the somewhat obscure Star Wars Collectable Card Game. The game relied largely on movie footage for still images of characters, but they dabbled in the Expanded Universe from time to time, and Karrde was one of the first. Karrde is well loved by fans of Zahn’s work (myself included) and Zahn loved him so much that he even posed for the card image of Karrde for the Star Wars Collectable Card Game. That’s some dedication to a character you created yourself.

Man, I know all information is useful, but I didn’t need to see Jabba the Hutt’s sex tape… (Image courtesy of the Star Wars Wiki)
Talon Karrde or his creator Timothy Zahn? Trick question, it's both! (Image courtesy of the Star Wars Wiki)
Talon Karrde or his creator Timothy Zahn? Trick question, it’s both! (Image courtesy of the Star Wars Wiki)

Scoundrel Round-Up #9–Dash Rendar (Star Wars)


I may have been created in the 90s, but I’m still rocking 80s shoulderpads (Image courtesy of the Star Wars Wiki)

So, talking about this next scoundrel is going to be kind of awkward because since the Disney-Lucasfilm merger he’s been declared non-canonical, but I don’t care. Shadows of the Empire and its new character, Dash Rendar, are real to me. Yes, he was introduced as a kind of emergency back-up Han Solo, but I don’t care. I have fond memories of this book and unlike some of the Star Wars books I’ve read over the years, it still holds up without the nostalgia I have for it and I think that’s part of why I’ve included Dash here. Shadows of the Empire was a multimedia event, with LucasFilm not only telling the story in book form, but also in the comics published by Dark Horse. It also had its own soundtrack and, if you dust off your old N64, you can even play as Dash Rendar.

To me, Dash Rendar is what Han Solo would have been if he’d been born rich instead of being born a scoundrel. Like Han, he was a Corellian, but his family owned a large shipping company that was gutted by Emperor Palpatine after his brother destroyed the Imperial Museum on Coruscant as a result of sabotage by a competitor (more on this competitor later). Dash was training at the Imperial Academy on Carida when this happened so he was summarily dismissed from the Imperial military as further punishment. So, like any military-trained spacer who gets drummed out of the service, Dash became a smuggler and gun-for-hire. Operating from a YT-2400 Corellian freighter (a more advanced freighter produced by the same people that made the Millennium Falcon), Dash and his super-intelligent droid companion LE-BO2D9 (Leebo) made a name for themselves in all sorts of scoundrel-y circles in the galaxy. Dash would run afoul of the Imperials multiple times during his life but shortly before the Battle of Yavin, Dash made his first inroads with the Rebel Alliance when he was hired to protect a pop star who was actually a secret Rebel agent. Even Dash didn’t know this when he took the job, and when he learned what it was, he nearly quit but the money was too good and he hung around and facilitated the delivery of vital data to the Rebel Alliance. Unlike Han, though, Dash didn’t really care much for politics and went back to the fringes of galactic society afterwards, running weapons and contraband throughout the galaxy. Dash apparently had a few somewhat forgettable adventures in the Star Wars comics series that I won’t recount here. I read a summary of them and they sound just a little odd for my tastes, so I’d rather remember the Dash Rendar I met in Shadows of the Empire (and the more recent Shadow Games that’s set before it) than try and understand why Dash did things like fight a sentient starship. Dash bumped into Han Solo a few times during the intervening years, and was delivering a shipment of supplies to Echo Base during the early scenes of Empire Strikes Back. However, when Han was captured by Boba Fett on Bespin, Lando called in a favor with Dash and he jointed their motley crew. Dash found Boba Fett on Gall but their attempts to retrieve Han failed. Following the failed rescue attempt, Leia hired Dash to keep an eye on Luke after Imperial assassins tried to kill him. While on Tatooine, Dash was present when Luke received a message from a group of Bothans that learned the Empire was in the process of building a second Death Star. In a way, Dash was responsible for the Star Wars joke about many Bothans dying to bring the Rebels this information. He failed to shoot down an incoming missile that destroyed a ship full of Bothans during their extraction from the Imperial facility where the second Death Star plans were being developed. While Dash and Luke were retrieving the information on the second Death Star, Leia was making overtures with Black Sun and their nefarious leader Prince Xizor. Xizor took Leia captive after she realized that Xizor was the one trying to kill Luke and not the Empire, at least this time. Luke and Dash teamed up to rescue Leia and the decision to go after Xizor was easy for Dash since it was Xizor’s business, Xizor Transport Systems, that sabotaged brother’s freighter and caused all the Rendar family’s problems. The two managed to infiltrate Xizor’s base on Coruscant and rescue Leia, but the job wasn’t finished with that. Xizor escaped to a space station in orbit around Coruscant and while Xizor provoked the wrath of Darth Vader, Dash decided he wanted revenge as well and attacked the space station in the Outrider. Vader’s super Star Destroyer got the killing shot on the space station and Outrider was caught in the debris field. Though Luke, Leia and Lando thought Dash died, he escaped and went underground for many years, continuing his scoundrel-y ways.

