Monday, May 19, 2014

Character Insight No. 97: Sybok

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe.  An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.

Welcome back to Character Insight!  This week, we profile Sybok from The Final Frontier, who comes in at number 12 on our best Trek movie villains countdown.
(How could you not trust a face like that?)

Sybok is the son of Sarek and a Vulcan priestess, making him a half brother to Spock. He is a revolutionary in Vulcan culture, seeking experience and knowledge which were forbidden under that culture. Not surprisingly, that allows Sybok to be taken in by the God of Sha Ka Ree, a powerful entity which serves as the true top villain in this film.

Sybok actually follows a somewhat similar path as Spock of the Abrams timeline, in that he embraces his emotional side in an attempt to find better self-knowledge. He was banished for trying to recruit others to follow him in this manner, while Spock chooses his own path through Starfleet Academy, a move perhaps dictated by emotion from his human side rather than pure logic of his Vulcan blood.

Returning to Sybok, he provided a type of therapy to people by asking them to share their pain and then helping them overcome old regrets from long-buried trauma.

(Quote of the Week)
"Share your pain. Share your pain with me - and gain strength from the sharing."

These people typically then would become loyal followers to Sybok, which allowed him to amass an army which called itself the Galactic Army of Light. This group helped him kidnap three ambassadors in an effort to get a starship.

"What does God need with a starship?"

Although he does succeed in getting Spock's ship the Enterprise to the center of the galaxy, he doesn't realize he has been duped by the malevolent entity acting as the God of Sha Ka Ree until it is too late to do anything but sacrifice himself to stop the God. So unlike most villains, Sybok may end up redeemed in the end by saving Kirk, Bones, his brother, and the Enterprise.

The role was initially written for Sean Connery, and it would have been interesting to see the differences he would have brought to the role, even under William Shatner's directorship. Sybok ends up relatively low on this list because he turns out to be good, or merely misguided, in the end, which is not very villainous. Furthermore, kidnapping some ambassadors and trying to steal a starship in a search for a higher power is more understandable than some of the atrocities other trek villains have performed over the years.

With James bond not available, Laurence Luckinbill plays Sybok. Luckinbill has not acted regularly since the early 1990's, making Sybok one of his last roles. He also appears on Murder She Wrote, Law and Order, and the movie Cocktail with Tom Cruise.

Until next time, live long and prosper...

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