Star Trek: Picard Season 3 Is Evidence That Amanda Plummer Was Born To Play A Sci-Fi Villain

On the new season of "Star Trek: Picard," actress Amanda Plummer plays a mysterious character named Vadic, the captain of a massive, overpowered weapons craft called the Shrike. Vadic is something of a mystery. She's very clear that she wishes to apprehend Jack Crusher (Ed Speelers) to collect the bounty on his head, but she seems willing to commit horrendous acts of villainy in order to do it. Either Jack's bounty is massive, or something else even more mysterious is afoot. 

Vadic is more than a mysterious and determined bounty hunter, though. She is an outright villain. The bridge of the Shrike is a dim, misty space, and she sits in her captain's chair like it's a throne of skulls. She wears red gloves, slicks her hair forward, and sports scars on her cheeks. There is something not-so-vaguely fascistic about her wardrobe. She has a crew, but it's difficult to tell if they are skull-faced robots, or bird-like aliens in masks. When Vadic speaks, she purrs with self-satisfied wickedness, knowing she has the upper hand in any scenario. Most threatening of all, she pronounces Jean-Luc Picard's name with a stressed French accent. "Picarrrrr," she growls. 

Oh yes, and the Shrike: Built to look like a talon, the Shrike is equipped with ultra-powerful weapons the likes of which Starfleet hadn't ever encountered. It is equipped with tractor beam technology that can grab a whole starship and hurl it at another. Later in the series ... well, other, more powerful weapons will also be revealed. Eventually, too, audiences will see that Vadic has a connection to a larger, perhaps recognizable "Star Trek" antagonist. 

While Vadic follows a tradition of threatening Trek villains, Plummer is making her into something notable and memorable. Like her father, Plummer is a great Trek villain.

The villain tradition

One might recall that Christopher Plummer, Amanda's father, played the eye-patched Klingon General Chang in Nicholas Meyer's feature film "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country." At the end of that film, Chang could be seen gleefully spinning in his captain's chair, enthusiastically yelling Shakespeare quotes as he pummels the U.S.S. Enterprise with photon torpedoes. It seems that playing cackling sci-fi villains is an intergenerational talent, as Amanda Plummer is meeting the task with aplomb.

"Star Trek," of course, more typically eschews the moral simplicity of "heroes" and "villains." In a superhero universe, one can approve of violence committed by heroes and condemn violence committed by villains because, well, the heroes are going to be peerlessly righteous by definition. On "Star Trek," the antagonists are rarely outwardly evil, often driven by philosophies and principles that merely stand counter to the show's protagonists. Even popular "villains" like Q (John de Lancie) or the Borg are functioning perfectly ethically by their own personal guidelines. It's just that neither of them has had any reason to place much value on human life. 

The "Star Trek" feature films are more typically concerned with a simpler, unambiguous hero/villain dynamic, at least since "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan." While many love "Khan," a consensus seems to have been reached at some point that it was the best Trek movie of them all (a claim that few might dispute). As such, future Trek movies began to emulate it; one might have noticed that multiple films in a row featured crazed, revenge-bent villains who have a bone to pick with Starfleet. All the films from "Star Trek: Nemesis" through "Star Trek Beyond" had "villains."

Plummer's range

Since the new season of "Star Trek: Picard" is quite clearly trying to emulate the look and feel and plotting of a feature film (it even borrows musical cues from previous Trek movies), it stands to reason that the showrunners would also want to employ a now-traditional villain character.

Amanda Plummer is weirdly perfect as a "Star Trek" villain. Plummer began her acting career in the 1980s, and she immediately accrued acclaim for her twitchy intensity. In 1982, she won a Tony award for a production of "Agnes of God," and can be noted for any number of high-profile film roles. She was the shy woman beloved by Robin Williams in "The Fisher King," she held up a restaurant in "Pulp Fiction." She was excellent in an early episode of "Tales from the Crypt." She won two Emmys for her guest spots on "The Outer Limits" in 1996 and on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" in 2005. Plummer's career is perhaps too extensive to delve into here. Needless to say, the reader has likely seen her in several films or TV shows without trying. 

"Star Trek" is a world of order, rules, a chain of command. Jean-Luc Picard is a formal character played by a classically trained actor, Patrick Stewart. Amanda Plummer, meanwhile, has amazing talents playing unhinged, angry, or twitchy characters. Compared to the typical propriety of "Star Trek," she is unpredictable, dark, scary. She's perfect in how out-of-place she is. And yet, she is completely convincing, representing a dark, criminal corner of "Star Trek" that is not usually explored. 

More than anything, Plummer is emotionally and dramatically immediate. Like Iago, her motivations are less important than her impact. What a cool character.