Dash’s creators could have very readily made him a carbon copy of Han Solo, but they mercifully realized that wouldn’t work. He had different motivations, he had different enemies, he even had a different style about him but they also avoided the pitfalls of making him Han’s opposite in every way. However, Dash is definitely still a scoundrel. He became a rogue after he lost everything but when he had the chance to get revenge on the people and groups that took it from him, he had no issue with doing so. That’s not exactly the hallmark of a bad guy, but he’s definitely not a white knight good guy either. His motivations are complicated but they generally wind up putting him on the good side of the spectrum, even if sometimes it takes him a while to get there. However, he’s not one to let his morals get in the way of a payday. Much like Han, throughout Shadows of the Empire, the easiest way to get Dash to do what they needed him to was to pay him. By the end of Shadows, he grew into something more than just a mercenary, but he also didn’t become nearly the idealist Han Solo did after joining the Rebel Alliance. Dash may not be the most original scoundrel, but to fill the scoundrel role in a book set while Han was trapped in carbonite, Dash did his job admirably. Going back and fleshing out his character in another book set before Shadows of the Empire really helped his case and gave him enough character that I think he’s worthy of inclusion on this list.

Only one Bothan died in the creation of this post (Image courtesy of the Star Wars Wiki)


Scoundrel Round-Up #10–Corsair (Marvel Comics)

I don't always wear spandex in outer space, but when I do, you know shit is about to go down...
I don’t always wear spandex in space, but when I do, you know shit is about to go down… (Courtesy of Marvel Comics Wiki)

Here at Sarcasti Bots, we’re committed to highlighting all sorts of facets of science fiction and pop culture, so I figured we’d try a countdown of the Top 10 Sci-Fi Scoundrels. This is by no means an all-inclusive list and relies heavily on my own personal knowledge of science fiction and comics. If there’s someone that gets left off at the end of the ten, I apologize and if there’s enough call for them, I’ll make some additions later on to reflect what you, our loyal readers, suggest. With the introduction out of the way, I suppose it’s time we introduce Sci-Fi Scoundel #10—Corsair.

Some of you may be wondering who Corsair is. I’ll admit, he’s not a big name, but he’s one I’ve enjoyed for quite some time. Coming out of the Marvel Comics Universe, Corsair first appeared in X-Men #104…the more comics literate out there will realize that’s right in the thick of the classic “Phoenix Saga.” The X-Men met up with him while he and his crew were raiding Shi’ar targets. Corsair and the Starjammers would later aid the X-Men on multiple occasions and played a very big role in the original Phoenix Saga due to Corsair’s vendetta against the Shi’ar, especially Emperor D’Ken. Corsair definitely looks like a scoundrel. His overall character design just screams “space pirate.” He’s got the earring, the headband and even the flared pirate gloves. Even his weapons scream pirate, as he carries a saber and a pistol. Yes, his saber is made by the Shi’ar and his pistol is a laser weapon, but it’s still all very pirate-y. His original design is a bit dated, but he’s gotten a few redesigns over the years that have downplayed the stereotypical pirate look. Corsair leads a group of intergalactic pirates called the Starjammers. You’ve got to admit, Corsair must have been quite the leader since he’s just an average human leading a group of alien scoundrels who all, objectively, bring more to the table that he does. You’d think with all the stereotypical pirate tropes here, Corsair wouldn’t be that interesting of a character and not worthy of inclusion here. However, creators Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum gave him a great backstory that ties him deeply into the X-Men and make him an incredibly sympathetic character.

From issue one, it was know that Cyclops was an orphan. However, what no one knew, until Jean Grey sussed it out after spending time with Corsair in Uncanny X-Men #154, was that Scott Summers’ father, Christopher was still alive and wandering around the galaxy under the name Corsair. The plane crash that young Scott Summers remembered from his early life wasn’t a plane crash at all. The Summers’ family plane was attacked by a Shi’ar scout ship. Christopher Summers pushed his sons, Scott and Alex, to safety while he and his wife, Katherine, were captured by the Shi’ar. Emperor D’Ken killed Katherine in front of him aboard the scout ship and he was thrown into prison. However, like any charismatic scoundrel, prison was no match for Christopher Summers. There, he assembled his crew of criminals and they stole the starship Starjammer and escaped from the Shi’ar prison planet. Christopher Summers was unaware his sons survived the Shi’ar attack and felt that returning to Earth would be too much to bear and remained with the Starjammers and decided to get his revenge on the Shi’ar by stealing from them at any chance he got and started calling himself Corsair. As I mentioned at the top of the paragraph, Jean Grey realized there was some connection between the mysterious Corsair and Scott Summers but when she found out that Corsair was Scott’s father, he swore her to secrecy because he didn’t want his son to ever know that he was a space pirate. Scott, being the huge stick in the mud that he was, didn’t initially react well to learning that his father had been alive all these years and never returned to Earth, though he eventually accepted Corsair as his father and the two have had quite a few adventures over the years.

Of course, no Marvel character is complete without a death and random return from the grave and Corsair was no different. In a bizarre retcon, it was revealed that Katherine Summers was pregnant with a third child, Gabriel, when she and Christopher were abducted by the Shi’ar. D’Ken stole the baby before killing Katherine and sold him into slavery. Understandably, this Summers son (born Gabriel but now going by the villainy name “Vulcan”) had a pretty big mad on for revenge on the Shi’ar and cut a swath of devastation through the Shi’ar empire. Because succession in space empires makes no sense, Vulcan was crowned as the new emperor after killing D’Ken. Corsair, along with the Starjammers and Alex Summers (aka Havok), confronted his son and tried to convince him to stop killing the Shi’ar. Of course, all Corsair got for his trouble was being murdered by his youngest son. However, in either a massive fake out or massive continuity screw up, Corsair was revealed to be alive and leading the Starjammers in 2014 when they assisted the X-Men and the Guardians of the Galaxy in saving Jean Grey, who had been abducted by the Shi’ar to stand trial for her crimes as Phoenix (again…seriously, that’s at least the third time I think the Shi’ar have put her on trial and it’s never really worked out all that well for them). I’ll admit, I’m not familiar with “The Trial of Jean Grey” arc from 2014, so I’m not sure if they actually explained why Corsair was alive and well, but I definitely remember his death scene at the hands of Vulcan during The Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire event when he took a blast of Vulcan’s powers to the face. To me, that’s something a normal person doesn’t really come back from. Regardless of whether his resurrection was accidental or not (which sometimes happens in comics), Corsair is back and leading the Starjammers with a teenage version of Cyclops by his side. That’s a super long story that I don’t want to get into because it would really lose the plot, but yeah, there are now two versions of Scott Summers running around the Marvel Universe and one is hanging out with his dad in outer space.

Corsair fits the scoundrel archetype for three reasons. First of all, you have to admit that Corsair looks like a pirate. That’s a pretty eye-catching design and while he’s a space pirate, his creators made the wise choice to make him pretty stereotypically pirate-y at the beginning so you knew exactly who he was just by looking at him. Secondly, Corsair’s motivation fits with the idea of a scoundrel perfectly. He was clearly wronged by the Shi’ar and decided to take matters into his own hands to seek justice. He definitely has a code of ethics, but following it puts him on the wrong side of the law. Finally, there’s his relationship with his sons. While Christopher and Alex Summers have always gotten along, there was some initial friction between Scott and his father. They didn’t get along when he only knew him as Corsair because Scott always follows the rules and Corsair didn’t and then when he learned who Corsair really was, there was a lot of resentment about his father’s choice not to return to Earth. Personally, I found Christopher Summers’ reasons quite compelling, but again, as befitting the scoundrel, not everyone could initially accept why he remained in space. However, even in the end, he tried to be a good father to Scott and Alex and died trying to save his third son even though Gabriel was clearly beyond saving at that point. Christopher Summers wasn’t willing to give up on his son and paid what seemed like the ultimate price to keep his son from being killed.

Corsair’s story has been collected multiple times. The original Phoenix Saga seems to get reprinted fairly often (such as in the Marvel Masterworks Series Uncanny X-Men Volume 2) and Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire is a relatively recent story that should be collectable either by digging through the back issues online or in the collected version. However, for my money, I still like going back to the 1992 X-Men cartoon. The second season (third season if you’re buying the content digitally) very faithfully adapted the original Phoenix Saga which means it’s a well-done story and it was my first exposure to the X-Men and Corsair. The cartoon adaptation was so good that it motivated me to track down the Phoenix Saga in collected form before and I try to read it at least once every couple of years because it’s nice to go back to an old friend like that. A later episode of the X-Men cartoon (Season 3‘s “Orphan’s End”) also adapted the story where Cyclops learned the truth about Corsair. For such a minor player in the X-Men universe (and I don’t mean that as a slight), Corsair has gotten a lot of attention from the Marvel media and I really wish that Marvel Studios had the rights to the X-Men. I think it would be pretty amazing, considering how popular Guardians of the Galaxy was, to see Corsair in a Guardians sequel. Considering the comics have paired up the Guardians and the Starjammers before, I think it’d be pretty awesome to see two space scoundrels working together on screen as well.

Courtesy of the Marvel Comics Wiki